Climate change and child labour

In December 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commissioned RMIT University to undertake a global case study on the relationship between climate change and child labour in agriculture.

Over 70% of child labour occurs in the agricultural sector, the same sector that is most vulnerable to shocks resulting directly from climate change. Thus, understanding the nexus between climatic shocks and child labour is crucial for providing evidence-based policy recommendations to governments and civil society.

This study aims to identify the extent to which climate change–related shocks affect child labour. The researchers canvassed existing data sources and determined, in consultation with FAO, that the following countries had enough data for a wide-ranging study:

  • Peru
  • Ethiopia
  • Nepal
  • Côte d’Ivoire.

Our results suggest that one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions are unlikely to work. Policies must be tailored to different communities based on their characteristics. The main recommendations of the study are as follows:

  • Legislative policies devised to combat child labour but followed up with increased awareness of the policies and closer scrutiny of their implementation.
  • Social protection policies that ensure households have adequate income and access to basic services to mitigate the need to use children in work.
  • Education policies that include educating households on the detrimental effects of child labour and ensuring the availability of fee-free, adequately staffed schools that provide children with relevant high-quality education.
  • Education and training should also be provided to farmers to improve productivity and reduce the need for child labour.
  • Climate adaptation policies that include the introduction of new drought- and flood-resistant varieties of seeds, the development of infrastructure to collect water and prevent flooding and land use policies to reduce deforestation and degradation.
  • Improving farm infrastructure, including mechanisation of agriculture to act as a substitute for child labour and increase agricultural productivity, and ensuring farmers have adequate storage facilities for their crops.
  • Providing access to insurance, credit and other financial services to provide households with resilience to shocks and other difficult times.
  • Collection of better data to capture the incidence and intensity of child labour and how they are changing over time, collection of better data on changing weather patterns and implementation of early alert systems for significant climate shocks.
  • Finding innovative ways of changing cultural and social norms regarding child labour in the countries will also be important in making progress towards making 2021 the year for the elimination of child labour.
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Research projects

We conduct research that leads to the design of innovative, evidence-based policies that promote sustainable improvements in the quality of peoples’ lives and maximise the benefits from international trade.

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.