Child labour and education

Education: the key to the future…

Education is a crucial component of any effective effort to eliminate child labour. There are many interlinked explanations for child labour. No single factor can fully explain its persistence and, in some cases, growth. The way in which different causes, at different levels, interact with each other ultimately determines whether or not an individual child becomes a child labourer.

Children's participation in the labour force is endlessly varied and infinitely volatile, responding to changing market and social conditions. This context is matched by the flexibility of the large, unprotected, potential child labour force. Poverty and social exclusion, labour mobility, discrimination and lack of adequate social protection and educational opportunity all come into play in influencing child labour outcomes.

Experience shows that a combination of economic growth, respect for labour standards, universal education and social protection, together with a better understanding of the needs and rights of children, can bring about a significant reduction in child labour. Child labour is a stubborn problem that, even if overcome in certain places or sectors, will seek out opportunities to reappear in new and often unanticipated ways. The response to the problem must be as versatile and adaptable as child labour itself. There is no simple, quick fix for child labour, nor a universal blueprint for action.

IPEC's approach to the elimination of child labour has evolved over the past decade as a result of the experience it has gained and the changing needs of its partners for assistance. The programme incorporates a wide range of categories of work against child labour, including research and statistics, technical co-operation, a monitoring and evaluation unit, advisory services and advocacy, and an education unit.

IPEC has demonstrated leadership and experience in using education to combat child labour in both formal and non-formal settings which has proved significant in the prevention of child labour and the rehabilitation of former child workers. Non-formal or transitional education has played an instrumental role in the rehabilitation of former child labourers. Vocational education and training have provided the skills needed for gainful employment, which in turn contributes to local and national development. In addition, IPEC has been providing policy advice and technical assistance to governments to ensure that educational policies pay special attention to children at risk of child labour.


  1. Report

    Give girls a chance: Tackling child labour, a key to the future

    This report provides an overview on the involvement of girls in child labour and the policy responses required to tackle the problem. It provides global estimates on girls involvement in child labour and looks at major sectors of work in which girls are involved. It also considers the issue of gender inequalities in education and how these contribute to child labour and the transition of girls into the youth labour market. The report concludes with proposals on the policy response required to tackle child labour of girls.

  2. Resource kit

    Combating child labour through education: A resource kit for policy-makers and practitioners

    Education strategies have proved critical in the prevention of child labour and in rehabilitation of former child labourers. This education resource kit pulls together research, guidelines, tools and good practices on combating child labour through education. The 25 resources included in the kit constitute a diverse and comprehensive collection of resources developed by ILO-IPEC and its partners during the period 2002-2008.

  3. Good practices

    Consolidated good practices in education and child labour

    This publication presents a cross-section of some of the most important and successful good practices from education and skills training interventions identified from among the thousands of projects and programmes to eliminate child labour that have been implemented by ILO-IPEC and its partners around the world.