The Guardian December 6, 2000


ILO: "Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention" comes into force

The global campaign against the worst forms of  child labour received a 
powerful new boost on Sunday November 19, the date when the International 
Labour Organisation's (ILO) Convention No 182 came into force as 
international law. More than 25 per cent of the ILO's 175 member States are 
already formal signatories to the Worst Forms of Child Labour 
Convention.

Its coming into force means that they must take immediate and effective 
action to prohibit and eliminate these forms of child labour which include 
prostitution, pornography, forced recruitment for use in armed conflict and 
use of children in illicit or hazardous activities for all those under 18 
years of age.

Australia has not ratified the Convention, having only just begun (nearly 
one and a half years after its adoption) a consultation process with the 
States.

A spokesperson for Minister Peter Reith's office told The Guardian 
that the Government was not prepared to indicate whether it would be 
prepared to ratify the Convention.

What is more, ILO member States which have not yet ratified Convention No 
182 must, without being bound by each and every one of its provisions, 
still gear their policies towards the effective abolition of child labour.

All member States of the ILO will also be legally bound to report annually 
to the Organisation on their efforts regarding the worst forms of child 
labour, as well as child labour in general as defined under the 
Organisation's other labour standard on child labour, the Minimum Age 
Convention (No 138).

"This is a clear demonstration of the rapidly growing movement to eradicate 
as quickly as possible the most abusive exploitation of children", ILO 
Director-General Juan Somavia said.

"With Convention No 182, the world is declaring that all these forms of 
child labour are morally abhorrent in any society, whatever its 
developmental stage or cultural traditions."

The ILO estimates that some 250 million children aged 5-14 are victims of 
child labour around the world, half of them working full-time. Of these, 
tens of millions are caught in the worst forms.

Prior to November 19, nearly 50* of the ILO's 175 member States  or 25 
per cent of the Organisation's total membership  had ratified the 
Convention, giving it more ratifications than any other Convention in a 
comparable time during the Organisation's 81-year history.

What Convention 182 means

Convention No 182 defines the worst forms of child labour as slavery, debt 
bondage, prostitution, pornography, forced recruitment of children for use 
in armed conflict, use of children in drug trafficking and other illicit 
activities, and all other work harmful or hazardous to the health, safety 
or morals of girls and boys under 18 years of age.

The Convention was adopted unanimously by the International Labour 
Conference on June 17, 1999.

The first ratification was by the Seychelles on September 28, 1999, and the 
second by Malawi on November 19, 1999.

The date of November 19, 2000 thus emerges as its date of coming into 
force, since the Convention itself provides that it would come into force 
12 months after the date of the second ratification.

Convention 138

It is important to differentiate between the Worst Forms of Child Labour 
Convention, and the ILO's other core convention on child labour, the 
"Minimum Age Convention".

The Minimum Age Convention which was adopted by the International Labour 
Conference in 1973 and entered into force in 1976.

It aims at the overall abolition of child labour, rather than focusing on 
its worst forms, and stipulates that the minimum age for admission to 
employment shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory 
schooling.

The recent global mobilisation to eliminate child labour has been reflected 
in the sharply increased ratification rate for the Minimum Age Convention.

The pace of ratifications of this previous convention has increased rapidly 
this year, from only a few per year in the early 1990s. By the end of 
October 2000, 102 ILO member States had ratified Convention No 138.

The text of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention has been in 
existence since its adoption a year ago. Member States were free to take 
action as indicated in its provisions.

However, now that it is "in force" as an international law, a member State, 
which has ratified Convention No.182 and for which it has come into force 
(i.e. 12 months after its own ratification date), becomes bound under 
international law to align its national law and practice to the 
requirements of the Convention.

In addition, a ratifying member State must also report regularly to the ILO 
regarding the application of the Convention and be accountable for 
allegations of violations.

Furthermore, the progress of ratification will be followed closely by the 
ILO Governing Body as part of the ratification campaign for the ILO's 
fundamental Conventions, which the Office has been carrying out since 1995 
following the Copenhagen Social Summit.

Under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 
adopted in 1998, member States which have not ratified the Convention will 
be required for the first time in 2001 to report on their situation with 
regard to respect for the principle of the abolition of the worst forms of 
child labour, and the efforts they have made to this end.

They will be given the opportunity to request technical assistance from the 
ILO.

Impact of Convention No 182

Since the adoption of Convention No. 182, there has been a dramatic 
increase in activity, not only against child labour in its worst forms, but 
also against the practice in general.

For example, the number of countries working with the ILO's International 
Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) has increased 
significantly.

In June 1999, IPEC had 37 participating countries which had signed a 
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and about 30 countries involved in the 
programme in a less formal way. Now, 51 countries have signed the 
Memorandum and 23 are countries associated with IPEC.

Action so far

Highlights of the impact of IPEC can be found around the world.

Just a few examples include Bangladesh, where the National Academy for 
Primary Education introduced a child labour component as a regular feature 
in the training course for all officials of the education department.

In South Africa, the development of a National Plan of Action for the 
eradication of the worst forms is under way.

In Turkey, a projected Five-Year National Development Plan (2001-05) and a 
large integrated programme targeting small-scale industries in Izmir has 
been approved, aiming at the elimination of the worst forms of child labour 
by the year 2004.

In Central American countries, new large-scale projects on commercial 
agriculture and fireworks production are being developed.

In South American countries, new large-scale projects on domestic service, 
child prostitution, mining and child soldiers are under way.

In Chile, for example, five commissions were set up with the mission to 
develop the basic components of a recently formulated National Plan of 
Action on child labour.

In Brazil, the Federal Government announced a US$500 million programme to 
withdraw 866,000 children from the worst forms of child labour by the end 
of 2002.

In El Salvador, Nepal and Tanzania, Time Bound Programmes (TBP) are being 
launched to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in a defined period 
of time.

In legal terms, other activities are being undertaken. In Kenya, the 
harmonisation of laws on children and labour as well as the development of 
a national child labour policy are under way.

In Senegal, national laws and labour codes are being harmonised with 
Convention No 182 and internal legislation on sexual exploitation and 
violence towards minors is being reinforced.

Tanzania is reviewing and updating labour legislation.

Uganda is also reviewing and amending labour codes and laws to harmonise 
them with ILO Conventions Nos 138 and 182.

One example of the impact of Convention No. 182 comes from Indonesia, where 
a particularly hazardous form of child labour on Jermals or fishing 
platforms, has been strongly reduced.

Within a few months after the adoption of the Convention, and a few months 
prior to ratification, Indonesia became one of the first countries to take 
time-bound measures to eliminate the employment of children on such fishing 
platforms.

By the end of 2001, 1,900 children working in the fishing sector in 
selected areas of North Sumatra will have been systematically removed from 
hazardous and exploitative work.

In Nepal, the Kamaiya system of bonded labour which involved children as 
well as adults has been outlawed.

The decision followed a pledge by the same Government in May to eradicate 
bonded child labour within a certain time-frame. The ILO is working with 
the government to ensure that the eradication is sustainable.

* * *
*Countries ratifying: Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen.

Back to index page