International Law


International Organizations are attempting to target and eliminate child labour beginning by pinpointing the problem itself and understanding the reasons for it. UNICEF’s latest statistics from 2011 indicate that one in every six children aged five to fourteen are engaged in child labour in developing countries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) says there are over two hundred and fifteen million children working worldwide either part time or full time jobs. Furthermore, seventy percent of them work in dangerous environments. The ILO is leading the fight in eliminating child labour in an organized fashion.

Their research suggests the damaging effects of child labour must be systematically eliminated beginning with the worst forms of child labour. The process begins with understanding the problem itself, the causes and consequences, socio-political aspects, and all the variables involved. The hard work of the ILO has helped create Treaties and Conventions banning child labour and “identifying concrete measures for Governments to take (UNICEF, 2011).”

Through socio-legal challenges, the ILO is working tirelessly as they are at the forefront of the fight against child labour. This has resulted in various forms of success as they still have a long way to go. Using labour standards, Conventions, Recommendations, creating organizations, getting member states involved, raising awareness, and stressing basic human rights, the International Labour Organization has created a formula in the fight to end child labour.

UNICEF- Convention on the Rights of the Child

UNICEF, acronym of United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, has a mission to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, “to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential (UNICEF, 2011).” Just like the ILO, UNICEF is a special programme of the United Nations. This international organization relates to the ILO because of their devotion to aiding children internationally and aiding national efforts to improve health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children (UNICEF, 2012).

Although UNICEF’s goals are not based on targeting and eliminating child labour itself, they take a huge part in helping the cause. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2012), since 1996 UNICEF programmes have been guided by the “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which affirms the right to all children to “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health (UNICEF 2012).”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is built on various international legal systems and cultural traditions. This Convention is a “universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations (UNICEF, 2011).” These are basic standards which are also referred to as human rights which set minimum entitlements and freedoms that are expected to be respected by all governments. UNICEF (2011) states that it is founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, color, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability.

Therefore, they apply to every human being no matter where they are located. Not only are governments obligated to follow this Convention, but so are all individuals and employers regarding the rights of all humans. Furthermore, UNIFEC (2011) says that “we cannot ensure some rights without - or at the expense of - other rights.” Many countries including Canada have had to make changes to their common and civil law as a result of ratifying this Convention. However, this has been done for the better because local laws have been created to follow up with this Convention. For example, youth criminal laws in Canada underwent major changes resulting in the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) which defines Canada’s different commitments under the Convention.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding instrument which is the first international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights. This includes civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. This is a special Convention, particularly for that reason that world leaders agreed on the fact that children under the age of eighteen years old often need the protection and care that adults do not. Furthermore, this would be a Convention for the world to recognize that children also have human rights. It sets out these human rights in 54 articles and two optional protocols.

The first optional protocol restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts, and the second optional protocol prohibits the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The articles identified by UNICEF (2011) spell out the basic human rights that children everywhere have:

The right to survival; to develop to the fullest; protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. UNICEF (2011) states that “every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child.” The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.

National governments have agreed to undertake the obligations of the Convention, therefore have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children’s rights. They have also agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. It is the governments’ obligation to make sure they do their part after signing or giving formal consent to the Convention, therefore treating it as a treaty, contract, or agreement and making it officially valid. Both the protocols have been ratified by a hundred and ninety four nations.

These nations that have ratified this Convention are bound to it by international law. Furthermore, compliance is monitored by the United Nations committee on the Rights of the Child because it is important to make sure the member states are acting and complying according to the Convention.

As far as the child labour topic goes, focusing on the International Labour Organization is far more important than focusing on UNIFIC. As suggested earlier, UNICEF’s focus is on advocating and paying attention to the general welfare of children globally. This includes children that do not work, whereas the ILO focuses on child labour issues among other labour issues of the world. The global importance of both of these international organizations is immeasurable. Therefore, understanding the fact that this topic is on child labour issues, it only makes sense to focus on the ILO.

The ILO Structure

The International Labour Organization’s work is based on encouraging and promoting the development of social and economic progress. It is important for governments, employers’, and workers’ organizations to cooperate in order for this structure to function. Furthermore, their aim is to ensure that it serves the needs of working men and woman by “bringing together governments, employers and workers to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes (International Labour Organization, 2012).” In other words, the ILO has created a form of a governing system for the international workforce to ensure safety and to protect all individuals.

The ILO structure emphasizes equality where the workers and employers have equal voices with the governments. The ILO also encourages promoting a social dialogue between the trade unions and employers (International Labour Organization, 2012). Where appropriate, they implement national policy on social, economic, and other issues.

