Not all work done by children is child labour. However, no child (under 18 years old) should ever do hazardous work, even if he or she is above the legal working age.
Hazardous child labour “is work that is performed by children in dangerous and unhealthy conditions”. Over 73 million children are doing work which is considered hazardous putting their health, safety, development or education at risk, much of which is done in agriculture.
Hazardous child labour in agriculture
Agriculture is in the top three most hazardous sectors of work and has the highest percentage of all hazardous child labour, some 62%. Some of the most common risks for children working in agriculture include handling pesticides and fertilisers, carrying heavy loads, and unguarded machines. The key drivers of child labour in rural areas include poverty, lack of access to quality education, job skills training and decent work opportunities. Without the tools to access better jobs, it is hard to break the cycle of poverty and child labour.
Helping out in farming related activities is not always child labour. Tasks that don’t interfere with a child’s education and leisure time, are age-appropriate and safe “can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment.” Through non-hazardous activities, parents often teach their children important skills which can build self-esteem and increase family food security.
Making farms safer through risk management
In Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, ECLT supports and assists farmers to identify the risks for all workers and advises them on how to prevent, remove or control them. This helps to create a safer environment for everyone working on the farm. Farmers, and others who can help them, like labour inspectors or union leaders, are trained so that they can be part of the battle against hazardous child labour.
Case study: Malawi
In Malawi, since 2013, ECLT has supported over 30,000 farmers through trainings and information sharing so that they can carry out their own risk assessments.
Some of the common risks can be made safer through basic changes like trainings on proper use of pesticides and dangers of specific chemicals being used, covering deep wells and installing guards and emergency stop devices on tools and machines. It should also be clear that some jobs, like applying pesticides, are too dangerous for workers under 18, even with protective