No child’s play

Some recent reports have established that the worldwide movement against child labour has gained a satisfactory momentum and has thus led to a significant decline in the number of child labourers. According to the ILO report “The End of Child Labour: Within Reach,” made public the other day, the number of child labourers employed worldwide fell from 246 million to 218 million between 2000 and 2004. Experts believe that if the current pace of the decline was maintained, child labour could be eliminated, in most of its worst forms, in 10 years time. Nepal too is reported to have reduced the worst forms of child labour despite a long-drawn insurgency and social compulsions facing the poor. According to the National Living Standard Survey conducted in 2004 (covering 5-15 years) the rate of child labour was 39 per cent in Nepal compared to 49 per cent determined by the National Child Labour Survey in 1996.

However, there are still important obstacles to the implementation of effective child labour strategies. Take for instance the agricultural sector, where seven out of ten child labourers work. Also, the issue of child recruitment by the Maoists cannot be ignored. The ILO report rightly attributed the reduction in child labour to a renewed political commitment and concrete government actions, particularly in the field of poverty reduction and child education. Unless an ‘inclusive’ pro-poor policy is implemented, child labour cannot be completely eradicated from a country where for most people sending their children for hazardous jobs is a necessity not a choice.