There is no international organization that is like the ILO because it resulted in the tripartite organization, “the only one of its kind bringing together representatives of governments, employers, and workers in its executive bodies (International Labour Organization, 2012).” The ILO accomplishes its work through three main bodies which are “The International Labour Conference,” “The Governing Body,” and “The Office.” These main bodies oversee progress and changes in the global fight against child labour. This allows governments’, employers’, and workers’ representatives to settle disputes and reach agreements by mutual concessions.

ILO Conventions and Recommendations

Conventions and Recommendations are drawn up by representatives of governments, employers and workers and are adopted at the ILO's annual International Labour Conference (International Labour Organization, 2012). The ILO has its own Constitution which gives them the authority required to eliminate child labour. Member States are required under this Constitution to submit them to their parliament for consideration. Once a Member State ratifies a Convention, it takes a year after the date of ratification for it to come into force.

Therefore, there is a process involved and nothing happens overnight in the fight to eliminate child labour. After ratifying, nations must apply the Convention in their national law and practice. Furthermore, the countries must report on its application at regular intervals as required by the ILO. The ILO provides technical assistance if necessary. In addition, “representation and complaint procedures can be initiated against countries for violations of a convention they have ratified (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

Fundamental & Governance Conventions

The ILO's Governing Body has identified eight Conventions as “fundamental,” covering subjects that are considered as fundamental principles and rights at work. The fundamental Conventions include “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

They date back to 1930 and go to the latest Fundamental Convention that was issued in 1999. These principles are also covered in the ILO's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998). The ILO launched a campaign in 1995 to achieve a worldwide ratification of these eight Conventions. This would be a huge breakthrough in the fight to eliminate child labour as there would be worldwide support of at least the fundamental principles and rights of work. There are currently over 1,200 ratifications of these Conventions, representing 86% of the possible number of ratifications.

The ILO's Governing Body also came up with four Conventions as “priority” instruments, thereby encouraging member states to ratify them because of their importance for the functioning of the international labour standards system (International Labour Organization, 2012). Since 2008, they are referred to as Governance Conventions. These Conventions were identified by the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization as the standards that are the most significant from the viewpoint of governance.

The Governance Conventions include “Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81); Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122); Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969 (No. 129); Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144).” As the titles suggest, the ILO finds it is just as important to inspect what Member States are doing as it is to create laws. There is no sense in creating a law that is not monitored, inspected, or enforced.

International Labour Standards

International labour standards are “legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents and setting out basic principles and rights of work (International Labour Organization, 2012).” International labour standards refer to either Conventions or Recommendations. Conventions according to the ILO are legally binding international treaties which can be ratified by member states. Recommendations are non-binding guidelines. In many cases, a Convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries.

A related Recommendation completes the convention by providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied (International Labour Organization, 2012). The intent of labour standards is to establish a minimum level of protection from inhumane labour practices, basic rights, enhancing job security, and improving the terms of employment on a global scale. The workplace globally needs equal basic rights, which must be on ethical grounds according to the ILO.

The International Labour Standards consist of twenty three subjects which are further broken down into more specific subtopics. Each topic and subtopic has its own Convention. A Convention is an agreement between states, governments, parties, or military forces, especially an international agreement dealing with specific subjects, such as child labour (Mifflin, 2000). International organizations use these Conventions as their weapons in order to fight child labour. It is their legal instrument to hold governments and partners who agree and consent to them liable if they fail to act according to the Convention.

The twenty three international labour standards include freedom of association, collective bargaining, and industrial relations; forced labour; elimination of child labour and protection of children and young persons; equality of opportunity and treatment; tripartite consultation; labour administration and inspection; employment policy and promotion; vocational guidance and training; employment security; wages; working time; occupational safety and health; social security; maternity protection; social policy; migrant workers; HIV and AIDS; seafarers; fishermen; dockworkers; indigenous and tribal peoples; specific categories of workers; and final articles Conventions.

Origins of ILO and its Conventions

Conventions are a part of the international labour standards and all nations that accept them must apply them to their laws. Many of the Conventions date back to the beginning of the ILO. The ILO was created in 1919, “as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War 1, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

The term peace well describes their goals because they seek a peaceful global workforce where no one is exploited or put to work in dangerous circumstances. The Constitution was drafted in the same year the ILO was created by the Labour Commission set up by the Peace Conference. According to Encyclopedia Britannica (2012), the Constitution signifies “the body of doctrines and practices that form the fundamental organizing principle of a political state.” Furthermore, a treaty which establishes an international organization is also its Constitution in that it would define how that organization is constituted.

