Shocking statistics from the Ghana Statistical Service reveal that 1.9 million Ghanaian children between the ages of 5 and 17 are engaged in work that is harmful to their mental and physical development.
Large numbers of these children have been separated from their families and are engaged in perilous work such as transportation of heavy loads, drug trade, commercial sex exploitation, fishing, domestic services, and stone quarrying with many of them held in debt bondage in the capitals of the regions across the country.
The figures were disclosed at a media launch of the World Day Against Child Labour in Accra organized by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and other Civil Society Organisations.
Please read below the opinion of policy makers and child labour officers about the child labour crisis in Ghana.
|Emmanuel Kwame Mensah|
Emmanuel Kwame Mensah (Child Labour Officer)
“The issue about child labour has come out very prominently in the sustainable development goals launched by the United Nations as a fundamental concern with regard to economic growth and what must constitute decent work for countries across the world.
That Child labour was put under economic growth and decent work must tell everyone that the world recognizes that children engaged in inappropriate work affects productivity. In seeking solutions to the problem I find that we are spending time, trying to deal with youth employment, and that for me is an attempt to deal with a problem created either 20 or 30 years ago and that can be likened to cutting the branches of the tree and plucking the leaves.
What we need to do it to tackle the root cause of the problem so that it will not come back again in the next twenty years to haunt us. That twelve year old who is engaged in child labour today will turn 32 years old in 20 years and it will be a youth unemployment issue and that is why I think the time has come for us to do strategic thinking and put in place sustainable interventions to address this child labour concern because it is not just a human right or a humanitarian issue, it is a problem that can be found at the core of economic development .
The call is to everyone of us and not just the government to recognize that the issue of child labour is at the heart of economy and therefore there is every reason to give it all the resources it demands by ensuring that agencies with the mandate to deal with this are given the required support and the technical capacity to function.
The labour department of the Ministry of Health and Labour Relations must be equipped to do labour inspection in both the formal and in the informal sector. Agriculture sector must be streamlined so that children do work that is not hazardous. More so, the quality of education must be improved and when we are able to deal with these things we will be having 22 year old youths who are skilled and innovative and are applying their innovation in every sphere of the society. With their skills and innovation they can transform agriculture and ICT is different ways.
If I may ask, why is our oil fields employing expatriate to exploit that resource? It isn’t that there are no jobs in Ghana, there are millions of jobs but we have a mass of workers without the skills to work in those areas and that is where our attention must be drawn.
Unfortunately, what you find happening In Ghana is that when our children sit for BECE and fail and those who succeed do not do well at the SSCE, then that is the end. I believe that if we provide quality and affordable education for the 12 and 13 year old of today, we are automatically creating oil engineers 20 years from today and that is a productivity and an economic issue and that is where our thinking must go.”
Liliana Razadrafinkoto (International Labour Organisation)
“Child labour in Ghana still remains a matter of concern. The latest child labour report, released by the Ghana Statistical Service in 2014 and supported by the ILO, indicates that 21.8 percent of children aged 5-17 years making 1.9 million children are engaged in child labour with another 1.2 million working in severe and hazardous forms of child labour in Ghana.
Poverty and low incomes are the main underlying reasons and until parents are able to support themselves financially, children would continue to be used to help top up household incomes in all stages of supply chains in agriculture, fishing, mining, retail and in other sectors.
Eliminating child labour can be challenging especially since it tends to thrive in the informal economies where a number of decent work deficit are observed, where measures related to labour market governance, labour inspection, occupational safety and health and social dialogue are often weak or absent and where wages, income security and social protection are inadequate.
Until buyers stop purchasing goods that are tainted with child labour from their suppliers; until effective and robust monitoring mechanisms are in place; until better alternatives to child labour, including free quality education and vocational training are available, child labour will never be eliminated, it may even get worse. The time has come for Ghana to talk openly about these issues and address them collectively since our current disposition on this matter stand in the way of a faster progress in eliminating child labour.”
Baba Jamal (Dep. Minister of Employment and Labour Relations)
“I believe everyone must be worried at the growing numbers of children forced into hard labour across the country (Ghana). However it is important to add very quickly that child labour is clearly different from acceptable work which is the normal way of growing up in preparation for adulthood. It is normal if I am a carpenter, to teach my children that trade by asking them to fetch me the tools I use in my work like the hammer or saw. But it is criminal when you contract someone to bring you a child from a village and subject that child to domestic labour or services or activities such as fishing that impact adversely on the health of the child. It is necessary to differentiate between these two but we have misconstrued some of these things and blown them out of proportion.
