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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
Child labour challenge toughens
Child learning to read
Domestic child labour can deny a proper education
Upwards of 10 million children are suffering in poor conditions of domestic labour, says a new report from the International Labour Organisation.

Behind closed doors, abuses include trafficking, slave-like conditions and human rights abuses.

Large numbers of children are working long hours, handling toxic substances and are denied a proper education.

In some countries, says the ILO, more than half of children under the age of 14 are in this trap.

Huge numbers

The ILO study has confirmed that a staggeringly large number of children, particularly young girls, are working in domestic conditions which are hazardous for health, safety and moralistic reasons.

Eradication of the abuse of children working in domestic labour is an immense challenge because it is so widespread.

ILO: World's top child abusers
Indonesia 700,000 child workers
Brazil 559,000 aged 10-17
Bangladesh (Dhaka) 300,000
Pakistan 264,000
Haiti 250,000 10% under 10

In some countries the figures cannot be confirmed, but it is believed that in Venezuela for example 60% of all girls aged 10-14 are in domestic service.

"It's so entrenched that it's going to take forever," said the report's author, June Kane.

Attitudes mean child labour in the home is seen as normal in many of the countries the ILO lists.

In many countries where women are undervalued, young girls are brought into domestic labour as it is seen as women's work and a preparation for marriage.

Origins

The cause has its roots in poverty says the ILO.

"We know poverty breeds child labour. But more importantly, child labour instead of education certainly breeds poverty," says Juan Somavia, ILO's director general.

Problems persist because domestic work is rarely subject to scrutiny or legislation, the report says.

In many countries there are no labour laws for domestic helpers over the age of 18 and they are regarded as second class citizens, says June Kane.

"But for those below 18 they shouldn't be working in domestic help at all - it's just too risky," she says.

"Behind closed doors you can't know how they're being treated."

Challenges

Poor food and accommodation is the least of the children's problems where many face lifting heavy loads, working long hours and coming into contact with toxic substances.

The long term repercussions of denying these children a proper education severely restrict the children's' chances of building a better life, the report says.

The ILO wants to see all child labour eradicated.

Some governments are doing a good job, the ILO says, but it wants countries to adopt a national minimum wage for domestic services for those over 18.




SEE ALSO:
World's child workers speak out
10 May 04  |  Europe
Brown's child poverty challenge
15 Mar 04  |  Business


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