Last Sunday 12th June, one of those international days that try to attract wide world interest on essential facts was celebrated. It was especially remarkable, as it was International Day Against Child Labour, a day to remember article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes that it is the state’s responsibility to protect children from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
The promulgation of this convention as a Law in 1990 ended the efforts of progressive awareness started in the Renaissance to protect childhood from hard jobs and promote their education and health, especially needed with theemergence of the Industrial Revolution and the use of children as cheap labour. Since 20th century, western world adopted the idea of childhood as a social good that must be protected and respected to get its optimal development, health and education to promote progress. But nowadays in a changing social and economic situation, we are surprised to know that many commonly used products are manufactured by child labour in other places.
Regarding this commemoration, we should think at least about two different aspects. One is about the validity of the last indicators (from 2012) released by the International Labour Organization, indicating that 168 millions of children work (11% of global child population), more than half on dangerous jobs, as the extraction and handling of hazardous substances, as cobalt for mobile batteries, collection of tea and coffee, gold mining, clothes and shoes manufacturing, sorting through garbage, etc.… and the lack of interest shown by the poor update of the figures.
The other issue to think about is that the world changes and faces migration crisis, people escaping from war, violence or poverty, and this may break the idea that child labour is a phenomenon of distant countries in Asia, Pacific or Sub-Saharan Africa, and it may reach the outskirts of Europe, affecting not only to minorities traditionally unconnected to the education system, but also to refugees.
This is a dull crisis, in an exceptional situation that lead some European borders to be closed, in countries that used to accept refugees with the same rights as any western citizen. And it is even worse as many of them are redirected to countries like Turkey, where the right to child education is more relaxed. There are many testimonies of employment of 11 to 13 years old migrant children to help sustain their families; children like Ahmad Suleiman, who was reported by the New York Times to be one of the thousands minor refugees working for poor salaries in bad conditions, not attending school, situation close to a kind of extortion or slavery, but understood by others as a help to families with no other resources that the work of their own people.
Fragility of the childhood, which is the reservoir for a full adult life, and needs plenty of links, education and health. What is the future of these lives and these societies growing lost generations?