The 1992 Constitution of Ghana gives freedom of rights to every Ghanaian citizen including children. Although this freedom of right are occasionally trampled upon in diverse ways, suffice me to point out that among all the human right violations and abuses, Child Labour (CL) constitute one of the most grievous violations of the rights of children.
This issue of violation of children’s rights relates to their right to education, good health and proper development. CL in its worst form means subjecting children to torture and degrading treatment that leaves them with lifelong psychological and emotional problems thereby leading to early deaths and or life-long poverty.
Ghana, for example, have ratified the International Labour Organizations (ILO) Convention No 138 on minimum age for employment. According to the Children Act 1998(Act 560), the Minimum Age for Employment in Ghana is 15 years.
Thus, children within the age group of 15 to 17 years are by law permitted to work but they are not to engage in any hazardous work which comprise work such as using machines, carrying heavy equipment, working at tall heights, drilling, digging the ground, laying of bricks, pulling down of building structures etc.
However, the ILO Convention No. 183 permits light work for children of age 12 and 13 years in developed countries. In Ghana, the Children’s Act (Act 560) set the age for light work at 13 years. This implies children below 13 years are not expected to work at all. But children between ages 13 to 14 years by law can do only light work.
According to the Children’s Act, light work constitute work which is not likely to be harmful to the health or development of the child and does not affect his or her attendance at school or the capacity of the child to benefit from school work. Typically, some examples of light work include sweeping, washing, running small errands, among others.
When children engage in light work, it is considered invaluable as it helps to socialize the child and train him or her to take up responsibilities towards himself or herself and the rest of the family.
More so, children who are above 18 years can be engaged in hazardous work because the minimum age for employment in Ghana is above 15 years. This age limit of doing hazardous work is flouted with impunity by most people especially when there is continuous report of penetration of CL in most of Ghana’s sectors including the mining (Galamsey), fishing, and cocoa growing areas.
Currently, it is estimated from the recent Ghana Labour Standard Survey (GLSS 6) 2014 produced by the Ghana Statistical Service that 21.8 per cent representing 1,982,553 children aged between 5-17 out of over 8 million are engaged in CL. This figure clearly shows an increase over the 2003 Ghana Child Labour Survey (GSLS2003) where out of over 6 million children, 1, 27 million children are in child labor.
What therefore is being done to as a matter of urgency to nib the problem in the bud?
The Government of Ghana in its National Plan of Action, considers the elimination of CL and its worst form a priority for the enhancement of the living standard of her people and also for sustainable development. It point to Article 28(2) of the 1992 Constitution which provides “that every child has the right to be protected from engaging in work that constitutes a threat to his or her heath education or development”.
Government’s intervention to eliminate CL are as follows:
- To allow every child born in Ghana to benefit from Free Compulsory Universal and Basic Education (FCUBE) and Free Senior High School (SHS).
- Mainstream the elimination of CL into the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) 1 of 2002 and also maintained it in the Ghana Growth Poverty Reduction(GPRS II of 2006)
- In 2010, government published a time bound National Plan of Action (NPA 1) for the elimination of worst forms of child labour. Cabinet approved the NPA 1:2009- 2015 in 2010 and it has so far made significant gains especially in the area of awareness creation and also establishing CL as a national issue.
- In 2015, a review commenced on the NPA 1, and in 2016, the National Steering Committee on Child Labour (NSCCL) and the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations revised the NPA 1, with the active involvement of relevant stakeholders.
- Cabinet has also approved the second NPA 2: 2016 – 2020 and will be duly launched on the 8th of May 2018 at Suhum. This underscores government commitment to pursue the elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL).
In conclusion, let me plead with all and sundry that since last year’s World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), the CL Unit of the Labour Department have started mobilizing resources for the effective implementation of the NPA 2. All hands therefore must be on deck to eliminate CL, most especially the MELR Is calling on business partners, civil society organizations, donors and developing partners to walk to the door step of the CL Unit and donate to ensure the desired result.
The writer is the Head of Public Affairs of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) and Staff of the Information Services Department (ISD)