Invest more in social protection, ILO tells FG

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has called on the Nigerian government to increase investment in social protection by improving fiscal space, a legal framework to make the right to social protection a reality for all Nigerians, including children, the creation of universal benefits for children and families and the extension of social protection to the informal and rural economy.

ILO Country Director in charge of Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Sieria Leone and ECOWAS Liaison Office Vanessa Phala made the call during the media engagement held at the United Nations House in Abuja in commemoration of the 2022 World Day Against Child Labor, warning that governments around the world were facing a grave situation.

She said that around 1.5 billion children worldwide, aged 0-14, did not receive any family or cash child benefits, while more than 160 million children (or 1 in 10 aged 5 to 17) are still engaged in child labour.

Ms. Phala said, “Although in Nigeria, social protection has featured prominently in various national and state policy documents, development plans and budget allocations. Coverage remains low.

“The latest ILO social security survey carried out in collaboration with the Government of Nigeria in 2019 showed that only 12% of children benefit from social protection through the home-grown school feeding program , without any income support in the form of child or family allowances.

“Working with our tripartite partners and a wider range of stakeholders on the Dutch government-funded ACCEL Africa project has shown us firsthand the plight of vulnerable Nigerian children forced by economic realities to work and support their families, in particularly after huge job losses resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In our cocoa farming and artisanal gold mining communities, we have observed the exposure of children to drug addiction, sexual exploitation and other social vices that could put children in conflict with the law and limit their growth.

She then charged; “We must realize that if we do not set and support the agenda on the dangers of child labour, stakeholders may delay taking the urgent and active action needed to end it, thus prolonging concerns about the insecurity over long periods of time.

“The media is the silver bullet we need for a renewed revival today.

“You must lead the coordinated global campaign to eliminate all forms of child labor by constantly informing and educating the public about the prevalence of child labor and the various interventions by government and other non-state actors . Information on citizens’ rights, in particular with regard to international labor standards and fundamental rights at work.

“It is also important that you constantly monitor our production and supply chains, investigate sharp practices and report ethically, considering the best interests of the child as your contribution to social protection. and the campaign against child labour.”

To labor employers, she said: “For labor employers, we recommend that employers continue to honor workers’ right to social protection by consistently paying the employer’s contribution for social protection of workers, including but not limited to health protection, old age benefits, workers’ compensation scheme.

“We also call for an increase in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to focus on reducing the vulnerability of children, increasing funding for existing interventions, ensuring continuity in the execution of policies related to child labor , support the transition from school to work and encourage the participation of children, especially children under the legal working age.

“In addition, we need to build the capacity of children of legal working age, rehabilitate existing school structures and provide learning tools or alternatives, especially for children who need vocational training in the informal sector.”

Joel C. Hicks