• World
  • Jun 12

Explainer - 25 years of adoption of the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention’

• The International Labour Organisation (ILO) observes ‘World Day Against Child Labour’ on June 12 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. 

• The Day brings together governments, employers and workers organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.

What is child labour?

• Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. 

• Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. 

• These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families. They provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

• Child labour is work carried out to the detriment and endangerment of a child, in violation of international law and national legislation. It either deprives children of schooling or requires them to assume the dual burden of schooling and work.

• Child labour to be eliminated is a subset of children in employment. 

It includes:

i) All “unconditional” worst forms of child labour, such as slavery or practices similar to slavery, the use of a child for prostitution or for illicit activities.

ii) Work done by children under the minimum legal age for that type of work, as defined by national legislation in accordance with international standards.

• The worst forms of child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. 

• Whether or not particular 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. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.

Minimum age of admission to employment

• The minimum age of admission to employment is critical in protecting children from all forms of child labour and exploitation. It also takes into account the positive dimensions for adolescents to contribute to society in conditions that do not impair their development, health and education.

• Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (ILO Convention No. 138) sets the general minimum age for admission to employment or work at 15 years (13 for light work) and the minimum age for hazardous work at 18 (16 under certain strict conditions). It provides for the possibility of initially setting the general minimum age at 14 (12 for light work) where the economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed.

Prevalence of child labour

• Since 2000, for nearly two decades, the world had been making steady progress in reducing child labour. But over the past few years, conflicts, crises and the COVID-19 pandemic, have plunged more families into poverty and forced millions more children into child labour. 

• Economic growth has not been sufficient, nor inclusive enough, to relieve the pressure that too many families and communities feel and that makes them resort to child labour. 

• A total of 160 million children — 63 million girls and 97 million boys — are in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in ten of all children worldwide. 

• Nearly half of all those in child labour — 79 million children — are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development.

• There has been a significant increase in the number of child workers aged 5 to 11, who currently account for more than half of the number of child workers in the world. 

• Africa ranks highest among regions both in the percentage of children in child labour — one-fifth — and the absolute number of children in child labour — 72 million. 

• Asia and the Pacific ranks second highest in both these measures — 7 per cent of all children and 62 million in absolute terms are in child labour in this region.

• The Africa and the Asia and the Pacific regions together account for almost nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide. 

• The remaining child labour population is divided among the Americas (11 million), Europe and Central Asia (6 million), and the Arab States (1 million). 

• In terms of incidence, 5 per cent of children are in child labour in the Americas, 4 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, and 3 per cent in the Arab States.

• While the percentage of children in child labour is highest in low-income countries, their numbers are actually greater in middle-income countries. 

• About 9 per cent all children in lower-middle-income countries, and 7 per cent of all children in upper-middle-income countries, are in child labour. 

• Statistics on the absolute number of children in child labour in each national income grouping indicate that 84 million children in child labour, accounting for 56 per cent of all those in child labour, actually live in middle-income countries, and an additional 2 million live in high-income countries.

25 years of adoption of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention

• This year’s ‘World Day Against Child Labour’ focuses on celebrating the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention’.

• It calls for effective implementation of the ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. 

• All 187 countries that are members of the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) have ratified the  convention to protect children from the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, prostitution and trafficking.

• The Convention was adopted by ILO member states meeting in Geneva in June 1999.

• Formally known as Convention No. 182, the treaty achieved universal ratification in August 2020, making it the most rapidly ratified Convention in the UN agency’s history.

• Ending child labour has been one of the main goals of the ILO, which was founded in 1919.

• Most child labour takes place in the agriculture sector, mainly due to poverty and parents’ difficulties in finding decent work.

• Convention No. 182 calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, which includes slavery, forced labour and trafficking.

What are the worst forms of child labour?

• The concept of the worst forms of child labour includes both hazardous work and other forms of child labour. Hazardous child labour represents the most common category of the worst forms of child labour.

• The worst forms of child labour, as defined by ILO Convention No. 182, include:

• All forms of slavery, or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, and forced or compulsory labour (including the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict). 

• The use, procurement or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances.

• The use, procurement or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs, as defined in the relevant international treaties. 

• Any hazardous work (which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children).

• Hazardous work undertaken by children is considered to be any activity or occupation that, by its nature or type, has or leads to adverse effects on the child’s safety, health (physical or mental) and moral development.

• A majority of countries have adopted legislation to prohibit or place severe restrictions on the employment and work of children, much of it following ratification of the child labour Conventions. 

• In spite of these efforts, child labour continues to exist on a massive scale, sometimes in appalling conditions, particularly in the developing world. This is because child labour is an immensely complex issue. It cannot be made to disappear simply by the stroke of a pen.

• Nevertheless, the basis of determined and concerted action must be legislation, which sets the total elimination of child labour as the ultimate goal of policy, and puts measures into place for this purpose, and which explicitly identifies and prohibits the worst forms of child labour to be eliminated as a matter of priority.

Child labour in India

• The problem of child labour continues to pose a challenge before the nation. The government has been taking various pro-active measures to tackle this problem. 

• However, considering the magnitude and extent of the problem and that it is essentially a socio-economic problem inextricably linked to poverty and illiteracy, it requires concerted efforts from all sections of the society to make a dent in the problem.

• According to the Census 2001 figures there are 1.26 crore working children in the age group of 5-14 as compared to the total child population of 25.2 crore. 

• As per survey conducted by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2004-05, the number of working children is estimated at 90.75 lakh. As per Census 2011, the number of working children in the age group of 5-14 years has further reduced to 43.53 lakh.

• The government has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 which came into force on September 1, 2016.

• The amended Act is now called the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) [CALPR] Act, 1986. The Act provides for complete prohibition of work or employment of children below 14 years in any occupation and process and adolescents in the age group of 14 to 18 years in hazardous occupations and processes. The amendment also provides for stricter punishment of employers for violation of the Act and made the offence as cognizable.

• After strengthening the legislative framework through amendment in Child Labour Act, the government has framed the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017 which inter alia specifies the duties and responsibilities of state governments and district authorities to ensure effective enforcement of the provisions of the Act.

Constitutional provisions for children in India

Constitutional provisions for children, provided under the Constitution of India, are affected/contravened when a child is found in street situations. 

These provisions are:

• Article 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

• Article 15(3): Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.

• Article 21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

• Article 21(A): The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

• Article 23(1): Traffic in human beings and beggary and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

• Article 24: No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

• Article 38(1): The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of  national life.

• Article 39: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing…(e)…the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

• Article 39(f): ...Children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

• Article 45: The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

Manorama Yearbook app is now available on Google Play Store and iOS App Store

Related Topics