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A systems approach to fight child labour and boost economic development

"The systems approach aims to address the underlying reasons why a problem exists in a sector, which means understanding and tackling the issues that create problems in the first place. It focuses on selected sectors (be they commodities, like the soybean value chain, or whole sectors like construction) to address specific decent work deficits. To achieve this, projects invest in promising innovations, involving existing public and private stakeholders that can spur more inclusive growth.”

The International Labour Organization recently published a new report on adopting a systems lens to identify the economic root causes of child labour. The brief aims to provide technical guidance on how a systems lens can be used to determine and asses the economic root causes of child labour induced by poverty.

The systemic causes of child labour

The root causes of child labour are complex, and extend far beyond a single supply chain, they are often interlinked and context specific. The ILO Lab has identified three major root causes of child labour, such as including lack of implementation of policies and regulations, the business environment and the socio-economic pressures faced by families. A systems approach can help us to understand the risk of child labour and gaps relative to mitigating measures in policy or in the value chain. Using the following 6 step process, we are able to integrate a systemic lens and around this create remediation at every level.

    1. Building a socio-economic profile of households at risk of child labour
    1. Mapping the value chain where child labour is present to include a wide array of public and private stakeholders to address the issue
    1. Analysing the systemic functions around the value chain including both business and social functions to ensure that these meet the standards required to prevent families from falling into poverty
    1. Using the prior steps, you can now identify the root causes of the economic determinants leading to child labour in the value chain
    1. Prioritise a field-based research to identify actors’ incentives, capacities and power in the value chain.
    1. Use a participatory approach, inclusive of the private sector. Child labour projects find it critical to involve key private players at the outset. This approach is conducive to raising awareness on child labour risks and encourages engagement throughout.

Download the ILO report to find out more