Rome

Italy not exempt from child-labour shame

Over 250,000 kids under 16 made to work

Italy not exempt from child-labour shame

(By Emily Backus) Rome, June 11 - Roughly 260,000 children under the age of 16 - or 5.2% - are made to work in Italy, according to a study revealed on Tuesday. About 30,000 of Italy's 14-to-15-year-olds are at risk of exploitation, toiling in activities that may be dangerous to their health, safety, or moral integrity, reported the study, which was conducted by the Bruno Trentin Association and Save the Children. Some 2,000 interviews were conducted with second-year high-school students across 15 provinces and 75 schools in Italy for the first study of its kind conducted since 2002. Researchers found that just 0.3% of minors under age 11 worked in Italy, but by age 14 or 15, 18.4% of the children interviewed worked. Researchers found a strong correlation between early work in Italy and the country's high dropout rate from school. In Italy, 18.2% of students fail to complete high school compared to an European Union average of 15%. The sexes are almost equally divided among working 14-to-15-year-olds with 46% of them female. Roughly 40% of the minors that worked did so on a random basis. However, 24% of those who worked exceed five hours per day, and a quarter carried jobs for up to a year. The largest segment - 41% - were employed in family cottage businesses. A third did domestic work, sometimes for many hours or in conflict with school schedules. Some 14% worked for strangers, and just 4% did babysitting. Outside of the home, working children in Italy were most likely to be waiters or coffee bar servers, kitchen helpers, pastry or baking assistants, door-to-door or sidewalk sellers, or farm hands. Only 45% of working minors interviewed said they were compensated. Child labour was more common in southern Italy than in northern or central Italy. An in-depth examination of 163 working children in Naples and Palermo revealed dead-end activities with little value, teaching the children nothing that might help them win a better vocation later. The study confirmed a strong link between child labour and disaffection from school, family and social networks, creating a poverty trap and making the lure of easy money a temptation to engage in criminal activity. "The data that emerges from research says that we must move on two fronts: one is education, because a large part of the phenomenon (regarding child labour) derives from the school dropout effect, and the other is labour reform," commented Susanna Camusso, secretary-general of the powerful Italian CGIL union. "It is evident that serious regulation would prevent the spread of the phenomenon," Camusso added. Camusso declared that the obligation to remain in school until age 18 and the right to study were the "supporting pillar of reform" needed to make education "the foundation of a collective and individual resource". The study's promoters called for the creation of a national plan to monitor and tackle illegal child labour. UNICEF estimates there are 150 million children between the ages of five and 14 used for labour. An estimated 115 million children between the ages of five and 17 are employed in heavy or dangerous work, such as carrying loads, coming in contact with chemicals or working long hours. Some 60% work in farming, 7% in industry, and 26% work in services. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than a third of children work. "Child labour is both the cause and consequence of poverty and social unrest," said Giacomo Guerrera, president of UNICEF Italy. "In developing countries, many children are forced to work because they are orphans or separated from their families or because they need to supplement family income. The global financial crisis has further pushed children to launch themselves prematurely into work, especially toward the most dangerous forms of work".

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