Majority of world’s child workers employed in agriculture, says UN agency

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of child labour worldwide

14 September 2006 – Agricultural work accounts for some 70 per cent of child labour worldwide, forcing children to work long hours, operate dangerous machinery, and carry loads that are too heavy for their growing bodies, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

“Most working children in the world are found on farms and plantations, not in factories, sweatshops or urban areas,” said Jennie Dey DePryck, Chief of FAO’s Rural Institutions and Participation Service, in a statement issued in Rome.

The FAO noted that agriculture is one of the world’s three most hazardous work sectors, along with mining and construction.

“Some agricultural activities – mixing and applying pesticides, using certain types of machinery – are so dangerous that children should be clearly prohibited from engaging in them,” said Parviz Koohafkan, Director of FAO’s Rural Development Division.

He cautioned, however, that the issue is a complex one since not all of the agricultural work that children perform is harmful to their development and well-being.

“When it comes to subsistence and family agriculture, children’s participation in family farm activities helps them learn valuable skills, build self-esteem and contribute to the generation of household income, which has a positive impact on their own livelihoods,” Mr. Koohafkan said.

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