The International Labor Organization (ILO) sets and monitors the application of international labor standards, including child labor standards.
According to ILO C 138, "child labor" refers to any work performed by children under the age of 12, non-"light" work done by children ages 12-14, and "hazardous" work done by children ages 15-17.22 "Light work" should not a) harm a child's health and development or b) interfere with attendance at school. Child labor excludes a few hours of "light work" a week done by children 12-14 years olds and non-hazardous work done by children 15 years old and above. Child labor is a narrower concept than "economic activity".
ILO C 182 calls for the urgent elimination of the "worst forms of child labor": the "unconditional worst forms of child labor" (See Table 1); and "hazardous work" - any activity which, by its nature, has, or leads to, adverse effects on the child's safety, health (physical or mental), and moral development.24 For instance, mining and construction, or work with heavy machinery or exposure to pesticides. The list of hazardous work must be determined at the national level. (For stipulations on hazardous work see ILO Recommendation No. 190, Section II.3)
International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC)
|International Instrument, date of entry into force
|The Right to be Protected from Economic Exploitation
|ILO Minimum Age Convention
138 (C138), 197325
- The minimum age for entry into work should not be less than 15 years* and not less than the age of
completing compulsory schooling.
- *or 14 for countries "whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed"
- "Light work" is allowed for children from the age of 12 in a developing country.
- The minimum age for hazardous work that is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons is 18.
|Ratified by 135 countries, excluding the U.S.
|UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), September 199026
- Defines a "child" as "below the age of 18 years"
- Calls states to respect and ensure the given rights to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind.27
- Establishes that a child is "to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development" (Article 32)
- To achieve a child's right to education, states are to make primary education compulsory and available - free to all (Article 28)
- Every child also has a right to play, rest and leisure (Article 31).
|The most widely ratified Convention in the world. Ratified by 192 countries, excluding U.S. and Somalia.
|ILO Worst Forms Convention 182
- Calls for immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the "worst forms of child labor": 1.) All forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, such as child trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labor, including forced recruitment of children into armed conflict; 2.) using a child for prostitution or the production of pornography; 3.) using a child for illicit activities, in particular drug production and trafficking; and 4.) "hazardous work". (Article 3)
- The first three categories are sometimes referred to as the "unconditional worst forms of child labor."
- Child applies to all persons under the age of 18. (Article 2)
|The fastest ratified convention in the history of the ILO. Ratified by 151 countries, including the United States.
IPEC was launched in 1992 to progressively eliminate child labor through strengthening national capacities to address child labor problems and promoting a worldwide movement to combat child labor. While IPEC's goal remains the prevention and elimination of all
forms of child labor, the priority targets for IPEC's action are the worst
forms of child labor, which are defined in Convention No. 182. IPEC also calls for the provision of alternatives for children and families to ensure that children truly benefit from child labor interventions.
Time Bound Program
The Time-Bound Program is one of the means established by IPEC to help countries fulfill their obligations under ILO Convention No. 182 to take immediate and effective time-bound measures
to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labor as a matter of urgency, including:
Implementation of the Time-Bound Program
- prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labor;
- provide direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labor and for their rehabilitation and social integration;
- ensure access to free basic education and appropriate vocational training for all children removed from the worst forms of child labor;
- identify and reach out to children at special risk; and
- take account of the special situation of girls.
El Salvador, Nepal, and Tanzania are the first three countries to implement TBPs. Three other countries, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and the Philippines, started implementation during 2002-03. Eight additional countries have begun the process, namely: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa and Turkey.
The mobilization of resources is a crucial prerequisite for large-scale interventions such as TBPs. As more countries seek to implement TBPs, it is evident that resources need to be pooled from a consortium of several donors. Domestic resources also need to be increased to support programs that contribute to the attainment of TBP goals, for example in the areas of education and poverty reduction.
- Only two of the Big Five countries are among the 14 time-bound countries - Pakistan and Bangladesh
- Only four of the E-9 countries are among the 14 time-bound countries - Brazil, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh
- Ten of the 14 Time-Bound countries (El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey) have out-of-school populations of less than 20 percent.
- Only two of the 14 Time-Bound countries are also Big Five and E-9 countries. If ILO-IPEC would hold national level consultations with the Departments of Labor, Education, and Finance in Pakistan and Bangladesh to rewrite plans to achieve Education for All and work together with these departments to implement an income transfer program on a national level to redirect child laborers to school, then a noticeable dent could be made in the number of child laborers working worldwide.