Sunday with Eden | Apr 25,2020
March 27 , 2021
By Christian Tesfaye ( Christian Tesfaye (email@example.com) is a researcher and Fortune's Deputy Editor-in-Chief whose interests run amok in the directions of political thought, markets, society and pop culture. )
Few things speak louder of the poor state of a country than child labour. Technically, there are laws against this in Ethiopia. The labour law does not allow the employment of children under 14 for any purpose. If they are between that age and 18, there are limitations on the sorts of work they are allowed. The criminal code prohibits the trafficking of children for compulsory labour.
But often in Ethiopia, laws are taken as standards to live up to, not rules the violation of which are punishable by a court – hardly worth the paper they are written on sometimes. The same goes for child labour. It is rife and unimaginably ugly but a fact of life for anyone that bothers to take note.
The younger the child is, nonetheless, the harder it is to fail to notice. There was just one kid working on a minibus taxi as an assistant to the driver (redat) that was hard to fathom for me. He could barely shut the sliding doors and was barely visible above the car seats even when standing straight. He had dry plump cheeks and rough, cracked hands.
He was diligent and quick on his feet for his age. From his physical stature, he must have been around six. If he was older, he must be suffering from malnurished, making him one of the over 30 million people suffering from the same ailment in Ethiopia. He is also one of the 27pc of the youth population participating in the labour force. Many of these are robbed of their childhood and opportunities to learn. Worse still, they may not have guardians and could be one of 20,000 children trafficked into compulsory labour, according to Humanium, a children’s charity.
Given how harsh these conditions are, how vulnerable the children could be, and the long-term consequences on human capital, this is top of the agenda, right? Children growing up in debilitating poverty, selling their labour for sums well under the poverty threshold as an alternative to begging, is a priority for society, no?
Not at all. There are neither rallies against child labour nor would anyone storm the streets over it. No one goes to war over starving children. What society puts on a pedestal –worthy causes to kill, maim and massacre for –are nationalism, historical memory and offenses and slights against one group by another. Child labour does not even get a measly hashtag, except perhaps on the World Day Against Child Labour, and even then because it does not hurt to virtue signal. Few in nonprofit organisations and government agencies working on children’s issues take a lasting interest.
Ethiopia is not alone in this. Most of the Global South – where all the bad things seem to happen – has high levels of child labour. More than a quarter of all children in poor countries are engaged in labour activities. UNICEF counts from five-year-olds who start providing 21 hours of unpaid housework services a week.
The culprit is poverty. If not enough wealth is created, millions of children will fall through the cracks to depend, or be forced to rely, on their labour to close income gaps for themselves and their guardians. Lack of wealth also means a government unable to provide a social safety net for its citizens, not even children.
There is no magic bullet. If there was one, laws should have worked. Enforcing them more strictly could help to an extent but not when poverty is entrenched and there is great demand for such cheap labour.
PUBLISHED ON Mar 27,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1091]
Sunday with Eden | Apr 25,2020
Viewpoints | Sep 11,2020
Radar | Feb 26,2022
Commentaries | Aug 29,2020
Viewpoints | Nov 02,2019
Sunday with Eden | Jun 13,2020
Agenda | May 29,2021
Editorial | May 09,2020
Radar | Jun 05,2021
Photo Gallery | 53209 Views | May 06,2019
Fortune News | 46043 Views | Jul 18,2020
Photo Gallery | 44966 Views | Apr 26,2019
Fortune News | 44805 Views | Sep 01,2021
Commentaries | Jul 02,2022
Life Matters | Jul 02,2022
My Opinion | Jul 02,2022
Sunday with Eden | Jul 02,2022
Agenda | Jul 02,2022
Editorial | Jul 02,2022
July 2 , 2022 . By RUTH TAYE
On a rainy afternoon last week, a coffee processing facility in the capital's Akaki-Qality District was abuzz with activ...
November 27 , 2021
Against my will, I have witnessed the most terrible defeat of reason and the most sa...
November 13 , 2021
Plans and reality do not always gel. They rarely do in a fast-moving world. Every act...
October 16 , 2021 . By HAWI DADHI
Residing in a country with no capital market, an organised marketplace for trading se...
The pandemic, armed conflicts and natural disasters have again brought the importance...
Leaders of the National Election Board are in a charm offensive mood, of a sort. Last week, they organised a rare tour for members of the me...
When the country’s most senior diplomats and envoys return back to their posts after two-week debriefings, they leave behind a point or tw...
July 2 , 2022
After nearly two years since the civil war broke out in northern Ethiopia, adversarie...
June 25 , 2022
It is not the best of times to be in charge of governance in Ethiopia, whether at the...
June 18 , 2022
Some of Ethiopia's economic policymakers may take solace from realising that inflatio...
June 11 , 2022
The stereotype many people have of parliamentarians is as clueless seat fillers who exist to rubber stamp legislative bi...
PM Abiy Ahmed (PhD) at a Gala Dinner Called for the Awarding of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize
May 6 , 2019
A couple of years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend and mentor who has...
The advertising industry in Ethiopia has come a long way. They are not only getting better and more creat...
In an economy that has slowed, where consumers are hammered by inflation, and the private sector is teetering on edge, one industry has a br...
July 2 , 2022 . By TSION HAILEMICHAEL
Getu Gelete has struck a deal to acquire a 40pc stake in Habesha Cement S.C., buying out Pretoria Portlan...
July 2 , 2022 . By BERSABEH GEBRE
Lake Ayalew, minister of Revenues, moved to address complaints about inflationary distortions on capital...
July 2 , 2022 . By BERSABEH GEBRE
The federal government is set to roll out a single-account treasury system for the coming budget year, co...
Or see contact page