Child labour in China and Mongolia

Children showing the Red Card to Child Labour at the Solidarity event at the Place des Nations.

See more photos on China and Mongolia areas of work in ILO Flickr photo library.
Child labour refers to work that is undertaken by children below an appropriate legal minimum working age. Under no circumstances are the worst forms of child labour acceptable: (a) slavery and forced labour, including child trafficking and forced recruitment for armed conflict; (b) the use of children in prostitution and pornography; (c) the use of children in illicit activities; and (d) any activity or work by children that, by its nature or conditions, is likely to harm or jeopardize their health, safety or morals – often referred to as “hazardous work.”

Child labour is a fundamental principle and rights at work and universally recognized as a threat to sustainable social and economic development. Over 95 per cent of ILO’s 187 member States have ratified the Elimination of Worst Form of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) and nearly 90 per cent, the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). Thanks to the concerted efforts of governments, workers and employers, significant gains have been made since 2000. The ILO’s global estimates on child labour indicate a decline by one third from 246 million in 2000 to 168 million children in 2012. This includes a decline by nearly 50 per cent of children in hazardous work, from 171 million to 85 million. Nonetheless, the hazardous working conditions of children in the upper age group, 15-17 years old, are of critical concerns.

A world without child labour calls for universal realization of all fundamental principles and rights at work. Efforts to eliminate child labour go hand in hand with the eradication of forced labour, the promotion of non-discrimination, and the right of workers and employers to establish strong and representative organizations of their own choosing. Within the global Sustainable Development Goals framework, the ILO is initiating the SDG 8.7 Alliance, “joining forces globally to end child labour, forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking.” Commitments and innovations in labour protection, social protection and labour administration are essential to address child labour in agriculture, domestic work and in informal enterprises.

As a monitoring mechanism, member states that have ratified Conventions 138 and 182, including China and Mongolia, regularly submit reports on the application of the Conventions to the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. The Committee makes observations and direct requests to the government on gaps in policies and programmes.


Committed to eliminating child labour, China ratified the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) on 28 April 1999, and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) on 8 August 2002.

National policies, programmes and laws support the prevention of child labour, notably the Compulsory Education Law and corresponding measures to enforce the law and prevent school dropouts; the National Mid- and Long-Term Reform on Education and Development Programme (2010-2020), which includes specific compulsory education targets, and measures to raise the quality of education at all levels; the Plan of Action against Human Trafficking (2013–20), as well as the Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Joint Meeting (IMJM) of the State Council; and, the abolishment of the Re-education through Labour (RETL) programme.

Chinese authorities at various levels have implemented measures to ensure that children of internal migrant workers have access to social services, especially compulsory education and quality education programme. There are no official statistics. So far, China has not published nor submitted official statistics on child labour. The labour inspectorate is mandated to enforce the labour law, which outlaws child labour and sactions violations. No cases of child labour found by the labour inspectorate have been reported to the ILO.


Since the 1999 global initiative on the prevention of the worst forms of child labour began, Mongolia has made significant progress in creating an enabling environment for national action against child labour. Mongolia ratified conventions 182 and 138 in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Institutional mechanisms were established in the course of the ILO-IPEC projects ‘Support to the Proposed National Sub-programme to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour: Time-Bound Measures’ (2005 – 2010), funded by the United States Department of Labor.

The National Committee on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (NC-WFCL), a multistakeholder committee comprising the Government and workers’ and employers’ representatives, as well as non-government and civil society institutions oversees the overall implementation of the National Action Programme on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (NAP-WFCL) for 2012-2016. The National Authority for Children of Mongolia has been established with a mandate to monitor and protect child rights as serve as secretary to the NC-WFCL. Thanks to the support of the Mongolian tripartite constituents, a National Network Against the Worst Forms of Child Labour regularly carries out research, advocacy programmes, and provide policy recommendations.

A revised Criminal Law, which shall come in force in September 2016, criminalizes forced labour, child pornorgraphy and hazardous child labour.