Education International
Education International

Comments of Education International on the ILO Global Report on Child Labour 2006 “The end of Child Labour: within reach”

published 16 May 2006 updated 16 May 2006

“The end of Child Labour: within reach” is the second report that the ILO, under the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, releases since 2002. The report's objective is to analyze and show progress made on the child labour (Child Labour) issue over the past four years, as well as to state the ILO future plans to tackle the problem. EI welcomes this report and is taking the view that it is an important contribution to the efforts to combat and prevent Child Labour.

General comments: Compared to the 2002 report “A future without child labour”, this year's report is less descriptive and a more solution-oriented document. It provides data comparison over time and an analysis of the extent and reach of Child Labour worldwide. The Report proposes orientations, strategies and practical steps to eliminate Child Labour. The report considers education and global partnerships to be two key areas. Education International (EI) seeks to be involved in both areas and can provide valuable expertise. There is a clear and reiterated mention of the relevance of education in the fight against child labour. This emphasis on education is in EI’s view very important as it focuses on the approach in the fight against Child Labour. In addition, such emphasis on education also promotes the cooperation between people active in the fight against Child Labour and those working in the education sector as well as the actions to be taken in the two areas. Poverty reduction strategies, MDGs, and the Education For All (EFA) initiative are identified as themain frameworks within which the strategies of using education to eliminate Child Labour should be developed. Interestingly, the link between Child Labour, EFA and HIV/AIDS is stressed as an emerging issue for the future. EI supports this as a priority for the ILO in the following years. Geographically, the main focus is on the African continent where the highest rates of child labour are concentrated. This is of interest to Education International as over 25 EI affiliates in about 20 countries are implementing EFAIDS Programmes. The Report calls for the ambitious goal of eliminating the worst forms of Child Labour by 2016 and, as step towards that, of putting in place appropriate time-bound measures worldwide by the end of 2008. This opens the door for a closer cooperation of the ILO with key players, such as EI. However, EI emphasises that it would not be appropriate to look into the worst forms of Child Labour only. There is a broad approach needed, with emphasis on ensuring that all children stay within the school system and on the prevention of these children gradually moving into child labour. The central role of workers’ organizations The report clearly recognizes the important role of trade unions in the fight against child labour: “Trade unions have been a driving force in the fight against child labour, mobilizing and organizing workers around the theme of child labour”; Trade unions are “the historic pioneers in promoting international labour standards, including those on the prohibition of child labour”. However, the concrete activities of the ILO in cooperation with the trade union organizations remain weak compared to the actions taken in cooperation with employers organizations, such as the Commercial Agriculture Sector Programme. There is definitely room for improvement leading to the strengthening of the working relations with the labour movement, including the education sector. The report does highlight the significant role of EI as part of the worldwide movement against Child Labour. However, EI is seen mainly as a promoter of EFA. EI’s work in promoting teachers’ rights worldwide could also be emphasised. EI represents over 33 million teachers that are in key positions and the right environment to fight against Child Labour. Their role can range from preventing to monitoring Child Labour, from pushing for governmental reforms to advocating the cause at national and international levels. Education and Child Labour The relevance of Education The Report repeatedly acknowledges the important role of the education in the elimination of Child Labour. This is illustrated in different ways and from various perspectives, and also through specific examples. Education is generally considered as the necessary tool to eradicate Child Labour. Education framed within the MDGs Child labour elimination and poverty reduction through economic and social development go hand in hand. The links between child labour and the MDGs are many and sometimes straightforward, as in the case of poverty reduction (MDG 1) and Education For All (MDG 2). Education For All There is a clear recognition of the link between child labour elimination and EFA. The Report states that "perhaps the greatest progress has been made in recognizing the link between child labour elimination and Education for All (EFA)". A Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education has been established (involving ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Global March Against Child Labour). In the future it will also include UNDP and EI. The Report states that there is poor progress in reaching the EFA goals, and acknowledges that no action in that specific area has been developed by the ILO. EI wants to emphasise the great many efforts that are being made to achieve EFA. Teachers unions worldwide have indicated that EFA is their main challenge in the years ahead and are prepared to include action against Child Labour. This is an excellent opportunity for EI to cooperate with ILO-IPEC at the international level and to involve its affiliates in leadership on this issue. EFA as child labour prevention and school