Data-driven policies and programmes are crucial to curtailing devastating impact of the pandemic on child labour

Keynote speech for the state-level consultation on prevention, rehabilitation and elimination of child labour in Uttar Pradesh by the ILO and State Labour Department, by Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi

Statement | Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India | 28 September 2022
It is indeed an important moment as we come together to deliberate and strategize actions towards elimination of child labour in the state of Uttar Pradesh and I thank the state government of Uttar Pradesh for the collaboration.

Being the only tripartite UN Agency since 1919, the ILO brings together governments, employers, and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes that promote decent work for all women and men. The strength lies in the diversity of our partners and the commitment to reaching beyond geographic boundaries to meet the challenges together.

If achieving the SDGs was a challenge, and the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented pressure, it is more so on the majority of Indian workers who are engaged in informal employment. Past experiences have shown that such emergencies lead to a rise in poverty and aggravate inequality.

While the true extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child labour is yet to be measured, it posed real risks of backtracking the last two decade’s progress made towards the fight against child labour both globally and in India.

The Fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour held in May 2022 concluded with the Durban Call to Action reaffirming the fundamental principles and rights at work and the commitment to scale up efforts to strengthen the prevention and elimination of child labour and through data driven and informed policy and programmatic responses. The Call emphasizes immediate, intensified, gender-responsive, well-coordinated, multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder, rights-based action towards meeting SDG target set for 2025.

In 1998, the ILO's Member States expressed their shared commitment to upholding basic human rights at work by adopting the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW) and effective abolition of child labour is one of the pillars. FPRW provides the foundation to build equitable and just societies. The adoption of this Declaration underlines the international community's determination to take up the challenges in realising decent work and to ensure that social progress goes hand in hand with economic progress and development.

In 2016, the ILO spearheaded the formation of Alliance 8.7, an inclusive global partnership committed to achieving SDG target 8.7. The Alliance has three strategic objectives:
• accelerating action;
• conducting research and sharing knowledge;
• driving innovation and leveraging resources to accelerate progress

It operates on the basis that in order to achieve better results faster, stakeholders need to increase and improve collaboration among them. The Alliance has evolved into a major global platform that has served as a convener for high level policy makers, practitioners and activists. ILO collaborated with organizations under the Alliance 8.7 to produce the Global Estimates on Child Labour. ILO India convenes the Platform that brings together constituents, stakeholders and partners to contribute towards achieving SDG 8.7.

ILO’s technical assistance on child labour is provided within the framework of Decent Work Country Programme. It aims at supporting constituents on child labour policy, enforcement, plans of action, including convergence-based models. The SDG 8.7 calls upon member states to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

Two ILO projects are currently being implemented in the State of UP, namely Measurement, Awareness Raising and Policy Engagement (MAP 16 Project) and Asia Regional Child Labour (ARC Project) to accelerate action against child labour.

Under MAP 16 project capacity building workshops on child labour prevention, rehabilitation and elimination organised in the focus districts of Kanpur, Prayagraj and Moradabad in August 2022. The workshops were well attended by key officials from Departments of Labour, Education, Health, WCD, Skill Development and Police along with frontline workers and other stakeholders at the district level. The opportunity for cross-learning and sharing of experiences, the workshops also raised issues and concerns regarding convergence in implementation of schemes and programs for vulnerable/child labour families.

Under the ARC Project, a research study on “School to Work Transition Survey for policy on Youth Employment” is being commissioned with the Institute of Entrepreneurship Development, Lucknow as the implementation partner. This research will focus on Kanpur (Urban), Prayagraj, Moradabad and Jhansi districts. Additionally, the project plans for interventions in the district of Shrawasti to address child labour and disability among children, particularly focusing on their educational rehabilitation.

The challenges are significant and manifold, but it is not impossible to meet them if the right level of commitment among all relevant stakeholders and the right mix of policy and programmatic interventions are present. An integrated approach is therefore required which includes family strengthening, improving access to quality education, social protection and addressing harmful social norms that perpetuate child labour. It is through strategic partnerships and collaborations involving government, employers, trade unions, community-based organisations and child labour families that we could make a difference.

As we reinforce the commitment to protect children from unacceptable forms of work, our focus to mitigate the impact in the aftermath of the pandemic also remains. We need a strong alliance, since no agency can meet this target working in silos. I sincerely hope that today’s deliberation helps us to move ahead stronger in paving our way towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025.