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Tackling Child Labour In Fisheries

23 December 2011, at 12:00am

GENERAL - FAO and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have released the first draft of a guidance document that aims to help policymakers and government authorities tackle the thorny issue of child labor in fisheries.

The two organizations are currently seeking public feedback on the document, FAO-ILO guidance for addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture: policy and practice, in order to release a final version later next year.

Most experts agree that child labour in fishing is a widespread problem. But specifics are lacking - statistics on child labour are insufficient and additionally often lump fisheries, forestry, agriculture and livestock-raising together. Combined, child workers in these four sectors are estimated to make up the largest portion — 60 per cent — of the world's 215 million under age labourers.

Activities in which children engage can range from actively fishing, cooking on boats, diving for reef fish or to free snagged nets, herding fish into nets, peeling shrimp or cleaning fish and crabs, repairing nets, sorting, unloading, and transporting catches, and processing or selling fish.

A complex issue

While some of these activities are extremely dangerous, others are not — work performed by children and child labour are not necessarily the same thing, according to the FAO-ILO document. While child labour impairs children's well-being or hinders their education and development, other types of work are not, and can even be beneficial to children of a certain a age Interventions aimed at stemming child labour must be able to make this distinction, the report says.

"The FAO-ILO guidance document seeks to shed light on this issue , as well as on the nature, scope, causes and consequences of child labour in fisheries and aquaculture," said Bernd Seiffert of FAO's Economic and Social Department.

"It also provides guidance to governments and development agencies in how to identify where child labour in fisheries and aquaculture is happening, sort out situations in which children are helping support family livelihoods from bad-practices, mainstream these considerations in national policies, and develop strategies for dealing with it," added Rolf Willman of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.

Prevention is key

Investment in the prevention of child labour is the most cost-effective approach to ending child labour in the long run, say FAO and ILO. This means tackling root causes so that children at risk do not become child labourers in the first place.

"By addressing poverty and promoting development, children stand a better chance to keep out of unsuitable work and especially hazardous labour," the working document states.

The FAO-ILO guidance document for addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture: policy and practice is currently available for public comment. Feedback on the draft document can be sent to FI-inquiries@fao.org through 30 April 2012.

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