Child labour among indigenous peoples has until recently received little attention from governments and international institutions as well as from indigenous peoples themselves. It therefore largely remains an invisible issue and there exist no comprehensive data on the magnitude of the problem or on the conditions and types of work in which indigenous children are engaged.
However, a series of cases and examples drawn from all over the world indicate that indigenous children are disproportionately affected by high rates of child labour.
Specific approaches that include the particular needs and rights of indigenous peoples are needed to effectively combat child labour among these peoples. Those approaches should take into consideration that, on one hand, indigenous peoples have the right to be fully included in the development process - and to benefit from the global efforts to combat child labour; on the other, their right to define their own development path and priorities must be respected.
Initiatives to combat child labour among indigenous peoples must be culturally appropriate and contribute to strengthening the rights and realizing the potential of these peoples.
Although efforts to eliminate child labour in general have increased, indigenous children are not benefiting on an equitable basis. Therefore, unless the specific conditions of indigenous child labour and education are addressed pro-actively, overall child labour elimination efforts are likely to fail. Such specific conditions are intimately linked with the characteristics, collective concerns and rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.
The ILO has two specialised programmes that combine their work in order to address the issue of child labour among indigenous peoples: