The Government, on Friday, announced measures to address perceived issues of child labour in the cocoa industry, despite the inaccuracies in a report of a survey of the NORC of the University of Chicago.
Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire are contesting the conclusions of the survey of the NORC, which was funded by the United States Department of Labour (USDOL), which reported that child labour is not declining in the two nations.
Child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful.
Employment and Labour Relations Minister Ignatius Baafour-Awuah, on Friday, told Parliament, in Accra, that “the inaccuracies and misconception contained in the report could have severe consequences for the cocoa sector if not corrected.”
He said: “We have initiated processes aimed at remedying the situation and this would take and the honest cooperation of USDOL.”
The Minister’s announcement was in a statement to mark the 2020 World Day against Child Labour, celebrated on June 12. It is an International Labour Organization (ILO)-sanctioned holiday, first launched in 2002, aimed to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Covid-19 Protect Children from Child Labour, Now More than Ever.”
The Day was spurred by the ratifications of ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
The ILO reports that globally, 52 million children between the ages of five and 17 were in child labour, almost half them, 73 million, in hazardous child labour.
Almost half (48%) of the victims of child labour were aged five to 11; 28% were 12 to 14 years old; and 24% were 15-17 years old.
Child labour is concentrated primarily in Agriculture (71%). This includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture. The Services sector also represents 17%; while the industrial sector, including mining takes 12%.
Mr Baafour Awuah said the Ministry and its partners were preparing to assess the full impact of various interventions on child labour through a nationally representative survey, and stressed an urgent need to take new and pragmatic to sustain the gains made so far in the fight against child labour.
He said the causes of child labour to included poverty, limited access to decent work opportunities for families, ignorance, lack of access to quality education and irresponsible parenting.
The Minister noted that Covid-19 had predisposed children to risk factors, and “if immediate action is not taken, the impact of measures being taken to contain the spread of the virus will have negative consequences on children.”
Mr Baafour Awuah announced that the Ministry, with other stakeholders had developed Protocols and Guidelines for declaring Child Labour Free Zones in Ghana, with the aim to ensure that Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies put in place measures and systems to monitor, prevent and withdraw children from child labour in their areas of jurisdiction.
The ILO estimates that children would be the hardest hit because 42-46 million of them could fall in extreme poverty in 2020, in addition to an estimated 386 million children who were already in extreme poverty in 2019.
“…The continuous stay of children at home could also further expose them to all kinds of abuses. Girls may be burdened with domestic chores and predisposed to sexual abuse,” the Minister said.
He appealed to Government Departments and Agencies to commit to the execution of their respective roles in Phase II of the Ghanaian National Plan of Action the fight against child labour.
The NPA II, which received Cabinet approval in February 2018, is expected to build on the gains made subsequent to the implementation of the NPA1 (2009–2015) with the view to utilise the good practices and lessons learned to address the challenges of child labour in a more effective and sustainable way.
The Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations Mr Bright Wireko-Brobby, called on society to make a difference between parents taking their children to work and transmitting their skills and the children working and earning income at the expense of their future.
He called for education to be intensified on child labour.
Mr Mumuni Alhassan, MP for Salaga North, reminded parents of their divine duty to take good care and to protect their children from harm and said they would be held accountable by God in the way they treated their children.
Ms Betty Crosby Mensah, MP for Afram Plains, suggested that practices that helped parents to impart knowledge to their children when they helped with work should not be criminalised.
Other contributions by Laadi Ayii Ayamba, MP for Pusiga and Mr Dominic Nitiwul, Minister for Defence and MP for Bimbila Constituency, and Mr Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central, made clear on the need to ensure the protection of children from any activity that jeopardised their life.