Advocacy for an international organization dealing with labour issues dates back to the nineteenth century. Therefore, the ILO is not the first and only organization who recognized the importance of dealing with worldwide labour issues. However, they are the first organization to take significant actions to make a change. The ILO formed after considering the security, humanitarian, political and economic problems of the world.

The ILO Constitution’s Preamble says “the High Contracting Parties were moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by desire to secure the permanent peace of the world (International Labour Organization, 2012).” The ILO’s mission has remained consistent as most of the areas of improvement listed in the Preamble remain relevant today. For example, regulations of the hours of work including the establishment of a maximum working day, dates back to the beginning of the ILO.

International Labour Standards Directly Concerning Child Labour

Some international labour standards deal with the issue of child labour directly, while others do indirectly. “Elimination of child labour and protection of children and young persons” deals directly with the issue of child labour as the title suggests. This is the labour standard number three which has four fundamental Conventions on child labour and related Recommendations. The four Conventions include the Minimum Age Convention created in 1973 (“No. 138”), Minimum Age Recommendation created in 1973 (“No. 146”), Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention created in 1999 (“No. 182”), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation created in 1999 (“No.190”).

The Minimum Age Convention is concerning the minimum age for admission to employment. Convention 138 (“C138”) was created on the fifty-eighth session of the Governing Body of the International Labour Office. The goal of this Convention was to establish a general instrument on the subject, which would gradually replace the existing ones applicable to limited economic sectors (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

Previously there had been Minimum Age Conventions for certain industries and areas where people could work. For example, Minimum Age Sea Convention or the Minimum Age Non-Industrial Employment Convention. Instead of focusing on every sector individually, the Governing Body came up with a specific Minimum Age Convention concerning all children and all forms of work.

This Convention includes eighteen judicial articles in which the nations that ratify this Convention must follow. The Minimum Age Recommendations include fourteen national policies for which nations can follow but are not bound to by law. The Recommendations mostly explain what countries should do to follow the articles of the Convention itself. For example, national policy one says “high priority should be given to planning for and meeting the needs of children and youth in national development policies and programmes…” This Convention is regarded as being of high importance because in the past, children as young as five years old became child labourers.

The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. Convention 182 (“C182”) was created at the eighty-seventh Session of the Governing Body of the International Labour Office. The goal of this Convention and its sixteen articles is in a sense created to compliment the Convention and Recommendation concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment.

The Governing Body was “considering the need to adopt new instruments for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, as the main priority for national and international action (International Labour Organization, 2012).” In other words, they needed solutions to the problem and recognizing that child labour is to an extent caused by poverty. Therefore, “long-term solution lies in sustained economic growth leading to social progress, in particular poverty alleviation and universal education (International Labour Organization, 1973).”

This Convention really pushes nations that ratify it to take actions in eliminating the worst forms of child labour. The most notable articles state “the term child shall apply to all persons under the age of 18,” and “each Member shall, after consultation with employers' and workers' organizations, establish or designate appropriate mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the provisions giving effect to this Convention.” Overall, all the articles of this Convention are instructing the members about what they must do in detail and the processes for these actions are to begin immediately.

The second part to the Elimination of Child Labour and Protection of Children and Young Persons labour standard is “Protection of Children and Young Persons.” This is mostly “Up-to-date instruments” which means these Conventions were created between 1919 and 1965 and therefore needed to be revised and updated. These Conventions include the Medical Examination of Young Persons, Minimum Age, and Night Work of Young Persons. It is important for the Governing Body to go over previous Conventions and address the changes that need to be made or have been made in order to monitor the progress.

Nearly all international labour standards have an impact on child labour in one way or another. For example, “Equality of Opportunity and Treatment” is an international labour standard that concerns all individuals. If an adult is treated with equality, gets the opportunities and treatment that they deserve, their children will not have to earn a living and can pursue an education. This opens up doors for the following generations of children where they can receive education because their parents have good jobs.

Relatively, this connects to the international labour standard of “Forced Labour” because the ILO’s evidence suggests that children and families as a whole are often forced into labour. The reasons can include unpaid debts, poverty, or any other reason from the list of causes of child labour. Therefore, these individuals face mistreatment and are often neglected from their basic human rights. Since these international labour standards connect with one another, it helps the cause because even if one of them is accepted by a Member State, it automatically helps another problem that we may be unaware of.

