|Action Against Child Labour (ILO, 2000, 356 p.)|
|6. Strategies for employers and their organizations|
The examples in this report show that where employers' organizations are active players in local and national initiatives to combat child labour, they can be instrumental in raising society's awareness of the problem and can make valuable contributions to broad social alliances to provide long-term solutions. Over the long term, their actions can make a positive difference for the children toiling today in hazardous and exploitative working conditions in both the formal and the informal sectors. Several key lessons have been reported by employers taking action against child labour.3
3 Employers' handbook on child labour, op. cit.
The first key lesson is that it makes better financial and business sense for employers and their organizations to be involved in the issue of child labour proactively rather than reactively. While programmes which aim at the removal and rehabilitation of child labourers are often crucial - particularly in situations where children are working in hazardous and exploitative situations - they are at the same time extremely costly and complex, and tend to attack the symptoms of the problem rather than its roots. For this reason, employers and their organizations should not wait until they are pressured by outside groups to assess the child labour situation in their own industries. Instead, they should identify and enlist the support of other partners -governments, international and national organizations - with whom they can work together to identify how best to collaborate and to prevent child labour problems. In this respect, through their central employers' organizations, companies and sectoral organizations can directly approach IPEC for assistance in the area of policy development and action implementation.
A second key lesson concerns the importance of building effective alliances. No concerned member of civil society can hope to fulfil alone all the possible functions necessary to effectively curb and progressively eliminate child labour on a global scale. Because of their influential contacts in society, many employers' organizations have a comparative advantage in the areas of public advocacy and policy development. NGOs, which are generally issue specific, have a comparative advantage in designing social support programmes. For their part, most trade unions have a comparative advantage in raising social awareness of the issue. The examples of successful employer initiatives presented above were implemented through a broad coalition of actors working together. It is recommended therefore that companies and employers' organizations involve other like-minded partners in the design and implementation of any action to combat child labour.
The third key lesson is the importance of prioritizing action. There is now a much greater awareness of the scope and magnitude of child labour than ever before. The total eradication of this problem will demand significant resources and concentrated action over the foreseeable future. This, however, should not be used as an excuse for apathy. The role of employers and their organizations is crucial in identifying industries and/or sectors that pose the greatest risks to working children. Employers can begin by playing an active role in promoting the ratification of Convention No. 182 and the implementation of measures also suggested in Recommendation No. 190. These instruments will serve as the cornerstone of international efforts to eliminate child labour, beginning with its most intolerable forms. They place the immediate suppression of extreme forms of child labour as the main priority for national and international action for the abolition of child labour.