In 2002, the International Labour Organization launched the World Day Against Child Labour. This means that every year, on June 12, we pay extra attention to highlight the issues concerning child labour. Not only are the issues pointed out, but also the actions that are taken to eliminate child labour.

I have just started to read the book Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and it is an excellent read if you want to learn more about (the right to) development.
I have just started to read the book Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and it is an excellent read if you want to learn more about (the right to) development.

What is child labour and how many children are affected?

Just because a person under the age of 18 works, does not mean that it should be considered as child labour. The reason for this is that the labour does not affect the child's health and development in a negative way, or interfere with going to school. The labour is defined as child labour when it deprives the child of its childhood, dignity and development. Child labour means that the work being done is harmful to children, in some way.

There is a difference between child labour and the so-called worst forms of child labour, which include children being separated from their families, enslaved and exposed to serious hazards/illnesses or left to fend for themselves. Other aspects are also relevant; for example under what condition the child is working, what age they are, how many hours of work that is done - but also what the regulations look like in the state involved since regulations differ from state to state.

In 2019, 153 million children are still in child labour according to the United Nations. Of these 153 million children, 73 million children are working in hazardous child labour. Almost half of the 153 million children are 5 to 11 years of age. Approximately 70 percent of child labour occurs within the agricultural sector, even though child labour can be found in nearly every sector. Other sectors heavily involved are the service sector and the industrial sector.

ILO's Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention

The International Labour Organization's (ILO) convention concerning the worst forms of child labour was adopted in 1999. It is considered to be one of the eight core conventions of the ILO. By signing and then ratifying this convention, states are obligated to take the actions needed to prohibit and eliminate the most severe forms of child labour within their jurisdiction. The programme in charge of making sure that states comply and assists states which are in need of help is called the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).

The convention defines the worst forms of child labour as:

Article 3

For the purposes of this Convention, the term the worst forms of child labour comprises:

(a) 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 forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

(b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

(c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

(d) 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.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty concerning children's rights. This is a widely known human rights document and also the treaty which most states have actually signed. The conventions consist of rights which are considered to be of importance when talking about how to protect a child's life and dignity. Article 32 concerns child labour and states that children are to be protected against being used for economic reasons and having to work under conditions that could be considered to be hazardous. The work shall not interfere with the child's education or be harmful to the child in any way in which it could affect the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

Article 32

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child 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.

2. States Parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of the present article. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, States Parties shall in particular:

(a) Provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admission to employment;

(b) Provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment;

(c) Provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present article.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals were set to achieve a more sustainable future, both in regards to individuals and the environment. The goals should be achieved by the year 2030 at the latest. Looking at goal 8, concerning decent work and economic growth, there is a special paragraph in regard to child labour - goal 8.7.

Goal 8.7

Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

As you probably understand, the issue concerning child labour is complex and difficult to summarise in one post. My aim is to give a short introduction on both the issues at hand, but also present some international conventions regarding the prevention and elimination of child labour.