Child Labour Problem in Developing Countries and Intervention Programs

By Prof. Dr. A. Gurhan Fisek

Poverty and the destitution of necessary means of struggle can be counted as two of the major problems of developing countries. Our researches demonstrate that economic requirements and worries about future are the major reasons behind children’s getting into the working life at an early age. For this reason, majority of children declare that they voluntarily work, except for the worst and intolerable forms of labour (all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, forced or compulsory labour, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, procuring of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances, hazardous works, and etc.). Because, they have no choice but working; because, they are in desperate straits.

Another factor that push children to get into the working life is the unemployment problem together with the insufficient job opportunities. In developing countries, it is such a shame that it is an attainable dream only for a limited number of young people that they would work in job when they become adults, which provides an adequate income to sustain a humane living and which does not harm their health. We define this drawback as the “destitution of necessary means of struggle with poverty”. As the society is not a supportive factor of this struggle, an individual would be in the position to take care of his/her own affairs. As you see, this is also what child workers do.

However, there is a significant point that they do not consider and realise: the losses experienced throughout their working. First of all, they lose their childhood. They should behave like adults during their long working hours as the work discipline requires. What they lose is the development of their self-confidence through games and friendships and cherishing their imaginative power.

In working environments, the vital conditions approved for adult workers are not even provided for the adults. Therefore, this causes children to be subject to noise-related hearing losses; respiratory problems due to their working in dusty and smoky environments; blood and nervous system problems due to the substances like dye and thinner; and genetoxicity due to policyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Additionally, they may also be exposed to minor or major occupational injuries; and hence to permanent disabilities. What they lose is their health as well.

In Turkey, especially after 1979 International Child Year, child labour problem has attracted a considerable interest. The IPEC (International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour) program, that has been initiated in 5 developing countries -including Turkey- in 1992 by the support of ILO, has been an important enterprise especially in order to widespread the matter to all organised segments of the society and to facilitate its appropriation.

Under these circumstances, there are two groups of intervention programs. The first one is the provision of health and social services for child workers and the improvement of working environments in which they are employed. The second one, on the other hand, is withdrawing child workers from working life by means of strengthening the income opportunities of families.

We define the provision of health and social services for child workers as the LOYALTY project. Because, we consider that there are two groups of children, one is working the other is schooling, and this creates an inequity in regard to the utilisation from societal resources. We assert that it is a debt of loyalty such that the resources should be allocated to child workers as much as they are allocated to the non-working children. Concerning this resource allocation, we propose the provision of health and social services realised under the frame of Fisek Model.

There are many studies on strengthening the income opportunities of families, which are especially carried out in the rural regions. These studies do not break off the ties of families and children with their villages, and they form new agricultural job opportunities accordingly. And this renders child labour unnecessary.

It is not only in Turkey, but in other developing countries as well, that child labour oriented intervention models are looked into. Yet, this principle is acknowledged almost everywhere: “It is not possible to withdraw child workers from working life at one whack. What is required to be done is this: They should be protected in working life conditions on the one hand; on the other hand, the necessary precautions should be taken in order to eliminate child labour in the long-run.”.