German development policy

Decent working conditions and combating child labour

Zwei Mädchen in Äthiopien waschen in einem Bach Wäsche.

Goal 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda commits the international community to work together in order to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and take action against all forms of child labour. The core labour standards and the ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions 138 and 182 already constitute a global consensus regarding minimum working age, international standards and principles for the protection of children, and urgently needed measures to combat the worst forms of child labour.

Video: Germany is a key player in the efforts to fight exploitative child labour

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According to the latest estimates by the ILO, there are still around 152 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 who are obliged to work, roughly half of them under exploitative conditions that are often harmful to their health and dangerous. Around 60 per cent of child labourers are employed in agriculture, a sector with one of the highest injury rates.

The educational deficits that result from child labour and the long-term physical and emotional impairments that it can cause are a serious impediment to children’s development and increase the likelihood that they will still be living in poverty when they are adults. In many instances, therefore, child labour later leads to youth unemployment, since the young people in question have not had the chance to acquire the knowledge they need to succeed in the labour market.

What Germany is doing

A young boy works as a porter on a dusty road near Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal

Germany is a key player in the efforts to fight exploitative and hazardous forms of child labour. The German government is currently contributing about 400,000 euros a year to support the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), which the ILO has been running since 1992. The German government was a co-initiator of the Programme and to date has provided financial support equivalent to around 73 million US dollars.

Furthermore, for many years now Germany has been actively supporting efforts to foster the development of, and compliance with, environmental and social standards, and to promote corporate social responsibility.

Cooperation with the private sector and civil society

Ein Junge in Indien verkauft Ballons.

Together with the private sector, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports the elaboration of voluntary codes of conduct, for example in the coffee sector. The voluntary commitments that private companies make also include guaranteeing that their supply chains are free of exploitative child labour. Within the framework of multi-stakeholder initiatives, the BMZ is working with the private sector, trade unions and civil society in order to reduce the extent of child labour (for example through the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa and the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles).

Furthermore, projects supported by Germany take into account the fact that child labour is often linked to a shortage of job opportunities and a lack of education. Fathers and mothers can only manage without the earnings of their children and instead send them to school if they themselves can find employment and earn enough to support their families.

In order to promote children’s right to participation, the BMZ has supported a project run by a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The project included a global survey in which around 2,000 working children were asked about their situation, the causes of child labour and their suggestions for solutions. The findings served as input for the preparation of and the debates at the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires in Argentina in 2017. They will thus contribute to finding long-term solutions to the problem of exploitative child labour.

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