However, I admit that one out of every five children is estimated to be engaged in child labour and that is a breach of the constitutional and fundamental human rights of children and a liability to socio-economic development. We have also found that child labour takes place in small workspaces or residences which hide it from being addressed.
Regardless of the fact that many children may be engaged in child labour in the production of goods or services meant for the foreign markets, a lot more of the children are involved in the production of items intended for the local market. Even though poverty is at the core of the problem of child labour, there are, other contributing factors, for not all children from poor households engage in child labour, and some poor societies manage to keep the incidence of child labour low.
In Ghana, socio-cultural factors such as ignorance and misconception, inadequacies of the education system, and institutional weaknesses in the application of child labour laws are also important causes. Nevertheless, the poor are more vulnerable to the kind of exploitation that is found in child labour, partly because poor households often need the income earned by their children for survival.
The key task for eliminating child labour rests with government and we are working TO resolve the problem. 11,000 children were withdrawn and given support under the first National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
Nonetheless, child labour persists and is endemic in many deprived communities.
The reviewed National Plan of Action against Child Labour (NPA2: 2016-2020) is designed to build on the gains made, utilizing good practices and lessons learned to address the challenge in a more effective and sustainable manner. This plan gives attention to the need to mobilize more resources, focus action in local communities and strengthen edication outcomes so that children are enrolled and retained in school.”
Joyce Steiner (Christian Council)
“There has been an age old practice of engaging children in hazardous work under the guise of preparing them for adulthood and that is a problem. There is no more doubt that we need a dialogue over this matter and subsequently proper laws put in place to protect children who are held under these practices.
The figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service must embarrass every one of us that in this day and age several thousands of children are engaged win work that can impede their growth both mentally and physically.
The time is due and every one of us must put our shoulders to the wheels and confront this problem once and for all. We have caused so many wounds to the children of this country and we cannot fail in our effort to turn the tide for the better.
There can be no reason why the labour of children must be exploited in our quest for survival because it is not only unethical but a debasement of humanity.”
Mathias Tibu (GJA Vice President)
“As the Vice President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) i call on all members of the Association to give the figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service about the state of the child labour in Ghana a deep thought and work to curtail the phenomenon because failure to do so, we will condemn the future of coming generation.
Child labour has many negative consequences for our country and we must work with all stakeholders in taking out children engaged at the tender ages of their lives in work that can hinder their growth and their future contribution to the development of Ghana and the economy as a whole.
This time, we shouldn’t just sweep off the issues and go to sleep but we must dedicate enough space in our mediums to dialogue about it and where necessary bring policy makers to account for their action towards the eradication of this embarrassing situation.
It is only when we create the platform for the sustained discussion of this matter that we bring the children, their parents, policy makers and the rest society to think through ways of working together in ensuring that child labour in all of this forms are eradicated because ignorance of what constitute child labour could as well account for the rising numbers of children caught up in this.”
Josephine Dadzie (World Cocoa Foundation)
“The World Cocoa Foundation believes very strongly that collective efforts between government and private industries can work towards the mitigation of instances of child labour in the Cocoa supply chain.
This approach as a core pillar is evident in our current strategy towards Cocoa sustainability and Cocoa Action, two programmes being implemented together with the Governments of Ghana, La Cote d’Ivoire and some of our member companies aimed at reaching 300,000 farms in the two countries by 2020 signed by the two governments in 2o14.”
Josephine Kodua (Coalition of NGO’s against child labour)
“We have been working vigorously over the years to create awareness about the adverse effect of child labour on the social formation of Ghana.
We have identified ignorance as a major contributory factor to the prevalence of child labour in. Many people are still not fully aware of what actually constitute child labour and that is why my coalition and several others have taken it upon ourselves step up the effort at educating people in the various strata of society about child labour and together we find out ways of bringing it to an end.
We have also taken notice of the cultural setting within which we find ourselves as a country and how it causes child labour to fester. Every Ghanaian irrespective of the class one occupies in society must recognise that our children cannot be forced into labour at their tender ages because it will simply impact adversely on their total development into adulthood.”