ILO Defining the Problem

The ILO’s statistics indicate that there are tremendous amounts of children working in hazardous conditions around the world. These statistics verify that child labour is indeed a global problem and not something that is isolated to certain areas of the world. The majority of child labour is in Asia with sixty one percent, followed by Africa with thirty two percent, and Latin America with seven percent (UNICEF, 2011). However, developed countries are no exception. For example, in the United States there are over two hundred thirty thousand children working in agriculture and thirteen thousand working in sweat shops. These numbers are tremendously high even though “national and international laws make the use of child labour a crime (Goodweave, 2012).”

Despite these figures, there are international laws which prohibit child labour, but the question is, are they enforced? The ILO says that “not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination.” This means that children helping out their parents, doing something that does not affect their health and personal development, and does not interfere with their schooling, is generally a good thing. The ILO says the term “child labour” is often defined as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”

The ILO descriptively describes what they target as far as child labour practices goes. They are targeting mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous work which is harmful to children. Besides, this also interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school. Work and employers are often obliging children to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work (International Labour Organization, 2012).

ILO classifies the most extreme forms of child labour as children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to hazards and illnesses, and left to fend for themselves. In all cases, these children are being isolated and taught that work is something they should cherish. Whether or not forms of work can be called child labour “depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries (International Labour Organization, 2012).” The simple but terrifying fact that child labour is harmful shows it must be eliminated.

Causes of Child Labour

Can eliminating the causes of child labour end child labour? Yes. This seems like the logical answer but in reality the problem is much more complicated for a simple formula to solve. What makes things even more difficult are all the variables and factors involved in child labour. This includes a combination of causes, consequences, and the impact of child employment. Poverty is a dominant factor in the use of child labour where families that are on or below the poverty line often have to force their children into work. The “Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation” (ECLT, 2011) suggests that there are many factors that drive children into employment. Until these reasons are fully understood, the problems associated with child labour cannot be addressed.

The ECLT suggests the major causes of child labour begin with cuts in social spending which has a direct impact on education and health services. This also impacts poverty which is arguably the biggest cause of child labour. One factor can have an impact on another factor which makes eliminating child labour even tougher for international organizations like the ILO. In many cases, the entire family may have to work to meet a quota.

This is common in agriculture. Children may be expected to act as unpaid domestic servants in their own home. Another major cause of child labour is the HIV/AIDS epidemic which is spread throughout many developing countries. This has resulted in orphans who are forced to become their own breadwinners. This becomes a case of survival for these children who end up living on a day to day basis.

The demand for cheap labour by contractors means that children are offered work in place of their parents. Parents often become sick working in hazardous conditions and the children become the providers. On the other hand, children may be sent into hazardous jobs where parents cannot afford to become ill or injured. Children are often forced to do certain types of work where they do not have a choice. For example, child soldiers are forcibly enlisted into military service. In many cases, employers justify that children have small hands which are vital in certain product production like knotted carpets.

The international sex trade places great value on child prostitutes where girls are usually kidnapped from their homes. In most cases, children are exploited because most young workers are unaware of their rights and less likely to complain or revolt. Therefore, child labour is often desirable to employers.

The United Nations (UN, 2011) found child labour and child marriages among displaced Central African families. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) surveyed families in Central Africa in which he found thirty three percent of children were being used as child labour and thirty percent of girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen were being sold into marriage. Some notable facts include the fact that there is insecurity, a lack of health services, shortage of food, poverty, and a lack of housing.

The causes of child labour which are mentioned by the ECLT and the ILO are evident in this research done by the United Nations. Displaced families interviewed by the UNHCR said “they married their underage daughters to members of the host communities and sent children to farm and fish for these communities in exchange for housing, food or money (UN, 2011).” It is quite evident that some families do not have any options and have to make sacrifices. This is the reason why international organizations have to take different approaches in eliminating child labour.

While looking at the bigger picture in learning the causes of child labour, world events cannot be ruled out. War is a major cause of child labour. One would think the only association between war and child labour is child soldiers, but this has not been the case. The ILO’s mission on raising awareness is why they have created documentaries highlighting the causes of child employment from global events which take place. After the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism, Eastern Europe saw a huge increase in child labour.

Therefore, there are political aspects associated with child labour, as well as sociological. In Eastern Europe, conditions became harsh and many children began to suffer from diseases such as atypical dermatitis, allergenic dermatitis, and many other skin diseases. These issues being identified belong solely to the agriculture industry.

