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June 12: Stand up for childhood

Child Labourer

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas released the statement below today to mark the International Labour Organization’s World Day Against Child Labour.

June 12 marks World Day Against Child Labour, and on this day, all of us should consider how much we continue to benefit from child labour.

Maybe it seems like child labour is far removed from us here in Canada, but the sad truth is it isn’t. World Vision estimates that more than 12,000 Canadian companies import $34 billion in goods potentially made by child labourers.

The United Nations estimates that about 168 million children are engaged in child labour – some of them as young as five years old. Many of them will never go to school. They often come from conflict zones, from areas where political instability and violence prevail. They often come from areas disproportionately affected by natural disasters.

These kids should be playing outside with their friends and going to school. Instead, they’re sitting at sewing machines and working on production lines or in fields. They’re sewing pockets on your favourite brand of jeans, putting backs on the latest smartphone, or harvesting your tomatoes. And they’re usually doing it for less than $1 a day.

The good news is child labour is declining – by about a third since 2000, in fact. The UN’s goal is for it to be completely abolished by 2030, but achieving that goal is going to take some real political pressure. Right now, it’s not easy for us consumers to tell whether a product has been produced using child labour, because companies aren’t forced to share that information with the public. It’s time they were.

That’s why OPSEU joins World Vision in their call for governments to enact laws that force companies to publicly demonstrate that they do not use child nor forced labour.

We’ve got just under 12 years left until the 2030 deadline, and in that time, millions of child labourers will be adults, completely robbed of their childhoods.

We can’t ask them to wait that long.

Photo Credit: International Labour Organization (ILO) http://www.ilo.org