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ILO | Child Labour Convention achieves universal ratification

First pub­lished on the ILO website

For the first time in the ILO’s his­to­ry, an International Labour Convention has been rat­i­fied by all Member States.

Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour  achieved uni­ver­sal rat­i­fi­ca­tion, fol­low­ing rat­i­fi­ca­tion by the Kingdom of Tonga.

Ambassador for the Kingdom of Tonga, Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tuivakano, for­mal­ly deposit­ed the rat­i­fi­ca­tion instru­ments with ILO Director-​General, Guy Ryder on 4 August 2020.

The Convention is the most rapid­ly rat­i­fied Convention in the his­to­ry of the Organization, since its adop­tion 21 years ago by the International Labour Conference.

“Universal rat­i­fi­ca­tion of Convention 182 is a his­toric first that means that all chil­dren now have legal pro­tec­tion against the worst forms of child labour,” said ILO Director-​General Guy Ryder. “It reflects a glob­al com­mit­ment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slav­ery, sex­u­al exploita­tion, the use of chil­dren in armed con­flict or oth­er illic­it or haz­ardous work that com­pro­mis­es children’s health, morals or psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing, have no place in our society.”

Universal rat­i­fi­ca­tion of Convention 182 is an his­toric first. It reflects a glob­al com­mit­ment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slav­ery, sex­u­al exploita­tion, the use of chil­dren in armed con­flict or oth­er illic­it or haz­ardous work that com­pro­mis­es children’s health, morals or psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing, have no place in our society.

Secretary-​General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Sharan Burrow, wel­comed the ratification.

“Universal rat­i­fi­ca­tion of Convention 182 is a potent and time­ly reminder of the impor­tance of ILO stan­dards and the need for mul­ti­lat­er­al solu­tions to glob­al prob­lems. Child labour is a griev­ous vio­la­tion of fun­da­men­tal rights, and it is incum­bent on the ILO’s con­stituents and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to ensure that this Convention is ful­ly imple­ment­ed, includ­ing through due dili­gence in glob­al sup­ply chains,” she said.

“The uni­ver­sal rat­i­fi­ca­tion of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour is a his­toric moment,” said Roberto Suárez Santos, Secretary-​General of the International Organization of Employers (IOE). “Throughout the years, the IOE and its mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions have sup­port­ed the imple­men­ta­tion of this Convention. Today, the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty is both aware of and act­ing on the need to do busi­ness with respect for children’s rights. This is even more urgent in the times of the COVID-​19 pan­dem­ic . We can­not allow the fight against the worst form of child labour to back­slide. Together we can work towards the end of child labour in all its forms.”

This uni­ver­sal rat­i­fi­ca­tion is a fur­ther step towards mak­ing more con­crete the aspi­ra­tions of Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize lau­re­ate when he said: “I dream of a world full of safe chil­dren and safe child­hoods; …I dream of a world where every child enjoys the free­dom to be a child.”

The ILO esti­mates that there are 152 mil­lion chil­dren in child labour , 73 mil­lion of whom are in haz­ardous work. Seventy per cent of all child labour takes place in agri­cul­ture and is most­ly relat­ed to pover­ty and par­ents’ dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing decent work.

Convention No. 182 calls for the pro­hi­bi­tion and elim­i­na­tion of the worst forms of child labour, includ­ing slav­ery, forced labour and traf­fick­ing. It pro­hibits the use of chil­dren in armed con­flict, pros­ti­tu­tion, pornog­ra­phy and illic­it activ­i­ties such as drug traf­fick­ing, and in haz­ardous work.

It is one of the ILO’s eight Fundamental Conventions . These cov­er the abo­li­tion of child labour, the elim­i­na­tion of forced labour, the abo­li­tion of work-​related dis­crim­i­na­tion and the rights to free­dom of asso­ci­a­tion and col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. These prin­ci­ples are also cov­ered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) .

Since the ILO’s found­ing in 1919, child labour has been a core con­cern. The Organization’s first Director, Albert Thomas, described child labour as, “the exploita­tion of child­hood which con­sti­tutes the evil… most unbear­able to the human heart. Serious work in social leg­is­la­tion begins always with the pro­tec­tion of children.”

It is the focus of one of the ILO’s largest devel­op­ment coop­er­a­tion pro­grammes – the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour (IPEC+) , which has sup­port­ed over 100 coun­tries in all continents.

The inci­dence of child labour and its worst forms dropped by almost 40 per cent between 2000 and 2016, as rat­i­fi­ca­tion rates of Convention No. 182  and Convention No. 138 (on min­i­mum age to work)  increased, and coun­tries adopt­ed effec­tive laws and policies.

However, progress has slowed in recent years, par­tic­u­lar­ly amongst the youngest age group (5−11 years) and in some geo­graph­i­cal areas. With the COVID-​19 pan­dem­ic, there is a real risk that years of progress will be reversed, lead­ing to a poten­tial increase in child labour for the first time in 20 years unless appro­pri­ate action is taken.

“Ending child labour by 2025 in all its forms” is includ­ed under Target 8.7  of the Sustainable Development Goals , adopt­ed by all UN Member States in 2015. The glob­al part­ner­ship, Alliance 8.7 , for which the ILO pro­vides the Secretariat, brings togeth­er over 250 part­ners and 21 Pathfinder Countries to coor­di­nate, inno­vate and accel­er­ate progress to end child labour, forced labour, human traf­fick­ing and mod­ern slav­ery. The uni­ver­sal rat­i­fi­ca­tion of Convention No. 182 demon­strates the will of all ILO mem­ber States to ensure that every child, every­where, is free from child labour and its worst forms.

This land­mark achieve­ment comes just months before the start of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour in 2021 , to be led by the ILO in col­lab­o­ra­tion with part­ners. Its aim is to raise aware­ness of the issue and to help accel­er­ate the pace of progress.

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