Different regions have different impacts on child labourers and different industries leave different diseases for them to live with, and often die from. An Eastern European woman interviewed by the ILO (2006) says “maybe we as parents are guilty, but what could we do? It is hard for us as well.” In many cases, the whole family needs to work because they rather work under harsh conditions then die from hunger. This is only one of the many major causes that the ILO has discovered.

Wherever child labour exists, exploitation is often very visible. Many employers are aware of the situation that these families are in and take advantage. For example, employers put families including children to work in illegal mines that are left abandoned. Some families have gone beyond sending their own children to work […] Mykhailo Volynets, member of independent Ukrainian Trade Union, describes, “several years ago, in the town of Snezhnoe, one large family adopted 10 children from an orphanage and made them work in an illegal mine during the nights (International Labour Organization, 2006).” Mr. Volynets then took the initiative to have the children returned to the orphanage.

The ILO further recognizes that in some European countries, the orphanages themselves have been a problem. Yuriy Pavlenko, minister of Youth, Family Affairs, and Sport, says “our main priority is to develop family forms of upbringing and gradually eliminate the orphanage systems of raising orphaned children (International Labour Organization, 2006).” This creates a standard of living which many families are missing and takes away the opportunity for them to be exploited.

In Ukraine, the ILO says that the Roma minority is often the ones working in poor paying and heavy work industries such as brick making. Furthermore, “the Roma suffer from discrimination, meaning it’s particularly hard for them to find decent work.” As bad as it is for this minority, they are only an example of exploitation in the global workforce. What does all this teach children?

They are taught that caste determines their lifestyle. Furthermore, children are often encouraged to earn a living rather than go to school. It is society as a whole in most of the child labour regions of the world that encourages children to earn a living. Families who do not send their children to school will never get the opportunity to get a good job and earn higher incomes. Therefore, their future will remain the same where they live to survive. This is the harsh reality that many working children face.

Many families have left country sides and gone to cities and found themselves begging for money. Child labour further influences criminal activity where children have to steal to survive. Adrian Vulpescu, a psychologist interviewed by the ILO (2006) says “begging is closely related to petty crime. It’s a first step, the first step towards crime because it’s easy to shift from begging and depending on people’s charity to spotting a wallet, an opened car or an unlocked door.”

The ILO demonstrates with evidence that the problem of child labour only extends from one issue to another. However, change is on its way, in Ukraine for example, the ILO has worked with local governments and NGO’s and have begun to take children away from the worst forms of child labour. It all begins with identifying child labour, then understanding the consequences, raising awareness, and finally, stopping it by creating laws that are to be enforced.

Consequences of Child Labour

Understanding the causes of child labour is not enough to eliminate the use of child labour. It is the evidence of the consequences that has international organizations attempting to eliminate child labour. In other words, if child labour is not harmful to children, then why would international organizations attempt to eliminate it? Evidence has made it clear that nearly all forms of child labour do not do any good to a child’s life. Child labour does not secure a child’s future and is often only for a day to day survival purpose.

The ECLT (2011) states, “child labour does more than deprive children of their education and mental and physical development, their childhood is stolen.” Child labourers, according to ECLT may be unaware of the short and long term risks involved in their work. Many child labourers are often denied basic school education, normal social interaction, personal development and emotional support from their families. All this has a negative impact on them.

The ECLT and the ILO suggest the consequences of child labour include physical injuries and mutilations caused by badly maintained machinery, and machete accidents in plantations. Additionally, there are many hazards encountered in industries such as mining, ceramics, and firework manufacturing. Pesticide poisoning is one of the biggest killers of child labourers. The global death toll each year from pesticides is approximately fourty thousand. Growth deficiency is prevalent among working children which tends to keep them shorter and lighter than other children. These deficiencies also impact their adult life. Not only do short term consequences of child labour exist, but long term as well.

Long-term health problems, such as respiratory disease, asbestosis, and a variety of cancers are common in countries where children are forced to work with dangerous chemicals. HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are among the one million children forced into prostitution every year. Pregnancy, drug addiction, and mental illness are also common among child prostitutes. Exhaustion and malnutrition are a result of underdeveloped children performing heavy manual labour and working long hours in unbearable conditions. On top of these harsh working conditions, they do not earn enough to feed themselves adequately.

Sociological Aspects

The ILO has always focused on promoting universal concern while eliminating child labour at the local level. Universal compulsory education is the most effective response to child labour because generally, the incidence of child labour is greatest and the level of exploitation highest where provisions for universal schooling are weakest (International Labour Organization, 2012). The sociological aspects of the problem indicate that the people that are excluded from “mainstream” society including ethnic minorities, tribal groups and lower castes, are most likely as a matter of survival to resort to child labour.

