Social protection schemes as tools for combating child labour
Combating a habit that is rooted in social injustice without first tackling the root causes will undoubtedly be a difficult task.
Indeed, distinguishing between child labour and child work is often difficult in a society that has more than half of its population living below the poverty line.
The thin line is what stakeholders said denying a child from assessing school and engaging in some level of work during school hours is what child labour is while engaging a child in some light work after school or during holidays in work that is not hazardous to his or her health, equally proportionate to his or her capacity and not exploitative is acceptable. Also, a child hawking for his parents to support the family financially after school is admissible to be within the law.
Above all, engaging children in some forms of work could easily be minimised if the social sector – education and health – is well funded by the government.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari believes that child labour will reduce massively if the Federal and State governments increase investment in social protection schemes.
Buhari, who stated this in Abuja at the National Children conference to commemorate 2022 World Day against Child Labour, maintained that combating child labour requires a systemic approach and effective policies to strengthen social protection systems, education, as well as decent work opportunities for parents and caregivers to effectively tackle the menace.
Buhari, who was represented by the wife of the Kwara State governor, Olufolake Abdulrazak, admonished the tiers of government to lay a high premium on investment in social security schemes, establish solid social protection floors and protect children from child labour.
The wife of the president noted that child labour is fast becoming endemic, largely driven by poverty and ignorance, saying conditions that drive child labour must be tackled holistically.
“The government has put in place social security programmes as highlighted by earlier speakers to dissuade all shades of child labour in addition to diversifying the economy through agricultural revolution and strengthening social security system to reverse poverty as a predisposing factor in this light,” she stated.
She submitted that child labour remained a major threat to child development in Nigeria despite legislative measures taken by the government at various levels to curb it.
While admitting that there are a lot of activities, which have led to a considerable difference in the area of awareness creation among parents, children and even schools, she said the adoption of the child rights law and other protective laws by governments at the state level are playing a critical role in reducing child labour.
However, she expressed optimism that initiatives introduced by the Federal Government will help to mitigate child labour in the country.
She added: “All these initiatives of the Federal Government will set us on the path to eradicating the menace of child labour in our communities and achieving sustainable development goals. A multi-sectoral approach will help in eradicating child Labour in Nigeria.”
In his presentation, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, noted that child labour has become a scourge in Nigeria.
He said: “Several children find themselves on the streets, forced to make a living, with others employed in industrial complexes and hazardous environments. However, as a country, we take pride in stating that considerable efforts have been made in dealing with this menace. Most notably the adoption and ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 on minimum age and worst forms of child labour respectively; the passage of the Child Rights Act into law to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with adoption by about 30 state governments; the implementation and enforcement of National Action Plan on Child Labour, Prohibition and Elimination of Forced Labour, Modern Slavery, and Human Trafficking in workplaces spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.”
Ngige, who urged the stakeholders not to lose focus, stressed the importance of the provision of safety nets for children in vulnerable conditions.
In her intervention, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Kachollom Daju, who recognised teachers as moulders of character said: “We cannot talk about the future of the children without those saddled with the task of moulding them – the teachers. Teachers not only impart knowledge but help with character building as well. Teachers are also responsible for shaping a child’s future and making him/her a better human being.”
In her intervention, ILO Country Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Venessa Phala, insisted that the right to education is a human right and that providing children with universal access to free, compulsory and quality basic education is important to ensure that human beings reach their full potential.
She added that in Nigeria, about 15 million children are engaged in child labour, saying half of that bear the heavy burden of hazardous work.
She hinted that Nigerian children through the children parliament had last year requested the enthronement of steps that could stem child labour in the country.
“Among the requests were the eradication of hawking during school hours and a passage of the Labour Standard Bill criminalising the list of hazardous child labour. They also requested social intervention programmes for vulnerable households. The inclusion of child labour issues in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of private businesses and increased child representation and participation among other requests,” she said.
Phala further stated that the Accelerating Action for the Elimination of Child Labour in Supply Chains in Africa (ACCEL-Africa), in collaboration with the ILO tripartite partners, has intensified its social protection, child participation and school-to-work transition with a series of interventions in line with the ECOWAS regional action plan, Nigeria’s National Action Plan, State Action Plans and other roadmaps to achieving the total elimination of all forms of child labour and forced labour by 2025.
According to her, since the start of May 2019, ILO and its partners have improved policy, legal and institutional framework to address child labour in cocoa and artisanal gold mining sectors, using innovative and evidence-based approaches that address the root causes of child labour in supply chains.
The ILO country chief stressed that for the ILO and partners to sustain their interventions, governments, social partners, the media, academia, NGOs, donors and trade unions need to constantly engage children to ensure sustainable policies and implement legal requirements for the elimination of child labour through monitoring.
“To ensure enabling environment for the elimination of child labour, there is the need to improve relevant policy frameworks and provide innovative solutions to address poverty which is the root cause of child labour and forced labour. We urge employers to honour the rights of workers to social protection by constantly remitting the employer’s contribution to health protection, old age benefits, employment injury scheme and other support systems,” Phala said.
She also urged an increase in CSR to focus on reducing the vulnerability of children, increasing funding for existing interventions, ensuring continuity in executing policies related to child labour, supporting school-to-work transition and encouraging child participation, especially of children within the legal working age.
On its part, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) said, while organised businesses may not always have contractual or commercial relationships with the entities that are causing child labour impacts, the effects may be linked to the practices of their supply chains, saying, “unfortunately, the worst forms are usually found in this sector.”
NECA, represented by the Deputy Director, Corporate office, Abuja, Adenike Adebayo-Ajala, said over the years, the employers’ umbrella body has played a critical role in the fight for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by engaging in tripartite discussions on the issue of child labour, providing inputs into legislation while advocating and creating awareness amongst the actors in the supply chains about adverse effects of hiring practices of their suppliers and the benefits of responsible businesses without child labour.