Human rights

World Day Against Child Labour!

International Day against Child Labour

12.06.2020 |

Every year on June 12, the World Day Against Child Labour draws attention to the fact that many children and adolescents around the world still have to work, often under exploitative conditions. The fight against child labour is considered by Goal 8.7 of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development and is a priority for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). BMZ pays special attention on child labour under dangerous and harmful conditions, as they are also present in the mining sector.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 152 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 - around 10 % of all children worldwide - are affected by child labour. 73 million minors work in conditions that are dangerous and harmful to their health. Around one million of these children work in the mining sector.

Child labour in mining is particularly critical

Children are, for example, involved in mica mining. Mica is processed in the cosmetics and automotive industries to produce car paints, mechanical components, lubricants and electrical and electronic parts. India holds the largest mica deposits. 25 % of the world's mica production takes place here, mainly illegally and informally. Children break, split, sort and classify the raw material into saleable mica products and act as load carriers. Inhaling the dust can lead to respiratory problems. In addition, the children work in an environment containing additional dangers due to rockfall and the use of heavy machinery.

Most children work in artisanal or small-scale mining. These mines keep a particularly high risk because they are often informal and therefore not subject to controls. The children carry out various activities such as digging, working in narrow shafts or sorting and washing minerals. They are also active in trade and sales. Besides respiratory problems, the dangers of the work are malnutrition and an increased risk of disease (especially lifelong bone and posture damage can occur). In addition, the children are exposed to particular psychological stress and an increased risk of sexual and physical assault. Working in shafts carries a particularly high risk of deadly injuries.

Focus Covid-19 and child labour
Experts forecast an increase in child labour for the mining sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak of the pandemic and its economic consequences will hit many BMZ partner countries hard. Lots of families experience great economic pressure and are increasingly dependent on financial support from their children. Moreover, they are no longer able to finance their children's education. It can be assumed that children will have to work more often to compensate for the loss of labour and income of family members.

Another concern is that progress made so far in establishing and implementing due diligence measures and certification systems in the mining sector, which also address child labour, could be undermined. In many places, monitoring activities and audits cannot be carried out at present. At the same time, an expansion of illegal supply chains and an increase in activities of armed groups can be observed.

Measures against child labour
The BMZ and the Sector Programme Extractives and Development (SP) will continue to promote and shape responsible mineral supply chains. In doing so, the SP is committed to ensuring the sustainability of past efforts. One way to counter child labour in the mining sector is to implement minimum standards. The BMZ supports international processes that promote the development and implementation of recognized minimum standards in various areas, such as occupational health and safety. In the extractive sector, these include the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas or the EU regulation on conflict minerals. These also address children's rights issues generally and more particularly the prohibition of child labour. In mining countries, the German Development Cooperation supports the professionalization of artisanal mining, the application of international and national standards as well as certification mechanisms. This is also intended to improve the human rights situation with regard to child labour.

For any further questions please contact Shari Leinen.


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