The incomes of farming communities can be unpredictable and unstable, even more so during a crisis like Covid-19. The social and economic consequences of the pandemic put significant strains on the incomes of farming communities, which is why the ILO predicts a rise in child labour. To avoid losing past years progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) including SDG 8.7, a broad range of actors such as the OECD, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and several others have repeated the message “Building Back Better”.
One of the ways to “Build Back Better” is to strengthen the resilience of rural communities in low-income countries. In this article we focus on the importance of building resilience of young workers in rural communities to tackle child labour and promote economic growth
Adolescents, a vulnerable group at the workplace
According to the ILO, almost 38 million adolescents between 15-17 are in child labour. These numbers represent almost half of all children aged 15–17 who are in employment. When young people are doing work which is hazardous, such as working long hours or being in contact with toxic chemicals, this is considered one of the worst forms of child labour.
Adolescents working in agriculture are at particular risk of being exposed to harmful work such as lifting heavy loads and using dangerous tools that could injure them for life. Besides putting their health and safety at risk, adolescents engaged in hazardous work are more likely than other employed 15-17 year-olds to drop out of school prematurely. Taking children out of school has lasting consequences for themselves and the economy. With little education it is much harder to find a well-paid job later in life and even more difficult to escape poverty. Creating opportunities for young people in rural communities to access skilled well-paid job, is a challenge that needs to be addressed to strengthen resilience and to break generational cycles of poverty and child labour.
Increasing the chances of getting a skilled job
Some of the reasons why adolescents are involved in child labour include, limited access to quality education, poor job opportunities and limited means of families to cover basic needs. Attaining skills that are needed by local companies, is one of the ways young people in rural communities increase their possibilities of moving away from hazardous poorly paid jobs into jobs that are fair, safe, equal and with open working conditions. These skills can be obtained through locally tailored job-skills trainings offered within the community. Yet, in many cases, access to such trainings are limited in rural communities. Several barriers exist such as: costs, distance to school or the skills offered may not be applicable in the local community. Providing financial support for enrolment and developing tailored job-skills trainings that prepare young people for the local job market are some of the ways to address these barriers.
Why invest in the development of young people's skills?
Investing in young people’s skills development does not only benefit the individual but society as a whole. Having skilled employees enables companies to become more productive and develop better products, which improves their competitive advantage. Competitive companies generate increased demands for products and foster business development which attracts further investments and essentially drives economic growth and job creation in the country. Increased numbers of people who find quality jobs will decrease and eventually eliminate poverty and child labour.
For a job-skills training to provide real opportunities for employment and to improve business competitiveness, businesses should play a key role in selecting the basic skills of the training. To enable as many young people as possible to access the training, barriers for enrolment and retention need to be addressed. Accessibility can be improved through scholarships targeted families with few means and after-school activities to prevent students from returning to dangerous work and to support them with their studies.
EEMPATA: turning job-skills training into job opportunities in Guatemala
ECLT is currently developing a replicable job-skills training model - EEMPATA. The objective is to prepare young people in rural communities for the jobs that exist in the local community and beyond.
“Thanks to EEMPATA more young people are now enrolled in secondary education. The quality of the training is high, and we develop greater capacities and get access to more tools that enable us to get a better job. This will help improve the community’s economy”.
Olman Mendoza, Student of EEMPATA
The EEMPATA project has been implemented in a rural community in Guatemala, San Jose La Maquina. When the programme started, only 5 students were enrolled in Secondary School and 50 percent of children were working to support their families. Over the years EEMPATA has implemented a job-skills training and subsidised internship programme, including after-school activities. In 2020, around 200 adolescents have been enrolled in the programme.
Now the young people in La Maquina have a chance to prepare themselves for the jobs in-demand in their local community and beyond. To take efforts further next step is to help the students transition from school to the world of work.