Children and labour don't belong together

40 million people in modern slavery. 152 million girls and boys are trapped in child labour. Malaysian artist, Nazreen Mohamad, wrote and delivered this beautiful poem.

Date issued: 04 November 2019 |

Written and delivered by Malaysian artist Nazreen Mohamad, this spoken word poetry talks about what childhood is and isn't, why child labour is not appropriate for children and ends with a strong call to action to join the movement to end child labour.

In Malaysia, despite lack of nationally-representative survey and data on child labour, anecdotal and qualitative evidence indicate children from migrant families, refugee and stateless children are likely to be particularly vulnerable to child labour. Some of these children work informally but on a full-time basis, hence missing out on education, while others assist their parents undertaking tasks that are harmful to their health and safety, even if they still attend school.

Among the factors that contribute to the vulnerability of children in Malaysia to child labour include household poverty; limited or no access to education and social welfare services for undocumented, refugees, and stateless children; lack of awareness about child labour and provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act; labour shortage in some of the sectors; children considered as “cheap labourers”; lack of measures to ensure that piece-rated system does not encourage child labour; lack of documentation of migrant, stateless or refugee children; no minimum age for light work and no hazardous work list for children for Sabah and Sarawak; insufficient resources for labour inspectorate and child-friendly facilities not available in some remote areas.

An estimated 152 million children (aged 5-17) around the world are in child labour, of whom 73 million perform work which is hazardous because of its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out. In Asia-Pacific alone, there are 62 million in child labour, with 28.5 million in hazardous work.

The ILO project on “From Protocol to practice: A Bridge to Global Action on Forced Labour” (Bridge Project) aims to strengthen global and national efforts to eliminate forced labour. The Recommendation 203 accompanying the Forced Labour Protocol 2014 encourages member States to take preventive measures on forced labour including initiatives to address child labour and promote educational opportunities for children, both boys and girls, as a safeguard against children becoming victims of forced or compulsory labour. Under its child labour component, Bridge Project supports the conduct of World Day Against Child Labour, policy development and awareness raising on child labour and hazardous work for children, development of National Action Plan on Child Labour, capacity building for enforcement agencies including labour and OSH inspectors.

For more information pleas contact: 

Jodelen Mitra
Technical Officer, Global Action Against Forced Labour