Time-bound programmes (TBP)

Time-bound programmes for the elimination of the worst Forms of child labour

ILO Convention No. 182 calls for time-bound measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Countries ratifying this Convention must take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency, including time-bound measures to:

  • prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labour;
  • provide direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social integration;
  • ensure access to free basic education and appropriate vocational training for all children removed from the worst forms of child labour;
  • identify and reach out to children at special risk; and
  • take account of the special situation of girls.

(Source - ILO Convention No. 182, Articles 1 and 7).

The time-bound programme (TBP) approach constitutes one of the means put in place by IPEC to assist countries in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention.

Time-bound programmes are designed as a comprehensive framework that governments can use to chart a course of action with well-defined targets. They comprise a set of integrated and coordinated policies and interventions with clear goals, specific targets and a defined time frame, aimed at preventing and eliminating a country’s worst forms of child labour. They emphasize the need to address the root causes of child labour, linking action for its elimination to national development policies, macro-economic trends and strategies, and demographic and labour market processes and outcomes, with particular emphasis on economic and social policies to combat poverty and to promote universal basic education and social mobilization. The TBPs’ time horizon is set in accordance with the prevalence of the worst forms of child labour, the availability of resources, the level of local expertise and other conditions prevailing in the country.

Focusing heavily on the rapid elimination of the worst forms of child labour, the TBP approach represents a logical progression of IPEC’s work to date while drawing on the experience that has been accumulating since the programme’s inception. TBPs pull together many of the successful approaches piloted by IPEC and others in the past into a comprehensive and scaled-up programme combining upstream policy-oriented interventions covering awareness raising, legislation and enforcement, education, employment and social protection with withdrawal and rehabilitation interventions. IPEC sees the TBP as a key strategic approach for attaining large-scale impact on the worst forms of child labour.

Why focus on the worst forms?

There is not only a consensus that targeting the worst forms is morally justified, but experience has shown that it is also an effective way to mobilize society to address the problem of child labour in general. Successful measures against the worst forms often have a multiplier effect that benefits other working children. Once governments and civil society begin focusing on the worst forms of child labour, broad discussions about the acceptability of other forms of child labour and the feasibility of eliminating them tend to follow as well.

Indeed, this thinking was a major motivation behind the adoption of ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182. Member States that ratify this Convention commit themselves to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency through time-bound measures. The exceptionally rapid rate of ratification of Convention No. 182 – 163 of the ILO’s 180 member States as of June 2007 – means that an ever-growing number of governments are committed to eradicating the WFCL as quickly as possible and preventing them in the future. The TBP approach is intended to assist them in this task within a specific timeframe.

Legal instruments

A majority of countries have adopted legislation to prohibit or place severe restrictions on the employment and work of children, much of it stimulated and guided by standards adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). In spite of these efforts, child labour continues to exist... More


A typical TBP would consist of a number of interventions aimed at preventing children from entering the WFCL, withdrawing and rehabilitating those children already engaged in such activities, and protecting all working children above the legal minimum age from exploitation and work hazards. More...


TBPs have several important characteristics. A TBP:
  • must be initiated and led by the country in terms of planning, implementation and resource mobilization;
  • must be comprehensive and fully integrated into national development plans;
  • involves the extensive participation of many stakeholders, including policy-makers, practitioners, workers’ and employers’ associations, and donors;
  • needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the specific circumstances of the country; and
  • must be underpinned by extensive data collection and analysis.


El Salvador, Nepal, and the United Republic of Tanzania were the first three countries to implement TBPs. Three other countries, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and the Philippines, started implementation during 2002-03. Several additional countries have since begun the process, including: Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mongolia, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa, Turkey, and Yemen. The experience acquired from the design and implementation of these programmes has helped to refine the TBP concept, for example in terms of content, emphases and relationships with ongoing interventions in areas such as macro-economic policy, poverty reduction and education. More...