Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, has assured the European Union (EU) of Government’s commitment to eradicate all forms of child labour by the year 2025.
He has, therefore, appealed to the EU and other development partners to support the various government’s initiatives to ensure that the objective was achieved.
Speaking at a High-Level Conference on Sustainable Cocoa in Accra on Wednesday, the Labour Minister said Ghana was doing everything possible to eliminate and achieve a zero child labour status across all sectors of the economy by 2025.
The dialogue, organised by the EU and the Government of Ghana, aimed at proffering solutions to the numerous challenges faced by the cocoa sector for a broader EU Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Sustainable Cocoa, scheduled for September 2021.
Globally, over 168 million children are said to be engaged in child labour, with more than one in five children in Sub-Saharan Africa involved in the menace.
In Ghana, 21.8 per cent of children is estimated to be child labourers, and more than six in ten of them are said to be engaged in hazardous work.
Mr Awuah noted that the country’s laws did not permit children below age 18 to engage in hazardous work.
He said successive governments had initiated a number of social intervention programmes, including capitation grant, school feeding programme, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and the Free Senior High School programme, in an effort to boost school enrolments and reduce the number of children who were engaged in child labour.
He said the interventions had led to an increase in school enrolment of children to about 95 per cent.
Mr Awuah, therefore, called for a proper definition of child labour to ensure that children who engaged minor chores were not misconstrued to be engaging in child labour.
Ms Diana Acconcia, EU Ambassador to Ghana, said the issue of child labour and deforestation in cocoa growing countries remained a major concern for the Europeans who were the world’s largest market for cocoa, housing the largest chocolate and confectionary manufacturers.
“Sustainability, economic, social and environmental issues have been high on the political agenda in Europe for many years now. But in the last few years these issues have acquired a new prominence,” she said.
Ms Acconcia added that the launch of the European Green Deal, a new growth model that would bring Europe to be carbon neutral by 2050, had put sustainability at the centre of the EU’s policy making.
“It is in this context that the EU has started to work on legislation on deforestation and due diligence obligations for business that will cover a number of key commodities, cocoa included,” she explained.
The legislation when passed will prohibit products that contribute to the destruction of forests outside the EU from being placed on the EU market.
Ms Acconcia assured of the EU’s commitment to a continuous multi-stakeholder dialogues to ensure a long-term sustainability of the cocoa value chain in both producing and consuming countries.
Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, called for a more holistic approach to tackling issues affecting the cocoa sector, including deforestation and low income of cocoa farmers to ensure the sustainability of the cocoa sector.
He noted that to address issues of child labour, COCOBOD hired the workers who carried out its mass cocoa spraying exercise, adding that majority of Ghanaian cocoa farmers were engaged in cocoa-Agri forestry system of farming which ensured continuous vegetation cover.