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Calls Mount for Countries to End Child Labor

Child labor in Africa
Child labor in Africa

The global conference on the elimination of child labor focused May 16 on strategies and actions to tackle the lingering problem, saying failure to do so is equal to failing mankind.

Only three years are left for countries to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target 8.7, by which they should eliminate all forms of child labor. To that end, countries gathered in Durban, South Africa on May 15 for a six day discussion of how nations can reach the UN's stated goal.

The International Labour Organization reports there are over 160 million children at work across the world, with half doing tasks that put their health, safety and moral development in danger. The organization cautions that a further 8.9 million children will be added to this list by the end of this year if action is not taken fast.

The second day of the conference on May 16 focused on delegates discussing how to eliminate child labor at a time when countries are struggling to provide decent work and youth employment. There was also a clear call for countries to accelerate progress and achieve impact on a large scale.

Speaking to delegates during a high-level panel discussion on setting global priorities, global children’s rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said failing to invest enough on the protection, health and education of children was equal to failing humankind.

"Liberation for education and education for liberation," Satyarthi told the conference, adding "Education is empowerment. Education is key to liberation, physical, mental, sexual and all kinds of liberation. Education is key in that sense. Education cannot be compromised."

These were the same sentiments echoed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa when he set the tone of the conference as it opened Sunday.

"Child labor is an enemy of our children’s development," Ramaphosa told the conference. "It is an enemy of our children’s future and it is an enemy of progress. It is also an enemy of nationhood."

Zingiswa Losi, President of the Congress of the South African Trade Unions, said all hands will need to be on deck for child labor to be completely eradicated.

Losi said "It is not going to be a government agenda alone to drive the elimination of child labor at the level of policy. It has to be an inclusive process. Ensure that workers are involved from the onset." The union leader added "It’s going to take business [to get on-board] because they are the employers of children in the labor market."