retention The Report stresses that free and compulsory education of good quality is a key element in preventing child labour; that Child Labour is one of the main obstacles to full-time school attendance; and, in the case of part-time work, that it prevents children from fully benefiting from their time at school. In this context, EFA and efforts to eliminate child should be joined together. Mainstreaming Child Labour into EI’s EFA activities is in our view eminently worth pursuing. Education gender mainstreaming The Report also includes a gender perspective in its treatment of education and Child Labour issues, provides disaggregated data by sex and considers some key interventions to promote girls’ school attendance. However, it states that countries are achieving low progress in this area, one in which EI could also help. Quality and Non-formal education (NFE) as a child labour tool The report makes a number of remarkable observations_- and to EI positive observations- on the role of non-formal education (NFE). It states that ‘too often NFE has turned out to be second-class education for second-class children and at worst it has become a parallel system competing against the formal education system. It is time that NFE approaches were thoroughly evaluated to see if they have been over-sold as a response to child labour.’ A view on which EI can concur. In addition, too many NGO’s have entered this field with good intentions but without sustainable solutions. Still, there are aspects from which the formal sector can draw lessons. Bolsa Escola Initiative The Report notes that the “Bolsa Escola initiative” has been adapted to the specificities of individual countries, mainly in Latin America, and it has been developed into a minimum income schemes linked to school attendance (MISA) of recipient households' children. Besides its initial success and continuous positive assessments, it seems that the MISA schemes will “be ineffective in the absence of adequate supply of educational facilities to absorb the increased demand for schooling” as these only address the demand side. In addition, it is not financially viable for all countries and has to be considered as one tool only in a poverty eradication context. Some examples of countries where education has played a decisive role in reducing Child Labour The report mentions some examples of countries where the emphasis on education has had a direct and positive influence on reducing Child Labour. EI considers these examples – Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and China - to be followed by other countries. HIV/AIDS The Report addresses EFA and AIDS as global issues and as main obstacles for eliminating Child Labour and achieving development. There is here a clear opportunity for EI to assist and intervene. It would be particularly useful to find synergies with the current EFAIDS Programme that EI is implementing and the Child Labour agenda. These should be further developed. Research The report mentions the study carried out in Brazil, Kenya, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Turkey which analyzes the existing differences between working and non-working children in terms of educational inputs. These kinds of studies are extremely important as they enable detailed analysis, identify actual needs and point to potential activities regards working children. Education studies such as these are therefore enormously useful to EI and its affiliates. Furthermore, focused research could be developed with the support of the EI network. Global Partnerships The need for Global Partnerships in eliminating Child Labour is clearly evident. The Task Force on Child Labour and Education is one example. EI needs to be a key partner, for advocacy and operational levels and EI is prepared to provide its share in these partnerships. Teachers’ role The situation of teachers as workers is also mentioned in the Report: “We should not forget that teachers also have rights at work and are key to quality improvements – their voices must be heard, and their organizations have a vital role to play in EFA and child labour elimination efforts”. The report also notes the relevance of promoting children participation in the fight against Child Labour. “Teachers now hold class discussions on child labour and help identify children whose academic performance suffers because of the number of hours they work outside of school”. Teachers' role in this area is decisive and there is much scope for further development. In general, the possible future cooperation with ILO should not only be seen as EI's participation in the efforts for the elimination of Child Labour. It could also be approached as working together with the ILO in promoting teachers status as key actors in poverty eradication. Child labour monitoring and teachers This could be another excellent opportunity for EI to cooperate with ILO-IPEC. As the report shows there are examples where teachers play a key role in Child Labour Monitoring System (e.g. in the Central America Coffee and Agriculture projects). In particular, in the context of a “community-based monitoring” approach teachers are fundamental actors in Child Labour monitoring. This area of work should be further developed. Conclusions:

  • EI takes the view that this report is an important step forward. It speaks to the hope of a future without the scourge of Child Labour.
  • The report provides a basis for cooperative action.
  • EI wants to be involved and welcomes the ILO’s positive approach.
  • Education is a key instrument in the prevention of Child Labour. EI and affiliates insists that:
    1. There is the need of quality education to be provided by well trained and supported teachers;
    2. Education should be free of charger so as to enable all children to attend;
    3. Education is a public service and should not be handed over to private interests and enterprises.