The recent disclosure by the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) that more than 152m children or nearly one in 10 children globally are victims of forced labour is not only heart rendering but also inhuman.
Though the ILO research conducted in conjunction with the Walk Free Foundation showed some progressive decline by 94m in the statistics of child labour projection since 2000, the number of these impoverished, malnourished and overworked children barely old enough to fend for themselves not to talk of engaging in rigorous economic activities poses no little global challenge.
According to the ILO, 73m children are engaged in hazardous labour that “directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.” Further details indicated that some 88m are boys; 64m are girls, while children ranging from five to 11 years old make up the largest group of minors who are engaged in hazardous work. Besides, more than a third or 36m of the children between ages five and 14 have had no formal basic education.
Sadly, one in five of these hapless children can be found in Africa, which accounts for both the largest number of 72m and the greatest proportion (47per cent) of all children in child labour across the world. According to the chart, Asia and the Pacific region account for 62m, Americas – 11m, Europe and Central Asia – six million, and the Middle East – one million children, in various forms of forced child labour.
The findings also claimed that more than two-thirds of these children are working on family farms or in family businesses with 71 per cent overall employed in agriculture. The organisation also noted that nine out of every 10 of these children live in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region, with sub-Saharan Africa experiencing a rise in the phenomenon between 2012 and 2016.
Though there are no official statistics on the percentage of forced child labour in Nigeria, going by the army of hawkers in major Nigerian cities, and the over 10m out-of-school kids, according to a recent UN data, it may not be out of place to state that the larger numbers of African children in forced labour are to be found in Nigeria. This scenario is unacceptable considering how resourcefully endowed the country is.
Blueprint makes bold to say that Nigeria has all the indices to grow child labour: the harsh economic climate which has led to the death of businesses and ultimately massive unemployment, the Boko Haram insurgency which dislocated people from their ancestral homes and forced a shutdown of their businesses and schools, perennial communal clashes involving farmers/herders and other disasters and conflicts, all made Nigerian children vulnerable. The hundreds of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps spread across the length and breadth of the country clearly lend credence to this.
We identify with the ILO’s advocacy for global partnership to tackle the worrisome forced labour trend through adoption of more effective, pragmatic social and other economic empowerment relief programmes that directly address some of these challenges.
As rightly observed in the study, resources needed to tackle the problems far exceed the funding by various domestic governments. These poor responses make international resource mobilisation imperative if the war against child labour is to make any impact.
However, while we acknowledge the federal and state governments’ efforts to ginger interest in and boost return to school through illegalising hawking and begging by minors, the free school feeding programme, progressive work to restore peace and facilitate the return of IDPs to their respective ancestral homes, and the current calm in the Niger Delta among other initiatives aimed at creating an environment conducive for stable socio-economic engagements, much more is expected to be done.
The epileptic power supply in the country which has had adverse effects on micro and macro businesses thereby forcing several of them to close shops needs to be addressed urgently. The few that manage to operate have whittled down their workforce, while others are barely able to meet their monthly financial obligations to their staff, all of which have imposed severe pressure on the masses.
If Nigeria and the rest of the world hope to achieve the Sustainable Development Programme (SDP) target of 8.7 per cent and eradication of all forms of child labour by 2025 as projected, then global collaboration is inevitable.