The International Labor Organization (ILO) celebrates the World Day for Safety and Health at Work since 2003 upon request from the trade unions. The World Day for Safety and Health at Work focuses on prevention of work-related injuries and occupational diseases in the world and reduction of work-related deaths and injuries. The aim of the ILO campaigns is promotion of safety and health at work focused on prevention and acknowledging the responsibility and duties of all stakeholders: government representatives, trade unions, employers’ organizations and occupational and health experts.
This year, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work campaign is organized jointly with the World Day Against Child Labor with the slogan “Generation Safe and Healthy“. The aim is to improve safety and health of young workers and end child labor.
Not all work done by children should be classified as inacceptable. Helping parents at home, assisting in family business, or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays is not considered hazardous. The term “child labor” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to children less than 15 or 17 years of age, while young workers are those from 15 to 24 years old. This is a work that is physically, mentally, socially and morally dangerous and hazardous to children, depriving them from schooling, or obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Extremely difficult child labor is defined by the ILO Convention 182 as some forms of slavery, child trafficking, forced or compulsory labor to compensate parents’ debts, forced use of children in armed conflicts, prostitution, use of children in illicit activities such as drugs production and trafficking etc.
Serbian Labor Law states that only person older than 15 and if he/she fulfills other conditions for work can be employed. The Decree on determining hazardous work for children entered into force in 2018 to enable protection of children up to 18 years of age from dangerous jobs. The part of the Decree is a list of jobs and work tasks that children should not perform.
According to the estimates from 2016, 152 million of children between 5 -17 years are victims of child labor, almost half of them (48%) in age group 5 – 11 years, 58% boys and 42% girls. Out of them, 73 million are engaged in work that is hazardous to their health. Child labor is the most prevalent in agriculture and fishing (71%). Particularly in the low-income countries child labor in tobacco production should be mentioned, as children are exposed to many chemicals and pesticides. Moreover, 12% of child labor is in industry including mining, quarry, construction, etc., and 17% in services (trade and retail, restaurants and hotels, traffic, storage, etc.). There are no reliable data on child labor in Serbia, but the assumption is that most of them are engaged in agriculture and begging, particularly Roma children.
There is 541 million of young workers between 15 and 24 years of age who represent 15% of world’s work force; however, their rate of non-fatal occupational injuries is 40% higher than in adults with more than 25. They are more vulnerable to various workplace hazards due to their physical and mental development, lack of work experience and lack of training, less knowledge on workplace hazards that can lead young workers to accept dangerous tasks or jobs with poor working conditions. Young workers are often employed and informal work and on non-standard high-risk workplaces.
One of the aims of this campaign is to accelerate the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly target 8.8 on occupational safety and health for all worker by 2030 and target 8.7 of ending child labor by 2025. Achievement of this goals requires joint and integrated approach that promote culture of prevention in occupational safety and health that will be beneficial for future generations of global workforce.
World Day for Occupational Safety and Health highlights the importance of addressing child labor and to improve occupational safety and health of young workers to promote decent work.