HONG KONG / LOME, May 17 (IPS) – Although World Day against Child Labor was launched by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2002, little has changed over the past two decades. for millions of children still trapped.
To rescue children and achieve sustainable improvements in human rights and health, laws that make companies accountable and change the power relationship between workers and companies are needed. , instead of voluntary industry codes and corporate charities.
The global tobacco industry, valuable $850 billion (in 2021) with the 6 biggest earning companies 55 billion USD on profit (2015), is benefiting from the support of approximately 1.3 million children involved in tobacco production worldwide.
For many farmers in low-income countries, growing tobacco provides only a precarious livelihood, plagued by debt and the risk of poverty, in stark contrast to the profits of the big tobacco companies. . Many smallholder farmers – the biggest producers of tobacco in the world – feel they have no choice but to enlist their children to work.
According to the global tobacco industry report, STOP, tobacco company has the power and resources to determine the wages and prices of agricultural inputs, and can control the wages paid by suppliers or contractors. However, their practices worsen the plight of children. They use multiple layers of contracts to avoid direct liability to growers and workers, keep leaf prices low, and provide loans that make farmers dependent.
To mask the real problem, they use agricultural front groups and partnerships with well-known organizations to conduct token community activities. All of this effectively blocks progress toward diversifying strategies that help keep children out of tobacco cultivation.
According to STOP, the first step to eliminating child labor in the tobacco industry is to expose and eliminate the tobacco industry. Involvement.
Child labor using tobacco is subject to “worst forms of child labor“Due to the dangerous nature of tobacco handling. This mainly occurs in tobacco fields and bidi factories, but can also happen throughout the entire tobacco cycle, for example children selling tobacco.
Children who work with tobacco are at high risk of injury and illness, such as ‘Green Tobacco Illness’ due to transdermal nicotine poisoning. The absorption of nicotine causes symptoms including nausea, weakness, dizziness, headache, and shortness of breath. They are also exposed to large and frequent applications of pesticides, herbicides and fumigants resulting in a wide range of risk.
Child tobacco workers often labor 50 or 60 hours a week in extreme heat conditions, use sharp and dangerous tools, lift heavy objects and climb the rafters of barns, at risk. seriously injured and fell.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 28% of children working in agriculture as a whole are out of school, a blow to their best chance of avoiding the next generation. poverty trap.
Children’s voices drown out
Tobacco leaves are grown in more than 120 countries, but the incidence of child labor remains unreported. In 2020, the US Department of Labor listed 19 countries use of children and forced labor in tobacco production.
Among them is Malawi from which cigarettes are imported into the US temporarily disallowed when Malawi children sued British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Brands, claiming child labor damages.
Meanwhile, corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the tobacco industry obscures the plight of children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Tobacco industry-supported publicity includes information on how 204,000 children have been remove or avoid from child labor depriving exploited children of the human and legal rights or the just compensation needed to undo decades of harm.
Some governments have yet to fight the so-called CSR of tobacco companies and recognize that the tobacco industry is the problem, not the partner in the abolition of child labor. The Global Compact, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) recommends the adoption of farmer and worker-based policies towards diversification that is sustainably financed and protected from pollution. tobacco industry intervention.
The tobacco tax increase has the potential to fund diversification programs, but advocates must fight the weakening of political will, due to token donations from the drug industry. leaves. According to the treaty, governments should ban and denormalize the so-called CSR of the tobacco industry, as has been done in more than 40 countries.
The global candy of the tobacco industry
Eradication of Child Labor in the Rise of Tobacco (ECLT), sponsored by the major tobacco companies, is influential in the anti-child labor narrative around the world. Through ECLT, tobacco companies cooperation and sponsorship the ILO and governments position itself as a defender of child labor rights and “be part of the solution”.
While ECLT has done little in reducing child labor, it has added to tobacco companies’ glossy sustainability reports designed to attract more investors.
After coming to the conclusion that tobacco industry funding has not led to much progress in eliminating child labor, in 2018 the ILO announced it would not renew ECLT and tobacco industry funding. . However, the link between the ILO and ECLT rest.
While the United Nations Global Compact delisting tobacco companies from its program, ECLT stays in the program though civil society protested that joining the UNGC is a violation compact’s policyModel Policy for United Nations System Agencies for the Prevention of Tobacco Industry Intervention and WHO FCTC.
The ILO Effective Work Agenda and various Conventions are instrumental in facilitating the prohibition of forced or compulsory labour. But if these are not done, our children will be betrayed and carried away.
Footnotes at the bottom of the page: The 5th ILO Global Child Labor Conference is taking place in Durban, South Africa, from 15 to 20 May.
Professor Judith Mackay is an Asian who is the Director of Asia Consulting on Tobacco Control, Hong Kong, and Leonce Dieudonné Sessou is the Executive Secretary of the African Tobacco Control Union, Togo
IPS UN Office
© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service