A study done on the sociological aspects of child labour in Madras city indicates that in forty-six percent of child labour cases, there was under employment or unemployment in the families. Forty percent of fathers were alcoholics. The dropout rate was sixty-four percent. The reasons for employment of these children were “parental incapacitation, discontinuation of education because of bad performance at school, alcoholic fathers and poverty (Sundari & Natarajan & Ananthakrishna, 2010).” The ILO recognizes these sociological aspects as causes of child labour and for that reason have created awareness-raising campaigns.

They also suggest that economic development itself should reduce child labour because richer countries can spend more on education and social welfare services. Most of these issues and aspects are interconnected and have results on each other. The ILO also emphasizes that child labour will not disappear overnight and it is not simply possible to get rid of it by increasing industrialization. Child labour issues “should be more systematically integrated into social and economic development policies, programmes and budgets (International Labour Organization, 2012).” The ILO wants the progress to be more organized, that way they can monitor progress accordingly.

ILO and Customary Law

Unlike other forms of labour concerns, child labour is one domain that captures the attention of everyone. The reason behind this is mainly because children are very vulnerable. On the international level, the question of child labour has been the object of particular interest, not only for governmental organizations but also non-governmental organizations, international organizations, the general public, syndicates as well as the authors of doctrines. One would believe that international organizations, such as the ILO, would be focused on illuminating child labour in general but the truth is that they are concentrated on eliminating the pires forms of child labour.

There are certain forms and practices of child labour that are prohibited by customary law and by associations. In cases where there are prohibitions to forced work or work that is related to slavery it is considered a customary statute. In such cases, kids doing work that is forced or work that is related to slavery will equally be considered as prohibited. Also, the prohibition respecting sale and trafficking of a child, prostitution, drug trafficking, as well as work that threatens the health, or the security of a child are considered to be customary standards. In general, when it comes to labour the customary standards include the worst forms of work for children. World Day against Child Labour

Among the many major international organizations that are involved in trying to end the use of child labour is the International Initiative to End Child Labour (IIECL). This organization does everything they can to bring focus on the subject and make it known. Therefore, by creating campaigns, they are raising awareness. For example, the “Children in the Fields” campaign has a particular focus on ending hazardous child labor in agriculture internationally. “Education Works” is a campaign to promote education programming that is child-centered for children and youth, particularly those who have dropped out of school (International Initiative to End Child Labour, 2012).

“Be an Advocate” campaign is on the “World Day against Child Labor.” The IIECL is a strong supporter of the work that ILO does. IIECL takes part in the “World Day against Child Labour,” which is on June 12 annually. This day is “intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour, reflected in the huge number of ratifications of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

The first World Day against Child Labour took place in 2002. The World Day against Child Labour provides international organizations with the opportunity to gain further support of individual governments and social partners, civil society, schools, youth and women’s groups, and the media. It is a day that highlights the problems the children of the world face in terms of their work and the effects it has on them. In 2010, the international community adopted a “Roadmap for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016 (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

This stresses the fact that child labour is a barrier to children’s rights and development. On World Day 2012, the ILO intends to use the day to make the Roadmap a reality. This Roadmap is a part of the ILO’s future plans to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Their goal is to place priority on the worst forms of child labour which are the most harmful to child labourers.

ILO’s Plans in Progress

The Roadmap that the ILO has put together has two parts in which the process is taking place. Part one is “Principles and Actions,” and part two is “Promotion of the Roadmap and Monitoring of Progress.” The preamble states that ILO is pushing for a new momentum for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016 “as agreed upon by the ILO tripartite constituents in the Global Action Plan.”

The mapping of this Roadmap has been done by representatives from governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, non-governmental and other civil society organizations, and regional and international organizations. It is an understanding and an agreement to which all these representatives agreed upon. Single-handedly, this is a success which demonstrates the variety of people who see the importance of this Roadmap. This is also an opportunity for everyone involved to see the progress that has been made since the adoption of the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention.

According to the ILO, the action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour is “most effective and sustainable when it is situated within action to eliminate all child labour, including through area-based and sector-based programmes (International Labour Organization, 2012).” The ILO acknowledges that the effective abolition of child labour is a moral necessity. They further make certain that all its members have an obligation to respect, promote, and realize that principle. After all, an organization or party cannot obtain success unless all its members share a vision. Keeping all members motivated to eliminating child labour is creating an army in a sense with a mentality to obtain its goal no matter what.

