Social protection measures key in fight against child labour, says new UN report

ILO report shows why social protection is crucial to tackle child labour. Photo: ILO

29 April 2013 – The implementation of social protection measures can play a key role in rescuing minors from occupational bondage, a new report by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) has found.

According to the World Report on Child Labour, varying types of social protection measures such as cash transfer schemes, social health protection and providing income security in old age, can help reduce the number of children around the world who are forced to work. The ILO estimates that the phenomenon has trapped 215 million children worldwide.

“This report contributes to a better understanding of the underlying economic and social vulnerabilities that generate child labour,” said Constance Thomas, the Director of the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) which authored the report.

The report notes for example that Brazil’s Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme, which provides families with a monthly allowance to send their children to school, has played a prime role in reducing child labour in both rural and urban areas across the Latin American nation. Likewise, the introduction of a scholarship programme in Cambodia, which also involves cash transfers, has reduced child labour there by 10 per cent.

In African countries such as Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, where 50 to 60 per cent of orphans live with their grandparents, income security in old age plays an equally significant role in diminishing the presence of child labour.

The ILO has estimated that more than 5 billion people, or around 75 per cent of the global population, do not have effective access to comprehensive social protection. The figures largely contribute to the vast numbers of child labourers around the world, including the 115 million involved in the worst forms of child labour, such as debt bondage and prostitution, and the 15.5 million involved in domestic work.

As part of Government efforts to fight child labour, the report stresses that the extension of social protection, in line with the UN agency’s Recommendation on social protection floors delineated in 2011, should form a key part of national strategies to tackle the scourge.

In particular, the floors would guarantee basic income in the form of social transfers in cash or kind, such as pensions, child benefits, employment guarantees and services for the unemployed and working poor, while providing universal access to essential affordable social services in health, water and sanitation, education, food, housing, and other services defined according to national priorities.

“Investing in social protection through nationally-defined social protection floors is a crucial part of the response in the fight against child labour, which also includes access to decent jobs for adults and education for children,” concludes Ms. Thomas.

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