On 12 June 2012, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrated the 10th anniversary of the World Day Against Child Labour. The Day did not only provide an opportunity to raise awareness around the protection of children from labour or any other violation of their fundamental human rights, but also to see what kind of progress has been made since the adoption of the Roadmap for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016,” adopted by the international community in 2010. In addition, it was an opporunity to addres the lack of implementation of international standards. It encouraged governments to collaborate with with employers’ and workers’ organizations as well as civil society to adddress the existing implementation gap.
For instance, the effective abolition of child labour is included in the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. For instance, ILO Convention 138 (1973) states that each State has to pursue a national policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of child labour and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment. ILO Convention 182 (1999) on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour defines the worst forms of child labour, including illicit practices and child prostitution. Besides these two Convention that specifically focus on child labour, other more general international standards that aim to protect the rights of children also exist, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and the two additional and facultative protocols.
Despite these legal provisions, ILO’s World of Work Report 2010 warned that there were 215 million child labourers all around the world and more than half of them face the worst forms of labour. Although the number of child labourers among children aged 5-14 fell with 10% and among girls with 15%, progress is only relative. Children aged 15-17, for example, faced an increase of 20%, with the majority being victims of the worst forms of child labour. Concerning the geographical division of child labour, the ILO noted a decrease in the number of child labourers in Southeast Asia and Latin America (one in eight children are working) while it found an increase in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in four children are working. Agriculture remains the most affected sector, incorporating 60% of the world’s child labourers. In a reaction, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) called child labour a human rights abuse and an obstacle to the sustainable development of agriculture and food security.
To effectively address the situation of child labourers, the ILO calls for:
Universal ratification of the ILO’s Conventions on child labour (and of all ILO core Conventions):
National policies and programmes to ensure effective progress in the elimination of child labour:
Action to build the worldwide movement against child labour.
In addition, the access to education for boys and girls needs to be enhanced, so that they can become better prepared to enter the world of work in adulthood and break away from the poverty cycle.
The World Day Against Child Labour was celebrated in different countries and continents through the organization of events, such as high level policy debates, public debates, media events, cultural performances and other public activities involving various stakeholders and giving an important space to children who participated in many of the activities.
In Geneva, for example, the Day was celebrated during ILO’s International Labour Conference, during which ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) presented its activity report (2010-2011). This report shows that IPEC has supported and implemented a wide range of actions for the elimination of child labour, including technical assistance, global advocacy and advancing the knowledge base. It also directly helped child labourers and their families in some of the worlds poorest countries.
It is expected that in 2012 another global report on the subject will be published. In 2013, Brazil will host a follow-up Global Child Labour Conference to measure progress in implementing the aforementioned Roadmapand its objectives for 2016.
This article is available in Spanish.