The ILO notes that over the past decade action against the worst forms of child labour has been implemented in all parts of the world. This has led to significant progress. Furthermore, this shows that the fight can be won “with sound policy choices and substantial national and international resource commitments, and when capitalizing on new opportunities, such as the G-20 summits and the Global Jobs Pact (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

Requirements of the Plans in Progress

Collecting more data is very important for understanding which sectors need to be of high priority. This allows the ILO to focus their attention where needed. For example, ILO’s data suggests that the highest incidence of child labour is in agriculture with sixty percent, followed by services with twenty six percent. They understand the need of more data collection “covering hard-to-reach children including in domestic work, slavery, sexual exploitation and illicit activities (International Labour Organization, 2006).” These sectors also include the harshest conditions for the children to live in. Furthermore, they recognize more than ever before, political leadership is needed as they are accelerating the process to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. On an overall level, with this Roadmap, the ILO is really pushing for international cooperation from all members if they want to see results.

Part one of the Roadmap begins with guiding principles where it states the responsibilities of governments and also mentions actions. The ILO says the governments’ actions should be guided in a policy priority fashion. Therefore, they must begin by working towards implementation of the ILO Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at work. Moreover, full implementation of the ILO’s Conventions addressing child labour. The ILO also informs all governments to adopt and enforce national legislation against child labour, “ensuring that these rights are respected for all children without exception (International Labour Organization, 2012).”

The ILO encourages governments to enforce appropriate sanctions against perpetrators of the worst forms of child labour. They want governments to strengthen the inspection and monitoring of machinery, and document court cases. Recognizing the fact that education and training is the key for these children to find opportunities, it plays a big part in this Roadmap. Governments must extend and improve access to free, compulsory, and quality education for all children. Acknowledging the fact that many children cannot financially afford to attend school, the ILO urges governments to adopt strategies to get rid of costs that represent a barrier to education.

This opens doors for the many poor families who never got the opportunity to get an education because of their financial circumstances. Furthermore, the ILO wants governments to adopt strategies to offer scholarships and school meal programmes which once again provide aid to many poor families. This is further supported by the Convention No.182.

As evidence has suggested time and time again, poverty is often the cause of child labour around the world. Therefore, there are social problems which the ILO addresses in this Roadmap. Governments must implement strategies, policies, and programmes that “offer access to and delivery of social and health services to vulnerable and socially excluded households, hard-to-reach children, and children with special needs.” This combats the problem of discrimination which is also evident through ILO’s interviews and which contributes to child labour.

These issues go hand in hand with the need for social protection where there are cash transfer schemes, public works, access to credit, insurance and savings schemes. This is why the ILO also urges governments to create these opportunities for the people. The reason why the ILO is urging and forcing governments to take these actions in this Roadmap is because they cannot govern every individual nation. Therefore, this is an effective way to gain support and make sure changes take place.

In order to create opportunities for children, the ILO wants governments to support employment creation and promote decent and productive work for adults and young people of working age. The jobs must be consistent with the fundamental principles and rights of work. It is easier to gain support of governments throughout the world with this Roadmap as it does not only combat child labour, but strengthens the futures of nations with stronger economies and better policies. This gives nations a better reputation on a global scale.

The fact that this will reduce wars and political struggles around the world is a whole other story. Therefore, it is quite clear that the ILO’s goal to end child labour is also in favor of creating a more solid foundation for all the governments of the world to operate in.

The second part of the Roadmap compliments the first because it is important to monitor the progress of the changes that have been made. You cannot create a law, and have no one enforcing it, monitoring it, or promoting it. Among the forms of following up in the progress includes “annual tripartite meetings and national initiatives to monitor progress… taking into account national action plans and other time-bound measures (International Labour Organization, 2012).” The ILO created the “Global Leaders against Child Labour Initiative” in order to promote the Roadmap globally.

This is the first time the ILO is pushing for all these International Labour Standards and Conventions to come into play consecutively at this level. The ILO is urging governments to enforce the Conventions and create their own laws accordingly to protect them.

International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)

The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) was created in 1992 by the ILO with its sole purpose of eliminating the worst forms of child labour. The programme operates in more than twenty countries and their goal is to strengthen the capability of individual countries to deal with the problem. At the same time, they are promoting a worldwide movement to combat child labour (International Labour Organization, 2012).

IPEC has hundreds of action programmes that have been implemented and their objectives include “preventing child labour, withdrawing children from exploitative and hazardous work and providing them with alternatives, and improving working conditions as a transitional measure towards the elimination of child labour (International Labour Organization, 2012).” According to the results attained, tens of thousands of working children have directly benefited from the programmes. Progress has also been made in legal reform and enforcement because many countries have ratified the minimum age Convention.

