World Day Against Child Labour: Progress Against Child Labour Stalls For The First Time In Two Decades

Driving through the streets of Accra on an exhausting sunny Friday afternoon in the frustration of traffic hold-up, you would appreciate it when, opportunely, an eight-year old looking child approached your car with a basket full of refrigerated bottles of water, wouldn’t you? You would roll down your window, accept a bottle, and give him or her some money for that thoughtfulness. Except beyond that thoughtfulness, was that child’s means of survival – which you minimally contributed to by paying for that single bottle of water. What’s more, if this child should delay in finding some change for your money and the traffic light should turn green, as honest and just as he or she may be, this child will defencelessly run after your car – even if it takes them a lifetime – just to give you your change.

In the end, your thirst was quenched, and you were not shortchanged, but was that child’s livelihood really earned after that punishing long run? Will it ever be? 

There are a number of traumatizing and mortifying activities involving children that many of us have instigated or encouraged, actively or passively, without reflecting on the multifaceted implications and consequences it may have on these children apart from our personal gains. By so doing, we may have justified these activities for such children with agonizing life survival terms such as “hussling” or classified them under seeming child training or child upbringing labels, instead of calling it for what it really is – child labour. 

Defining Child Labour 

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), child labour is “work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and or work that interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with long and heavy work.”

The ILO further specifies that not every work that children engage in would be considered as child labour, particularly when it involves their participation in work which neither affects their health or personal development nor their schooling. Work such as helping parents in the house, helping in family businesses or earning an allowance outside of school hours or during holidays, generally contribute to the skills, experience and productivity of these children in society when they eventually become adults. 

Moreover, given the varying country to country and sectorial considerations of what constitutes child labour, the concept is used according to those considerations. In view of this, certain demographics such as a child’s age, the type and longevity of the work, the conditions under which the work is performed and country-specific objectives  would be factored in before the classification is made. 

Notwithstanding, the ILO notes the worst forms of labour and hazardous labour children could be exposed to as seen below:

Credit : International Labour Organisation 

Credit : International Labour Organisation

Current global situation on Child Labour 

Two days ago, on 10 June, 2021, with the support of Alliance 8.7, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) published a new report with data from 2016 to 2020 on Global estimates, trends and the road forward on Child Labour.  

According to the new estimates, which used more than 100 household surveys comprising two thirds of the world’s population of children between 5 and 17 years, the findings of the report were considered alarming. The report revealed that child labour remains a persistent problem in the world today and globally, progress against child labour has stalled for the first time in two decades. It further suggested that, because of the rising poverty caused by the global pandemic, more children (a further 8.9  million)  are likely going to be engaged in child labour by the end of 2022, if there are no urgent mitigation measures. 

The results of the survey provide a basis for stakeholders and partners to practically review the international commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025. The report cautioned that if the will and resources to act promptly against the eradication of child labour are not mustered in a revolutionary manner, the timeline for ending child labour will consequently, be exceeded and stretched many years into the future.

Statistically, the latest global estimates indicate that, at the beginning of 2020, 160 million children, comprising 63 million girls and 97 million boys, were in child labour worldwide. This is accounted for as almost 1 in 10 of all children globally. 79 million children, which is nearly half of all those in child labour, were in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.

In summary, the report uncovered the following demographics:

Situation of children in Ghana

UNICEF indicates that child labour is significant and prevalent in Ghana, detailing similar demographics that was uncovered in the ILO and UNICEF global report. 

In Ghana, child labour is twice as common in rural areas, where among all children between 5 and 17 years, about 21 per cent are involved in child labour and 14 per cent are engaged in hazardous forms of labour. 

Additionally, in the setting of a poor household, most children are involved in the agriculture and fishing sectors. Typically, boys are more likely to be doing the manual work, which is considered as child labour, whereas the heavy domestic workload for girls such as childcare, is not considered so. 

On the other hand, UNICEF states that there are currently no concrete figures on the number of children affected by the worst forms of child labour in Ghana such as sale of children, child prostitution and trafficking; and children living and working on the streets. According to the agency, even though accurate numbers of human trafficking cases are not available as yet, it is believed that the large majority of all cases involve children, and are mainly girls.

Ghana’s Interventions against Child labour  

Like most of the countries affected, Ghana has a number of  humanitarian interventions (National Plan of Action supported by UNICEF) and laws and regulations that meet international standards, implemented in the fight to eradicate child labour. The 1992 Constitution, the Children’s Act (44), the Human Trafficking Act, the Labour Regulations Legislative Instrument (L.I), the Labour Act, the Human Trafficking Prohibitions L.I, the Criminal Offences Act and the Education Act safeguard the interest of all children in the country. Below are some important provisions to note:

Credit : US Department of Labour, Bureau of International Labour Affairs 


It is recognisable that on an international and national level, at least plans have been suggested for the road forward, and some underway for 2021’s International Year of the Elimination of Child Labour.  It is important then for individuals to scale this down on a societal, family and personal level. Whether you justify child labour as “hussling” or teaching children responsibility, you may have to consider the intensity, pain and danger of the activities children are being exposed to in the process. The conversation on the engagement of children in labour is one that should be encouraged in many Ghanaian households to draw the lines. The fight to end child labour is a fight for all. 

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