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102nd International Labour Conference

President Banda: Malawi champions “zero tolerance” of child labour

In her first visit to the International Labour Conference, Malawian President, Joyce Banda, says that despite global efforts, child labour remains a “huge problem”.

News | 12 June 2013
H.E. Dr Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi
GENEVA (ILO News) – The President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, has pledged her country’s support to intensify efforts against child labour, at time when some 215 million children worldwide are affected by this problem.

“I am personally concerned that child labour remains a huge problem in most developing countries, including Malawi. This is largely due to the high levels of poverty, among other things. It is evident that when families do not have decent employment that gives them an income, the children in such families will be prone to child labour,” she said, in an address to the 102nd International Labour Conference.

Despite registering an economic growth averaging more than six per cent between 2004 and 2009, Malawi’s poverty rate is still at more than 50 per cent and nearly one and a half million are in child labour.

“This economic growth was not accompanied by any tangible jobs created in the economy. The benefits did not trickle down to the population… This is a big lesson to Malawians,” said President Banda, whose speech coincided with the World Day Against Child Labour.

”I pledge to continue to champion the zero tolerance to child labour in Malawi, and also to intensify programmes to eradicate the poverty which is the root cause of this problem,” she added.

The Malawian government has developed a national action plan to combat child labour covering the period 2010–2016, which the ILO supports through the SNAP (Support for the National Action Plan) programme.

The SNAP model combines a community-based child labour monitoring system, investment in infrastructure and coordinated community action to identify child labourers and give them a chance to access education, training and eventually, employment.

“Your personal commitment to this fight is well known and you are backing it with strong political commitment and action. Particularly important is your recognition of the need to mainstream child labour in all development issues through an integrated approach that ranges from education to social protection and jobs for parents,” said ILO Director-General Ryder in his welcoming remarks.

“We couldn’t agree more when you say, and I quote ‘Sustainable agricultural and rural development cannot be based on the exploitation of children, but it should aim to create decent work opportunities’,” he added.

Jobs, social protection and social dialogue

President Banda also referred to the key role that Decent Work can play in helping a country find its way of out of poverty and in enhancing its resilience against economic shocks.

“Noting the high levels of poverty in my country, I set out a vision for Malawi which is ‘to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation.’ I want to ensure that Malawi achieves growth that brings meaningful change in the lives of the people.”

I set out a vision for Malawi which is to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation."
H.E. Dr Joyce Banda
She said the Malawi Decent Work Country Programme has helped Malawi to recover from the impact of the global economic crisis and that the country’s Economic Recovery Programme now includes employment creation as one of its key pillars.

“The Decent Work agenda has also given us the impetus to take a critical look at our social security system. I am pleased to inform you that for the first time in the history of Malawi, we have enacted the Pension Act which makes it mandatory for employers to put their workers on a pension,” she added.

President Banda also had a special mention for the role of women, calling for societies “to develop comprehensive strategies to nurture women in the informal and formal labour markets, aim for equal pay for equal work and ensure that the women’s voices are present in the labour union,”

Highlighting the importance of social dialogue, President Banda pointed out that when she “inherited a failing economy, one of the first things I did was to initiate dialogue with Malawians and Malawi’s development partners, and through this dialogue we were able to identify very practical solutions to our economic challenges in the immediate, short and medium term.”

“In these times of widespread economic challenges arising from the global financial and economic crisis, the relevance of the ILO today has become glaringly clear,” she concluded.

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