Durban, May 18 (IPS) – With a strong commitment from governments, businesses, workers and consumers, the scourge of child labor can be eliminated, says Dr. Joni Musabayana, director of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Pretoria, South Africa.
Speaking to IPS in an exclusive interview at the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor in Durban, Musabayana was optimistic despite the rise in child labor around the world. International efforts to end the scourge are under pressure to meet the United Nations goal of ending child labor by 2025.
Musabayana also discussed the Durban Call to Action, which is expected to be ratified at the end of the conference.
“It’s not so much about legally binding as it is about giving impetus to accelerate efforts to address a problem using good practices.”
Musabayana says the sizeable contingent of high-level African delegates bodes well for the continent, which bears the heaviest burden of child labour.
“It is agreed that of the 160 million children in labor, 92 million are on the African continent. The participation of 60% to 70% of the African delegates, just by coming, demonstrates their commitment to redouble their efforts to tackle this scourge.”
The key drivers of child labor in Africa are agriculture, bonded labor on farms, mining, fishing, the sexual exploitation of young children, and domestic and informal work.
“Multi-stakeholders and an integrated approach are needed. It is not just about the government, but it has to show leadership because the fundamental pillars to solve child labor are largely access to free education, food plans for children and child support subsidies.
“These are policy instruments where South Africa is showing leadership. Other African countries are following, and they are pointing us in the direction of what to do.”
Political will and partnerships are vital to ending child labour.
Says Musabayana: “What we need is additional political will, which we hope this conference will generate, to ensure that these programs are adequately resourced, well implemented and well monitored.
“Partnerships must be established with civil society, employers who employ child labor and unions who work with these children.”
He encourages the media to expose cases of child labour, “if only I could say ‘name and shame’ those who continue to perpetuate this abhorrent practice.”
On the subject of global supply chains, he says: “We are happy that the CEOs of Nestlé and Cocoa Cola have been with us and other big companies. (It is) important to see that it is not acceptable for them to obtain products and services manufactured and facilitated through child labour.
However, talking is not enough.
“It is not enough to make this point, but it is crucial to cut off access to goods and services associated with child labor in your value chain.”
Musabayana adds: “The most critical is the end consumer, whether it be in China or the US or even on the African continent or in Europe. I think everyone hates products and services obtained through child labour, and we need to highlight what products are on the market and why end consumers should disassociate themselves from them.”
It has emerged that many child laborers are employed by their own families. Musabayana blames this on poverty, saying that no parent “willingly says that I will send my child to work on a farm that uses dangerous chemicals.”
For this reason, the ILO seeks social protection for vulnerable families “to ensure that no one falls below a certain level of human survival.”
It also supports social support grants and basic income grants.
“These are policy instruments to ensure that families are not so needy and hungry, or so needy that they feel the need to use children to increase family income.”
But where will the money come from?
“Clearly the affordability of social security packages is a necessary debate, but we will always start by saying that if you think it is expensive to have a social protection scheme, try the alternative.
“What kind of society would we have? We already have a fairly unequal society, and then what happens if we don’t take clear measures so that those at the base of the pyramid lead a decent life”, asks Musabayana.
Earlier this week, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the conference that the estimated cost of a social protection package for all children was US$53 billion per year.
As for a living wage, Musabayana says: “The ILO has supported the concept of a national minimum wage and the principle of collective bargaining so that workers must negotiate with their employers an agreement on what is fair pay.”
The ILO also supports a national living wage. But Musabayana says it must be done responsibly: “We must have a phased approach to make it affordable and the companies that are supposed to bear this cost can still make a profit because we must not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. ”
“I don’t think we should give up now and throw our hands in the air. We must make sure that, in 2025, we can say: we accelerated, we eliminated many children, but more importantly, we must make sure that there are no more children who go into child labour.”
© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service