IPEC takes on the ILO’s mission as they continue to work on getting rid of the worst forms of child labour. They have achieved this in several ways beginning by promoting policy reform through country based programmes. They have built institutional capacity and put in place concrete measures to end child labour. They have changed social attitudes through raising awareness and promoting ratification and effective implementation of ILO’s Conventions.

IPEC’s efforts have resulted in “hundreds of thousands of children being withdrawn from work and rehabilitated or prevented from entering the workforce (UN, 2012).” Furthermore, they have done substantial in-debt statistical and qualitative research, policy and legal analysis, programme evaluation and child labour monitoring. This has accumulated a knowledge base of statistical data and methodologies, thematic studies, good practices, guidelines and training materials (UN, 2012). Thus, the ILO’s strategies have made significant progress and changes in the international workforce.

Effectiveness of International Labour Law

Since the ILO has been putting forward Conventions and laws for nations to follow, nations themselves have been adjusting their national laws to stop child labour. For example, the Commission for Labor Cooperation which works closely with the ILO has issued a “Guide to Child Labour Laws in Canada.” This guide gives detailed information about where a child is allowed to work, at what hours of the day a child can work, how many hours a day a child is allowed to work, and in which industries.

Since there are provincial and territorial differences, all child labour laws do not apply in the same way. There are different restrictions for each region and telephone numbers for people to get more information. Every nation has their own version of these laws, and many nations may have had to adjust their laws to meet the expectations of the international treaties they signed.

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, the minimum age laws in Canada have not yet ratified the ILO’s Convention 138. The Federal Legislation of Canada allows children under the age of seventeen to work if the work does not endanger their health or safety. Furthermore, children are not allowed to work night shifts which begin at eleven PM and end at six AM. “Employment of children in federally-regulated industries would require permission from a Labour Standards Officer (Canadian Labour Congress, 2012).”

Provincial Legislation does not comply with C138 either. For example, the province of Alberta allows twelve to fourteen year olds to work but only with the written consent of one parent or guardian. The employment of children under the age of twelve is prohibited. General restrictions vary on the ages of children, including working hours, safety checklists, and other qualifications that children must pass. C138 states the minimum age of employment should not be less than fifteen years (Canadian Labour Congress, 2012).

This is the reason why Canada has not ratified this Convention, but that does not mean it does not protect its children. After all, the goal is to protect the children from harm and offer them educational opportunities which Canada does. Recognizing the importance of the regulations the ILO has been pushing for, Canada has processes of its own to protect the children of its nation.

The ILO has faced its share of challenges, for they did not accomplish everything simply by luck. The major challenge they have faced is the law enforcement of Conventions. Many of the Conventions set up by the ILO are not taken seriously by many companies. This includes safety standards and equality at the workplace. Despite the challenges, the ILO has had plenty of outstanding achievements.

The ILO’s efforts have resulted in them receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969 (EconomyWatch, 2010). They have managed to get the Code of Practice on HIV and the World of Work printed and distributed in 30 languages. It is also safe to say that the ILO has opened the eyes of individuals globally. They influenced and resulted in the creation of many smaller organizations that fight child labour in their own ways.

Child labour has been on the decline for over two decades and continues to decline modestly. ILO’s statistics indicate that there was a four percent reduction from 2004 to 2008 in the number of child labourers. The report prior to that, from 2000 to 2004, indicates that there had been a ten percent decline. The amount of children working in hazardous conditions has declined by thirty-one percent. Among all of the positive changes in child labour is a twenty percent increase in the fifteen to seventeen age group. Other than that, the effectiveness of international labour standards is evident through the ILO’s statistics. The goal of targeting the worst forms of child labour as a priority has worked well.


“For over a decade, child labour has been recognized as a key issue of human rights at work together with freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of forced labour, and non-discrimination in occupation and employment (International Labour Organization, 2012).” No international organization has fought for the elimination of child labour like the ILO has. This organization has never snoozed since it formed almost a century ago. They have continuously used various techniques including raising awareness, creating international laws, and getting a variety of people involved worldwide to fight child labour.

One only wonders how much worse the situation for children globally would been if this organization had not formed. Child labour was only increasing prior to the creation of the ILO. Now the evidence clearly indicates that conditions are only getting better year by year. Their systematic approach has proved affective. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that the ILO is not out of the fight but only increasing its intensity as time goes on.


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