Quality education is the best guarantee against child labour

published 11 June 2018 updated 12 June 2018

Each year, Education International celebrates World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June. EI encourages education trade unions to participate in public activities in order to demonstrate the commitment of teachers’ and support staff to eradicating child labour and promoting quality public education for all.

According to the ILO estimates, 152 million girls and boys are still the victims of child labour, a scourge that is mainly concentrated in agriculture and the informal economy. Progress has been made in eliminating child labour and forced labour over the past 20 years, but it is necessary to increase the pace in order to achieve goal 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ending all forms of child labour by 2025.

According to EI, early schooling is the most effective way of getting children out of the labour market and giving them the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills for finding decent work in the future. Education and training are indispensable drivers of social and economic development, and democracy. They require public funding and accountability. In many countries, the schools accessible to disadvantaged families remain underfunded, poorly equipped and lack sufficient qualified staff.

For World Day Against Child Labour 2018, education trade unions are calling for:

·         Quality, free and mandatory public education for all children, at least until the minimum age of employment, and actions to reach those who are not currently in school;

·         Investments in education and social protection programmes;

·         The removal of all costs – both direct and indirect – linked to education and the implementation of incentive programmes to promote schooling;

·         The recruitment of new teachers, as well as adequate rights and professional conditions for the teachers (in accordance with the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the status of teachers);

·         An approach focused on the transition from school to decent work opportunities.

This was the message put forward by the representatives of governments and employer and worker organisations at the 5th World Conference on the Sustainable Elimination of Child Labour, in Buenos Aires (14-16 November 2017) when they declared in the final statement their commitment to “Strengthening the policies and programmes aimed at ensuring equal access for all children to mandatory, public and free education ensuring that children, and particularly girls and other children in precarious situations, are included in an inclusive and quality education system”.

In parallel to their advocacy activities, many education trade unions affiliated to EI are involved in field activities aimed at combating child labour. This is the case, for instance, in Mali, Nicaragua, Uganda and Zimbabwe where, during the 2014-2017 period, over 16,000 children were taken out of work and placed in schools or avoided early drop-outs thanks to projects creating areas free of all child labour. The teacher trade unions contributed to the development of such areas alongside local authorities and other civil society organisations. The involvement of EI affiliates in those projects has strengthened their influence in social dialogue while enabling them to increase their visibility and their memberships.

You can also read the World of Education's blogpost by Noumoutieba Diarra on trade union work to fight child labour in Mali here.