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World Day against Child Labour 2019: “Children and adolescents shouldn't work in fields, but on dreams”

The fields still concentrate the dreams of the 52% of children and adolescents that work in the region

According to ILO data, 10.5 million of children and adolescents work in Latin America and the Carribean; out of which, 6.3 realice hazardous work.

The available data show that child labour prevails in the lowest quintiles, although it is identified in the different income levels; it is mainly concentrated in rural areas; affects mainly to the adolescents; and prevails in agricultural activities.

Child labour is also related to the inequality structural axes of Latin America and the Caribbean; and affects boys, girls and adolescents in different ways according to the territory where they are born or where they live; the age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level.

It is fundamental to acknowledge that, in the region, the territory is one of the key factors when addressing child labour. The fact that nearly the 52% of child labour is concentrated in the agricultural sector, proves that rural and peri-urban areas are more exposed and require differentiated and more aggressive policies to decrease the gaps and contribute to the eradication of child labour and the promotion of protected adolescent work.

In several countries of the region, the child labour rate in rural areas duplicates, and sometimes even triplicates, the one of urban areas.

Source: ECLAC; ILO and RI (2017). A trap for equality.

Rural families and communities tend to generate really low income, precarious or insecure labour conditions and less access to public services and social protection. This, added to the limited capacities of public authorities in rural areas, make those living and working in rural zones to have less opportunities to improve their life quality and welfare, and to develop.

For many rural families, agriculture is their main subsistence activity, however, the absence of agrarian and environmental integral and efficient development policies make even more complicated overcoming structural problems of this activity. Most of these families and farmers communities do not have basic necessary resources, such as water, energy or technology, to improve their harvests and distribute them to the market, in addition to the exposure they suffer to climate change.

If this situation continues, the human capital concentrated in this sector will hardly progress, therefore, productivity, agriculture and rural communities too, perpetuating poverty and child labour, since the unsatisfied needs of the poorest families in rural areas will boost them to resort to child labour as help.

High child labour rates in rural areas are linked to the significant concentration of children and development working in agriculture, mainly in small familiar crofts, expanding to breeder production, fishery and aquaculture (ILO, 2016). 

Child labour is mainly rural and agricultural. This productive sector is one of the most dangerous and riskiest for children and adolescents due to the long working days that it demands, the exposition to extreme climates, contact with chemical products, etc. Likewise, the seasonal/temporary character of the activity encourages constant seasonal migration that expose them to abuse situations, trafficking, slavery or forced labour.

Since for many families and communities child labour in agriculture is part of traditions and cultural patrons, some of the activities may be considered part of their formation and socialization. This relativizes the risks and dangers that can entail for their and development and children and adolescents’ security. This, together with the difficulty that inspection, social protection key services, such as education or health, and supplements or incentives for production in many rural areas of the region represent, make restitution of working children rights and protection of adolescent permitted work more complex.

Future of labour without child labour

Dreams of a better future for children and adolescents from Latin America and the Caribbean who live and work in the fields are limited not only by child labour, but also by the poor or weak interagency, intersectoral and intergovernmental, national, regional and local, coordination to balance rural and periphery development to that of urban areas.

Future of fair and sustainable labour, the one to which the 2030 Agenda calls us, not leaving anyone behind, has a particular challenge regarding child labour in adolescent population. Unlike the rest of the world, child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean is realized mostly by adolescents that, even though having minimum age permitted for work admission, realize hazardous activities. Therefore strengthening the security and health at work approach and measures and services oriented to promoting protected adolescent and young labour and labour reconversion services is a priority.

Thus, this year, in the framework of the World Day against Child Labour, the Latin America and the Caribbean free of child labour Regional Initiative highlights the urgency of giving visibility to the shortcomings of rural areas, the necessity of an innovative and inclusive vision and perspective of the most vulnerable zones, sectors and groups, to create responses that protect and restore rights, but that are also able of preventing the insertion and recidivism of child labour in fields.

Likewise, it demands the creation of decent work for adolescents and young people in rural areas, those with whom they can not only cover necessities and help their families, but also develop and live peacefully in their communities.

To know more about child labour and agriculture, we invite you to visit the following links: