In Viewpoint, we bring your attention to what we feel are the most pressing issues of the day, as well as bringing you up to date with what is going on with the Child Labor Coalition.

Child Labor’s Prevalence Perception Problem–What the Consumer Surveys Reveal

The CLC’s Reid Maki

There are a lot of obstacles to ending child labor that the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and its nearly 40 members confront on a daily basis. Poverty, governmental indifference, educational access issues, and a lack of awareness of the negative, long-term impact of child labor on children are all big factors, but another is lack of knowledge of the scope or prevalence of the problem.

The average American consumer doesn’t understand that child labor is a pervasive problem affecting an estimated 152 million children in the world – and that’s an estimate developed before the pandemic started. We think the number has grown significantly since COVID-19 began, throwing hundreds of millions of families into deeper poverty.

We became aware of the gap between the public’s perception of the problem and the reality of situation seven years ago when the group Child Fund International commissioned a survey of over 1,000 consumers. Only one percent knew that roughly 150 million children were trapped in child labor globally. That number translates to one in 10 children. It’s staggering to think about. Even more disturbing: 73 percent of survey respondents – essentially three out of four—incorrectly guessed that the global total was less the one million. They were off by a factor of 150!

It’s hard to galvanize public and political opinion to confront a pressing social problem when few people realize the massive scope of the problem and instead misperceive it as a tiny, moribund problem. If we want corporations that benefit from child labor to take serious action, we need a better understanding of the problem’s prevalence. Governments are not likely to act or expend financial resources on programs to fix a problem perceived as affecting very few children.

We’ve been wondering if the internet and Twitter and our persistent efforts to educate the public have helped close the perception gap in the several years since Child Fund’s polling. Surveys are expensive and our budget didn’t allow us to conduct a phone-based survey like the 2013 poll.  We decided to use a Survey Monkey internet poll to see where the public’s perception levels were at.

We gave respondents the opportunity to guess how many children were impacted by child labor and we offered them six answer options:

  • 1 in 10
  • 1 in 100
  • 1 in 500
  • 1 in 1,000
  • 1 in 5,000
  • 1 in 50,000

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CLC and Several Members Join 100 Organizations in Asking EPA to Immediately Ban the Pesticide Clorpyrifos which Damages Children’s Neurological Systems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 5, 2021

OPP Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850-0750 Environmental Protection Agency Docket Center (EPA/DC) 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20460-0001

Subject: Letter Urging Expeditious Action to Ban Chlorpyrifos

The undersigned 101 farmworker, public health, environmental, labor, and faith organizations urge the EPA to immediately revoke all food tolerances for chlorpyrifos and initiate the cancellation process to end all uses of this neurotoxic pesticide.

Chlorpyrifos, which belongs to a nerve-agent class of pesticides called organophosphates (OPs), is used on an extensive variety of crops and is acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children. Yet, in its proposed interim registration review decision, the EPA is proposing to allow 11 food uses of chlorpyrifos to continue at the urging of industry.

Peer-reviewed studies and EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel have demonstrated that chlorpyrifos damages children’s brains; prenatal exposure to very low levels of chlorpyrifos — levels far lower than what EPA used to set regulatory limits — harms babies permanently. Studies show that exposure to chlorpyrifos, and other OP pesticides during pregnancy, is associated with lower birth weight, attention deficit disorders, autism spectrum disorder, reduced IQ, and loss of working memory.1 It is also unsafe for workers even with the most protective equipment.

In 2014, EPA released a risk assessment finding unsafe drinking water contamination from chlorpyrifos and it proposed to ban chlorpyrifos from food in 2015. In 2016, EPA released a revised human health risk assessment, which confirmed that exposures to chlorpyrifos are unsafe whether in food, pesticide drift, or drinking water; toddlers were being exposed to levels 140 times what is considered safe in food and all drinking water exposures were found to be unsafe. But in 2020, EPA released a new risk assessment, which abandoned attempts to protect children from the low-level exposures that damage their brains.

Under the law, EPA must find reasonable certainty of no harm to children from pesticides. It cannot make this finding for any use of chlorpyrifos on food. The only outcome that protects our children and complies with the law is to revoke all food tolerances and end all food uses as soon as possible. The 2015 proposed tolerance revocation would have prohibited chlorpyrifos on food six months after the rule became final. EPA should adhere to that timetable. 2

Ending use of chlorpyrifos on food will protect the farmworkers who grow that food. However, chlorpyrifos is also used in other ways that expose workers to extremely dangerous amounts of the pesticide. For example, chlorpyrifos is used in greenhouses on ornamental plants. The greenhouse workers face unconscionable risks. And under EPA’s 2020 risk assessment and proposed decision, the agency finds that the workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos will face unsafe exposures from more than 100 tasks; workers who re-enter fields sprayed with chlorpyrifos will be at risk as well.

The EPA is proposing to allow these risks to continue because of the economic benefits of using chlorpyrifos compared to other currently available chemical pesticide alternatives. In making this proposal, EPA is ignoring non-chemical methods of pest control as well as the economic costs and hardships caused by pesticide poisonings, learning disabilities, reduced IQ in children, and environmental harm from chlorpyrifos use; this pesticide also contaminates surface water and harms threatened and endangered species, including birds, Pacific salmon, Southern Resident Killer Whales, and other mammals.

