World Day Against Child Labour 2008: Education: The right response to child labour


This year the World Day against Child Labour will be marked around the world with activities to raise awareness that Education is the right response to child labour.

  • Education for all children at least to the minimum age of employment.
  • Education policies that address child labour by provision of properly resourced quality education and skills training.
  • Education to promote awareness on the need to tackle child labour.

Child labour – a barrier to education

The ILO has estimated that some 165 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour. Many of these children work long hours, often in dangerous conditions.

Child labour is closely associated with poverty. Many poor families are unable to afford school fees or other school costs. The family may depend on the contribution that a working child makes to the household’s income, and place more importance on that than on education. And when a family has to make a choice between sending either a boy or girl to school, it is often the girl who loses out.

More than ever today, children need a good quality education and training if they are to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the labour market. However, in many countries the schools which are accessible to the poor families are under-resourced and inadequate. Poor facilities, over-sized classes, and lack of trained teachers lead to low standards of education.

In the Millennium Development Goals the United Nations and the broader international community set targets of ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education and that there is gender parity in education.

These targets cannot be met unless the factors that generate child labour and prevent poor families from sending children to school are addressed. Among the most important steps required are:

  • Provision of free and compulsory education;
  • tackling barriers to girls education;
  • ensuring that children have access to a school and a safe and quality learning environment;
  • providing catch up education opportunities for children and youth who have so far missed out on formal schooling;
  • tackling the worldwide shortage of teachers and ensuring a properly trained and professional teaching force;
  • enforcing laws on child labour and education in line with international standards;
  • tackling poverty, and creating decent work for adults;
  • raising public awareness to tackle child labour.

Promoting human rights and development

The right to education occupies a central place in human rights and is essential for the exercise of other human rights and development. It provides a means through which economically and socially excluded children and youth can lift themselves out of poverty. When children who have had the benefits of education grow up, they are more likely to choose to send their own children to school.

Investing in education is also a sound economic decision. A recent ILO study found that the elimination of child labour and its replacement by universal education would yield major economic benefits in addition to the social benefits. Globally benefits exceed costs by a ratio of more than 6 to 1.

Join us on the World Day Against Child Labour

We look forward to a World Day that is widely supported by governments, employers and workers organizations, UN agencies, and all those concerned with tackling child labour and promoting education. We would like to invite you and your organization to be part of the World Day. Join us and add your voice to the worldwide movement against child labour. For more information contact