June 12 – World Day Against Child Labor
The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the measures needed to eliminate it.
On June 12th each year, the efforts of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, representatives of civil society, media, and many other stakeholders at the local level, such as schools and local governments, unite in the campaign against child labour.
Currently, around 168 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide, many on a full-time basis. They are deprived of education and do not have time to play. Many of them lack proper nutrition and care. They are denied the opportunity to be children.
More than half of these children are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, including hazardous work, slavery, and other forms of forced labour, illicit activities including drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as their involuntary involvement in armed conflicts.
The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), guided by the principles enshrined in ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour, works towards the effective abolition of child labour.
One of the main objectives set for the International Labour Organization (ILO) when it was founded in 1919 was the abolition of child labour. From a historical perspective, the main instrument of the ILO to achieve the effective abolition of child labour has been the adoption and supervision of labour standards that address the concept of minimum age for admission to employment or work.
Furthermore, since 1919, the principle that minimum age standards should be linked to education has been part of the ILO’s normative tradition in this area. ILO Convention No. 138 establishes that the minimum age for admission to employment shall not be less than the age at which compulsory schooling ceases.
The adoption by the ILO ten years later of Convention No. 182 consolidated the global consensus on the elimination of child labour. This instrument established the more specific objectives that were much needed, while still maintaining the overarching goal expressed in Convention No. 138 of the effective abolition of child labour.
In addition, the concept of the worst forms of child labour helps set priorities and can serve as a starting point for addressing the main problem of child labour. The concept also helps to draw attention to the effects of work on children and the type of work they engage in.
Child labour, prohibited under international law, falls into three categories:
- The worst forms of child labour, which are internationally defined as slavery, trafficking of persons, debt bondage, and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts, prostitution and pornography, and other illicit activities.
- Work performed by a child who is below the specified minimum age for that type of work (as determined by national legislation in accordance with internationally accepted standards), and which is likely to impede the child’s education and full development.
- Work that is likely to jeopardize the physical, mental, or moral well-being of the child, either by its nature or the conditions under which it is carried out, and is referred to as «hazardous work.»
Facts and figures
- Across the world, 218 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are engaged in economic production. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour, with nearly half, 73 million, engaged in hazardous child labour.
- In absolute terms, nearly half of child labour (72 million) is concentrated in Africa; 62 million in Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.1 million in the Arab States; and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.
- In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) are engaged in child labour, while in other regions the prevalence ranges from 3% to 7%: 2.9% in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3% in the Americas (1 in 19); and 7.4% in the Asia and Pacific region (1 in 14).
- Nearly half of the 152 million children in child labour are between the ages of 5 and 11; 42 million (28%) are between 12 and 14 years old; and 37 million (24%) are between 15 and 17 years old.
- The prevalence of hazardous child labour is highest among children aged 15 to 17. However, one-quarter of children engaged in hazardous child labour (19 million) are under the age of 12.
- Of the 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls.
- Boys represent 58% of the total number of children in child labour, and 62% of the total engaged in hazardous work. Boys are more at risk of being involved in child labour than girls, but this perception may be due to the fact that girls’ work is not always reported, especially in the case of domestic child labour.
- Child labour is primarily concentrated in agriculture (71%), including fishing, forestry, livestock, and aquaculture, and encompasses both subsistence and commercial agriculture. 17% of children engaged in child labour work in the services sector, and 12% in the industrial sector, particularly mining.
2018 Campaign – «Safe and Healthy Generation»
This year, the World Day Against Child Labour and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work are joining forces in a joint campaign to improve the safety and health of young workers and eliminate child labour.
The campaign aims to accelerate action towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, particularly Target 8.8 which seeks to promote safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030, and Target 8.7 which aims to end all forms of child labour by 2025.
To achieve these goals, a holistic approach is needed that targets the elimination of child labour and promotes a culture of prevention in occupational safety and health (OSH) for the benefit of the future global workforce.
The Sustainable Development Goals and the elimination of child labour
Partners in the fight against child labour
There are good examples of trade unions and employers’ organizations playing a crucial role in eradicating child labour in rural areas. For instance, in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, two regions in India, unions and community members have recently organized and launched the concept of «child labour-free municipalities» through dialogue with local leaders and employers. Many collective agreements have been signed to address the issue of child labour. Similarly, the Federation of Ugandan Employers has established committees for monitoring child labour at the local level, including in the coffee, tea, rice, and sugar sectors.
Collaborations and partnerships are also forged between trade unions and indigenous peoples’ organizations, especially in Latin America. In some cases, these initiatives have resulted in the inclusion of indigenous organizations in national committees for the prevention and elimination of child labour.
Sustainable Development Goal 8, in its Target 7, urges everyone to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2025 as an essential step to achieve full and productive employment, decent work for all, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
The ILO’s action towards the abolition of child labour has intensified in the past four years, and significant progress has been made since the publication of the first Global Estimate on this issue. In the next four years, the challenge will be for the ILO to work more focused and strategically to act as a catalyst for a revitalized global alliance in support of national action to abolish child labour. This transformation of the approach to global leadership will ensure that the ILO contributes more effectively to relegate child labour to history.