The ACTU calls for more action to protect children and young people on farms and at work in light of figures showing almost half the young people working in fast food outlets had suffered an injury or illness and that every fortnight a child dies from a farm accident.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow says:

While the exploitation of children is not as widespread here as overseas, more action is still needed to protect children and young people in Australian workplaces.

* Young people working on farms can be seriously injured or even killed from using dangerous equipment such as driving tractors and other vehicles off-road. Research shows that an average of 30 children aged under 14 years are killed each year on farms more than one a fortnight and 575 are injured and require treatment in a hospital. A significant proportion of these deaths and injuries occur while the child is working.

* A recent survey of young people working in fast food outlets in Australia showed almost half (46%) had suffered an injury or illness at the workplace and nearly one third said they had inadequate health and safety supervision.

* Children as young as 8 years old have been known to work for families engaged as outworkers in Australias clothing industry.

* Workcover NSW statistics show that in that State alone, at least four children under 18 are killed, 377 suffer permanent injury, and more than 1300 suffer temporary disabilities each year from work.

Today is the World Day of Action Against Child Labour (12 June 2004) where we are reminded that the exploitation of children and young people is a big international problem:

* There are almost a quarter of a billion children who are child labourers (246 million) world-wide.
* The largest number of working children 127 million age 14 and under are in Australias neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region.
* Every year around 22,000 children die in work-related incidents.

The Australian Government has been dragging its heels on ratifying important international conventions that ban the worst forms of child labour and require a minimum age for child labour it should kick-start the ratification process.

The Government should also reconsider its plan to axe the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) which performs a valuable role in monitoring and developing health and safety standards that help protect young workers in the fast food industry.

For more information:

World Day Against Child Labour – 12 June 2004 – one in six of the world’s children are involved in child labour. They do work that is exploitative and damages their physical, mental, social and psychological development.