In commemoration of the international day against child labour, the Ghana Non-Governmental Organization Coalition on the Right of the Child (GNCRC), in a statement, has called on stakeholders to improve social protection systems to safeguard the rights, welfare, and development of children in Ghana.
That, the statement said, would also help eradicate abject poverty, and domestic servitude and, most importantly, fight child labour, modern slavery, and its effect on Ghana.
“Children stand at the mercy of poverty, exclusion, neglect, and abuse, including various forms of child labour, and everything, must be done to protect their rights.”GNCRC National President
The statement, signed by Mr. Philip Bosomtwi Amoah, National President (GNCRC), said the emergence of COVID-19 obstructed children from accessing quality education.
This has forced them into all forms of social and sexual vices such as child trafficking, paid and unpaid work, and slavery, which compromise their physical, mental, social, and educational development.
It said issues of child labour and abuse must be the concern of all, including development partners and Civil Society Organizations, because the cities and landing beaches were flooded with children actively begging for alms and engaging in fishing activities.
It recalled the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 8.7 that calls on global communities to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers by 2025.
“With Ghana signing onto these global commitments, it is imperative for us as citizens to work towards achieving these commitments by 2030”, it said.
Acknowledging the efforts of the Government in past years, it maintained that commitments are stalled during the period between 2016-2020 due to lack of increased investments in a universal social protection system as part of an integrated and comprehensive approach to tackle the challenge.
The Coalition, therefore, appealed to all stakeholders, who champion child rights and protection, to double activities to give strong support to the more than 160 million children still engaged in the different forms of labour and trafficking.
Child labour is a serious violation of human rights
Child labour is a serious violation of human rights, yet many vulnerable families worldwide engage their children in work as a survival strategy. The figures from the 2020 International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) global estimates are alarming: almost one in ten of all children worldwide is engaged in child labour, and the largest share remains in agriculture, with 112 million children in total- 70 percent of all child labour.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to other crises, has led to school closures and has caused an unprecedented decline in economic activity and loss of jobs worldwide, hitting agriculture and food systems hard and increasing the risk of pushing more children into child labour.
2021 was the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in light of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7, which seeks to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2025. If the world is to achieve this target, new solid momentum and commitment are required to alleviate poverty and hunger with the involvement of multi-stakeholders and their partners.
Child Labour Figures in Ghana
Specifically in Ghana, there is an average of 21 per cent of children, aged five to 17 years, involved in child labour, with 14 per cent engaged in hazardous forms of labour.
According to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the country, meanwhile, is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, ILO Convention on Minimum Age, among other relevant international charters.
“Nationally, Ghana has an extensive legal and policy framework to ensure the protection of children. The 1992 Constitution protects the rights of children against any work that threatens their development. In addition, there is the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), the Human Trafficking Act, 2005 (Act 694), the Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (Act 732), the Criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29) and the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 1998 (Act 554).”CHRAJ
The country’s comprehensive social protection framework such as the Social Protection Policy with its flagship programmes, including Livelihoods Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP), the Labour-Intensive Public Works (LIPW), the School Feeding Programme (SFP), the National Health Insurance (NHIS) Exemptions and the Basic Education Capitation Grants should be strengthened and expanded to be more child-sensitive.
Are there sanctions for child labour?
In Ghana, sections 87 to 94 of the Children’s Act prohibit exploitative child labour. The law says no person shall engage a child in exploitative labour. Exploitative labour is defined as labour which deprives the child of its health, education or development.
The law further prohibits the engagement of a child in night work i.e. work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The law also specifies the minimum age for admission of a child to employment as 15 years and the minimum age for the engagement of a child in light work as 13 years.
On the minimum age for the engagement of a person in hazardous work, the law specifies 18 years and explains hazardous work as work which poses a danger to the health, safety or morals of a person and include
(a) Going to sea;
(b) Mining and quarrying;
(c) Porterage of heavy loads;
(d) Manufacturing industries where chemicals are produced or used;
(e) Work in places where machines are used; and
(f) Work in places such as bars, hotels and places of entertainment where a person may be exposed to immoral behaviour.
The law finally provides a penalty for contravention of the Children’s Act. It says any person who contravenes the provisions of the law relating to employment of children commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both