Forestry production includes the harvesting of wood and non-timber forest products, such as wildberries, bananas, seeds and nuts, oil palm, cocoa beans, mushrooms, honey, maple syrup, vines, ginseng, oils, resins, ferns, tree boughs, coconuts, cones, moss, rubber, cascara bark, among others.
Child labour, as well as difficult or dangerous working conditions, are found in most forestry workplaces, which are often in remote areas and sometimes temporary and shifting locations. Isolation increases vulnerability to exploitation in forestry for indigenous and other ethnic minorities. This can easily hamper the effect of law enforcement, trade union representation and community support. Isolation and migration can also make it difficult for children to enrol and attend schools.
Children are involved in a wide range of tasks, such as climbing trees for harvesting fruits, collecting honey from beehives, cutting rubber, planting and logging. These tasks expose children to health and safety hazards, such as falling from ladders and trees, cuts, wounds, and bruises, exposure to extreme temperatures, exposure to hazardous chemical substances, and contracting scabies, skin diseases, and other infections. Working outdoors for long periods can also increase the risk of children contracting malaria, dengue fever and other infectious diseases.
A number of serious violations of fundamental rights in forestry work have been documented in recent years by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, including use of child labour and bonded labour1.
Although apparently most victims of forced labour in agriculture and forestry are adults, accordingly to some ILO’s estimates, 85% of victims in some Latin American countries are younger than 12 years old. Nevertheless, this is one of the least researched activities.
Certain indigenous communities around the world are subjected to debt bondage on agricultural and forestry estates and industrial logging concessions. In these situations, entire families, including women and children may be subjected to forced labour, abusive employer relations, and hazardous work conditions.
- ILO: Guidelines for labour inspection in forestry (2005)
Addresses some of the main issues and general principles of labour standards and their inspection in the forestry sector. Includes specific guidance for labour inspectors on child labour in forestry.
- ILO: Labour conditions in Forestry in Indonesia (2010)
Raises the necessity of directing policies toward improving current working conditions in the forestry sector on such aspects as income levels, access to training, job status and forced labour.
- ILO: Safety and health in forestry work (1998)
Provides guidance to ILO constituents in their endeavour to improve the safety and health performance of their national forestry sectors or enterprises.
1 ILO: Stopping forced labour – Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (Geneva, 2011).