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Open Access Health and child labor in agriculture

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Abstract:

Background. Seventy percent of child laborers—more than 150 million girls and boys under 18—are agricultural workers. They are harshly exploited, toiling in poor to appalling conditions, performing dangerous jobs with little or no pay, and are deprived of an education. Because children's bodies and minds are still growing and developing, exposure to workplace hazards and risks can be more devastating and long-lasting for them. The line between what is acceptable work and what is not is easily crossed. However, not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad for them. Age-appropriate, lower-risk tasks that do not interfere with schooling and leisure time are not at issue here.

Objectives. The goal of this paper is to examine the links between health and child labor in agriculture. It aims to explain why the International Labour Organization's goal of eliminating all of the worst forms of child labor by 2016 will only be possible if more work is done in agriculture.

Methods. Review of the relevant literature and data on the hazards of child labor and the reasons why agricultural child labor is particularly difficult to tackle.

Results. Children who work in agriculture are exposed to a large number of health hazards, and yet the problem is particularly difficult to tackle because of the large numbers involved, the young age at which children start to work, the hazardous nature of the work, lack of regulation, invisibility of child laborers, denial of education, the effects of poverty, and ingrained attitudes and perceptions about the roles of children in rural areas.

Conclusions. Policies for preventing and reducing agricultural child labor should mainstream and integrate child labor issues at the national and international levels with increasing emphasis on poverty alleviation and expanding and improving institutional mechanisms for education, law enforcement, health, and so forth. Cooperation between the International Labour Organization and international agricultural organizations is needed to ensure that child labor in agriculture is a thing of the past.
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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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