Agriculture employs 70 percent of child laborers worldwide, often under dangerous and exhausting conditions. The work can involve long hours, sharp tools, heavy loads and unsafe machinery, with possible exposure to pesticides, dust and disease. This was the issue addressed at a meeting in Rome between the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and other international agricultural organizations.
The ILO has a set definition of what constitutes child labor. Light work that does not hinder education is permitted for children over 12, and those over 15 can engage in work that is not hazardous. Child labor is classified work that harms children’s well-being and interferes with their education, development and future livelihoods.
According to the FAO, education is the key to reducing poverty, but rural children often do not have access to it. The agency is working with UNESCO and other partners to bridge the urban/rural divide in education and improve the living conditions of people working in agriculture.
On the other hand, not all work that children do is detrimental to their development. “When it comes to subsistence and family agriculture, children’s participation in family farm activities helps them learn valuable skills, build self-esteem and contribute to the generation of household income, which has a positive impact on their own livelihoods,” says Parviz Koohafkan, Director of FAO’s Rural Development Division.