UN report calls for elimination of child labour in livestock sector

A young boy tends to his cattle. Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

25 February 2013 – Governments, farmer organizations and rural families must all be involved to eliminate child labour in the livestock sector, which is a widespread and largely ignored practice, according to a United Nations report released today.

The report, Children’s work in the livestock sector: Herding and beyond, found that agriculture accounts for most of the reported child labour in the world, with livestock accounting for some 40 per cent of the agricultural economy.

While there have been global efforts to tackle child labour in agriculture, the report, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), argues that the livestock sector has received much less attention. In some parts of the world, children start herding at a young age, ranging from five to seven years old.

“Reducing child labour in agriculture is not only an issue of human rights, it is also part of the quest for truly sustainable rural development and food security,” said the Assistant Director-General in charge of FAO’s Economic and Social Development Department, Jomo Sundaram.

“Child labour strikes at the heart of decent employment opportunities for young people, especially when it interferes with their formal schooling.”

The report notes that livestock is at least a partial source of income to 800 million rural poor who live on less than $1 a day, and stresses the importance of being able to find alternatives to child labour without negatively affecting the livelihoods of these people.

“The growing importance of livestock in agriculture means that efforts to reduce child labour will need to focus more on the factors that lead to harmful or hazardous work for children in that sector, while respecting and protecting the livelihoods of poor rural families,” Mr. Sundaram said.

The report also makes a series of recommendations for governments and their development partners to tackle the issue such as implementing national policies to improve people’s livelihoods and increasing educational options for rural families; establishing a direct dialogue between employers and workers, and developing programmes to improve access to school and attendance in rural areas, and which monitor child labour.

“In tackling child labour in pastoralist communities, you need to engage in a dialogue to find solutions that are suitable for their specific socio-cultural situations, and which are built on the support of pastoralist leaders, parents, employers and children,” said Rob Vos, the Director of the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

“This would allow ‘education with identity’ and give children better employment prospects, within and beyond the livestock sector.”

The findings of the report are expected to inform the 3rd Global Conference on Child Labour, which will be held in Brazil in October.


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