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ILO2012_Worst Forms of Child Labour

ILO2012_Worst Forms of Child Labour

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Worst Forms of Child Labour 2012
Worst Forms of Child Labour 2012

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Viewing working children within the context of the life cycle

For policy-makers who are dealing with political crises and economic strictures, child labour is
often seen as a peripheral issue, a problem that can wait. The life-cycle concept is a potentially
powerful tool to provide them with a way to place children’s safety and development more cen-
trally within a country’s priorities and to use it as a measure of success.

We now understand that vulnerabilities are not evenly distributed throughout the life cycle. Not
only are they significantly greater in earlier stages of life, but they can also have important long-
term and sometimes irreversible consequences during later stages of life. When we chart the most
critical points within the life cycle, we see that while risks are extremely high in infancy – as we
would expect them to be – they increase again and are concentrated in adolescence and youth,
a period that can have an immediate impact on the next generation. 137

Because major physical, social and psychological development takes place in this period, it
largely determines whether an individual “succeeds” or “fails” in later stages of life. Thus, the
negative impacts that hazardous work of children has on a child’s development can limit an in-
dividual’s opportunities to make the transition to decent work during youth. In turn, the labour
market disadvantage incurred when a child’s schooling is compromised by strenuous or abusive
work can result not only open a persistent cycle of poverty but also in social vulnerability and
marginalization (box 7.1).


World Bank: Children and youth: A framework for action, HDNCY Working Paper Series, No. 1, p. 15 (Washington, DC,



Box 7.1

Why should we put children and youth together in a single framework?

Pro-poor: many income and non-income poverty indicators are much worse among children and youth; and
today, these two groups represent the majority of the developing world’s poor. Strategies that focus on investing
broadly in children and youth are inherently – and doubly – pro-poor, that is, reaching the currently poor while
reducing future poverty.

Unique vulnerability: among the poor, children and youth are the most susceptible to increased vulnerability
during periods of economic downturn and other external shocks (eg. as indicated by malnutrition, dropping out
of school to assist their families, youth unemployment, violent and risky behavior, etc.).

Highest risk: both age groups represent the two periods of highest physiological and social risk in the life cycle. In
younger children, this is manifested in malnutrition and lagging intellectual development, whereas in adolescence,
this is manifested more in the form of injuries, risky behaviors, violence. Preventive risk management would argue
that these are the two most productive and efficient periods toward which to direct interventions.

Life-cycle: They are integrally linked along the life-cycle during a critical period of life in which investments
– or under-investments – will have a much longer period to manifest positive and negative consequences to
individuals and to society. If interventions are not made in the early years, the costs and consequences become
particularly evident in early adulthood. And if they are not corrected at this stage, the costs to society can be
staggering not just for this generation, but as well for the next as children born to young disadvantaged parents
continue the cycle of poverty.

Source: World Bank. 2005. Children and youth: A framework for action (Washington, DC).

Children in hazardous work


To focus solely on extricating a young child from an abusive work situation or shielding a work-
ing youth from workplace dangers is a short-sighted strategy. Instead, by seeing child labour in
this larger life-cycle context, it is obvious that strategies to combat child labour must be closely
linked to efforts at both “ends” of childhood: at the one end, to give young children a good start
in life; and at the other end, to give older children and their parents a chance to get decent work.

This approach demands, therefore, an integrated policy framework that traverses the boundaries
between labour, health and education. It also requires collaboration on the ground in delivery of
services and schooling. Experience from evaluations shows that achieving this interconnection
at policy level and at implementation level is one of the most challenging aspects of both child
labour and youth employment programmes.

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