In Latin America, 13 million child laborers can be found selling goods alongside the roads, working beside their parents on farms, as domestic workers in homes, and doing hard labor in hazardous industries. Globally, however, the number of children involved in child labor has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million children. This is due, in part, to the fact that the International Labor Organization (ILO) has made great strides to standardize the minimum employment age globally at 15 years, but child labor remains a problem particular in developing countries.
Private businesses and governments can go beyond simply ensuring that there are no child labor issues by implementing the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP). Developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children – these Principles comprise an internationally recognized set of standards that extends beyond basic labor rights to include safety, marketing advertising practices, and environmental policies that protect the rights of children. This comprehensive set of principles seeks to maximize the positive impacts and minimize negative impacts of business conduct on children). “Children work because of need, they are on their own or their families require their income to survive. The CRBPs guide companies in their efforts to provide decent work for caregivers and older youth, which helps to reduce the economic pressure on families that underpins underage work,” says Cicely McWilliams, Senior Advisor, at Save the Children Canada.
The Business Principles at a Glance
Businesses that champion children’s rights in their strategies and operations can boost their reputation and brand value, attract investors, gain competitive advantages, increase legitimacy of operations, and contribute to more sustainable and inclusive markets.
The CRBP outlines ways to do this with a list of principals. Here we highlight four of the more noteworthy ones, and what this means in practice, and particularly for operations financed by the IDB.
What the IDB can do
June 12 is World Day against Child Labor launched in by the ILO in 2002 to bring attention on the plight of child workers around the world. Although states have the primary duty to protect, respect, and maintain children’s rights, with the support of the IDB, the private sector has enormous potential to impact children’s lives – both positively and negatively. As a development institution, we proactively promote children’s interests, since children are the agents who can be empowered to break the cycle of poverty. The Bank can utilize the CRBPs by ensuring that clients uphold international best practices, have an in-depth understanding of the child labor rights of the countries that we work in, and make certain that under-age children are not employed by our projects or the businesses we work with.
We are in a distinctive position to foster exemplary businesses practices and ensure that children thrive because of the projects supported by the IDB.