Worldwide 215 million children are child labourers, and around 130 million boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 17 work in agriculture. Many of them are engaged in hazardous activities – working in fields where pesticides have been applied, staying up all night on fishing boats, using sharp tools designed for adults, or carrying loads too heavy for their still-growing bodies. Most are unpaid family workers.
Pervasive poverty is one of the main causes of child labour in rural areas; it is also one of the consequences.
Last week, Washington hosted the first International Conference on Child Labour in Agriculture, where 160 participants from 50 countries, representing governments, international labour and development organizations, trade unions, teachers and farmers organizations, NGOs and corporations mapped out a framework committing themselves to action.
FAO’s Bernd Seiffert chaired a conference workshop on addressing child labour in neglected agricultural sub-sectors, such as fishing, forestry and livestock-keeping.
“The agriculture sector is under-regulated in many countries, and much labour legislation either explicitly excludes the informal sector and self-employed smallholders or is not enforced,” Seiffert says.