World Day Against Child Labour – 12th June

World Day Against Child Labour – 12th June

“This year’s World Day against Child Labour puts the spotlight on the plight of 115 million children involved in hazardous work – more than half of the estimated 215 million child labourers in the world. … It is unacceptable that economic growth and development should permit complacency or resignation about child labour or be premised on the expendability of the lives of the most vulnerable.”

Juan Somavia  Director-General of the International Labour Organization
Message for World Day Against Child Labour, 12 June 2011

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 action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, 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.

The ILO’s adoption of Convention No. 182 in 1999 consolidated the global consensus on child labour elimination. Millions of child labourers have benefited from the Convention, but much remains to be done. The latest figures estimated that 215 million children are trapped in child labour, and 115 million of these children are in hazardous work. The ILO’s member states have set the target for eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016. To achieve this goal requires a major scaling up of effort and commitment.

A future without child labour is at last within reach. Significant progress is being made worldwide in combating child labour. The new global estimates of trends reinforce this message of hope. However, a strong and sustained global movement is needed to provide the extra push towards eliminating the scourge of child labour. This is no time for complacency.


Concerning child labour, the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) requires States to specify in law a minimum age for admission to employment not less than the age of finishing compulsory education, and which in any case, should not be less than 15 years. A member country whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed may under certain conditions initially specify a minimum age of 14 years.2

The ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) calls for “immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency”. The worst forms are defined as:

  • All forms of slavery, or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, as well as forced labour, including forced or compulsory labour, including 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 relevant international treaties.
  • Work which, by its nature or circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children, such harmful work to be determined by national authorities.

Other key international standards and declarations

Over the years, growing awareness of the need to ensure that children receive education and protection has spurred the development of a body of international standards to help guide governments in enacting domestic legislation.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights features the right to education prominently stating that “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available…”

There is near universal ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention states that children have the right to be protected 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. It also states that primary education should be compulsory and available free to all and encourages the development of different forms of secondary education available and accessible to every child. The United Nations General Assembly has also adopted two Optional Protocols to the Convention to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts and from sexual exploitation.3

The importance of protecting fundamental principles and rights at work during the ongoing global financial and jobs crisis was reflected in the communiqué of the G20 Summit held in November 2011 which encouraged the ILO to continue promoting ratification and implementation of the core Conventions ensuring fundamental principles and rights at work.

Ratification and implementation of ILO Conventions on child labour

Although the ILO’s child labour Conventions are among the most widely ratified of ILO Conventions there is a need for countries that have not yet ratified the Conventions to do so, and to ensure their effective implementation. On this World Day we call on all governments that have not already done so to ratify and implement the Conventions.

National policies and programmes

The ILO’s Convention No. 182 requires that each Member which ratifies the Convention shall design and implement programmes of action to eliminate as a priority the worst forms of child labour. Many countries have now established National Action Plans that provide a framework for such efforts. However many other countries have yet to do so and countries that have established plans need to monitor and review their effectiveness. If the challenging target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 is to be achieved, urgent action along these lines is required now!

The worldwide movement against child labour

Although governments must take the lead role in tackling child labour, the ILO standards stress the important role that employers and workers organizations should play in setting and implementing action programmes. Many civil society organizations are also closely involved in efforts to tackle child labour. Building the worldwide movement against child labour at global, national and local level remains a priority.

Join with us on June 12!

The World Day Against Child Labour promotes awareness and action to tackle child labour. Support for the World Day has been growing each year and in 2012 we look forward to a World Day that will again be widely supported.


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