Today, June 12th, is the World Day against Child Labour. For once the World Bank seems to have the grace to keep silent on the issue. The Child Labour page on its site has been deleted and the most recent thing this writer could find in a trawl of their website is an eleven year old report.

Nevertheless the World Bank has commissioned volumes of research on the failure to meet the 2015 goal of Education For All. The main culprits according to the bank are lazy, incompetent, absent or corrupt teachers. I shall not trouble to rebutt those libels here - many articles on this site do that job. But clearly if children are labouring they will not have the time or the energy for school.

According to an International Labour Organisation report, approximately 10% of all children or 168 million, are involved in work which contravenes ILO conventions. The reason is not hard to find - corporations in their endless drive to increase profits, use children both to depress the cost of labour by adults and as a source of cheap labour in themselves. 

Three examples will perhaps suffice. In Malawi, families are forced to use children for the backbreaking and toxic labour of tobacco production because market determined prices are so low that it is the only way they can survive. The World Bank's latest strategy for the country does not mention child labour but rather recommends the lifting of 'unnecessary barriers to trade'. In Liberia, children work as virtual slaves on the Firestone Rubber plantation, the largest in the world , while the World Bank enables a minimum tax regime for the company. 

Meanwhile campaigners are demanding that the Bank cease to provide subsidies to support the Uzbekistan cotton industry where children have been taken out of school every year for weeks at a time to work as slaves in the fields and bring in the harvest.

In all these cases and in many other countries round the world it is debilitating poverty coupled in some cases with repressive regimes which forces children, who should be playing and learning, into hard labour. And it is the world driven by the neo-liberal economic model of giving free rein to the market, which is promoted by the World Bank and the IMF, which provides the conditions where children are suffering in this way.