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Date of Issue: Wednesday, 23 January, 2013
The ILO recently revealed the result of its study into forced labour across the globe. While the top line figure of 20.9 million people trapped in jobs into which they were coerced, or deceived and from which they cannot leave is bad enough – dig a little deeper and there is worse to come.
It is a very sad fact that 26% of the total, that is 5.5 million, are children aged 17 or less. We all recognise that in many parts of the world, child labour is a fact of life. Indeed, many of the children at work help to support their extended family. We also recognise that such children should be in education, should be allowed to play and should have time to grow, both mentally and physically. Yet for many, this is not an option; the schools, the playgrounds and the time to grow up are just not there.
For those of us who come from one of the developed economies, it is very easy to take a moralistic view of child labour. We know it should not happen and most of us would not intentionally deal with organisations that set out to exploit child labour. However, it is a fact that it happens and despite our best intentions, we are not going to abolish child labour overnight.
IIRSM, is committed to the eventual abolition of child labour, both voluntary and coerced and we work closely with international organisations such as ICOH to help develop strategies and policies to bring this about. In the meantime, as individual professionals, let us work together and put pressure on employers to ensure as far as possible that they provide health and safe places of work.
Brian Nimick, IIRSM Chief Executive
N.B. You can read IIRSM's director of Policy and Research Barry Holt piece on forced labour in the March 2013 edition of HSW (out in February)