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10 Stats about Women and Girls on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021

  • Of the 152 million children trapped in child labor, 64 million are girls [source].
  • 73 million children are trapped in hazardous child labor—27.8 million are girls.
  • 29 million women and girls are in modern slavery—71 percent of the overall total of enslaved individuals [source].
  • Women represent 99.4 percent of the victims of forced labor in the commercial sex industry [source].
  • Women and girls represent 84 percent of the victims of forced marriages, now categorized as a form of modern slavery [source]. There are an estimated 15 million individuals in forced marriages.
  • Worldwide, there are an estimated 67 million domestic workers—3/4 are women [source].
  • 132 million girls were out of school in 2016 [source].
  • 9 in 10 girls complete their primary education, but only 3 in 4 complete their lower secondary education [source].
  • In low-income countries, less than 2/3 of girls complete their primary education [source].
  • 42 million people have fled their homes because of armed conflicts; 50 percent are women; 10 million are estimated to be girls and young women. [source]
  • In 2017, there were an estimated 68.5 million forcibly displaced people, including 25.4 million refugees—half are women and girls. [source]
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152 Million Reasons to End Child Labor by year 2025

By CLC-member Timothy Ryan of Solidarity Center

By Timothy Ryan*

An African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child, but one can also say that it takes the whole world to protect one child. Children today are faced with increasing challenges. When children should be playing, studying and enjoying their short yet foundational period of childhood they are instead subjected to exploitation, violence, hunger and various forms of slavery.  The international community for decades has been making efforts to reduce inequalities and injustice for children, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) being the most recent global goals that the world has committed to achieve. 

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We urge the governments to continue investing at least 6% of their GDP in children’s education and provide vulnerable families and their children with social protection. –Timothy Ryan, Global March Against Child Labour

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The goal that is closest to my heart and has been the driving force for me and my organization, Global March Against Child Labour is the SDG Target 8.7, which calls upon the world to end all forms of child labor by 2025. With only 5 years to achieve this compelling and challenging goal, today we are faced with yet another obstacle in our progress to end child labor – the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought the whole world to its knees.

When I first became the Chair of the Global March Against Child Labor in 2017, my hope and enthusiasm were spurred by the assurance that together as a world, we would be able to achieve the task of ending child labor by the year 2025. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic now accelerating again, I’m saddened to witness an unforeseen reversal in the progress made so far in our fight against child labor.  I’m grateful that the Global March’s Board voiced its support to re-elect me in 2020 as the Chair of the world’s foremost organization fighting to end child labor at a time when all our efforts to address this scourge must be re-doubled.

COVID-19 therefore is just another stumbling block in our struggle to bring all children to school and eliminate child labor. We still have 152 million reasons not to get bogged down, to continue pressing forward and to stand up for each of the 152 million children being exploited in labor and hazardous conditions. Now is the time that we as an international community –  the national leader, the district authority, the businessman, the trade union activist, the civil society member, the community representative – all come together to do our bit to ensure every child is able to enjoy his or her childhood and not let it slip away. This is the time for collective action – from moving beyond lengthy commitments and glorious speeches, to targeted, time-bound and measurable efforts, at the global, regional and local levels. 

 

The Global March recently carried out a survey on COVID-19 and child labor with 40 of its civil society members from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The survey confirmed our fears, revealing that the world is likely to face an increase in child labor across sectors not only in the agriculture sector which is the largest employer of child labor, but also in the service sector, which will equally face an unprecedented rise in the number of working children. Girls who already face the double burden of school and household chores are predicted to be worst affected, pushing them out of school, very possibly never to return. Survey findings like these can instill a great uncertainty and concern, but this gives us yet another reason not to be daunted by the obstacles we all face in eliminating child labor.  

The ILO is scheduled to issue a new Global Estimate on Child Labor next year. Whatever the numbers may be,  history and this moment demand that the year 2021 is the crucial year of serious, concerted action against child laborr and not just a feel-good commemoration of work already done. 

At this critical moment, on behalf of the Global March members around the world, I call upon the international community to not only keep the focus on child labor alive but to breathe new life into this effort. We urge the governments to continue investing at least 6% of their GDP in children’s education and provide vulnerable families and their children with social protection. Governments must also continue taking necessary measures to ensure continuity of education for children especially in rural areas, through remote or physical means (as per COVID-19 conditions). All stakeholders must also ensure children involved in child labour in agriculture and the service sector are protected and given their due rights to access to education. Even in normal times it is unconscionable for children to be so exploited; now in the midst of the COVID pandemic, this crisis should never be used to justify existing or increasing child labour.

This moment in time is a test for all of us.  When we look back we will want to say we took measure of the daunting task in 2021 to accelerate the elimination of child labour and committed ourselves to use every avenue and tool at hand to do so. 

[This article originally appeared at counterview.org. Photos are courtesy of counterview.org].


*Timothy Ryan is the Chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labour and the Asia Regional Program Director for Solidarity Center based in Washington D.C, USA.

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