How IPEC Works with Workers

IPEC has supported a total of 116 trade union initiatives against child labour in recent years in South East Asia, South Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The activities have been carried out under the following headings:


Situational analysis is a prerequisite for action against child labour. IPEC has supported trade union survey of the nature and scope of child labour in Nepal, through the Nepal Trade Union Congress, in the transport, hotel and restaurant sectors. In Turkey, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions was assisted by IPEC in surveying the leather metal and wood sectors, while in India, a survey in the construction sector identified working children. In Kenya and Tanzania, trade union organizations have conducted seminars and workshops to ensure that the data collected in surveys is fully utilized by members.

Capacity Building

IPEC has shown that trade unions are often constrained by practical matters in their combat against child labour, thus capacity building was been built into all IPEC trade union support, which has taken the shape of efforts to establish separate child labour units and training of union leaders.

In India, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines, IPEC has provided assistance in organizational strengthening. Organizational changes have been accompanied by training. Trade union leaders and staff have been made more aware of the child labour problem and how to develop strategies to fight it. A wide range of innovative tools has been used in IPEC-supported programme to raise awareness among trade union members. In association with ACTRAV, the ILO Bureau for workers’ activities, special issues of trade union magazines have been published. In India, a booklet entitled “Showing the Way: trade unions against child labour” provides examples of what can be achieved, while in Brazil, a similar booklet, called “Trade union action against child labour: Brazilian experience” has helped put the issue on the national agenda.

An important awareness raising project in Tanzania, run by the Confederation of Trade Unions, with IPEC support, has resulted in 800 girls being withdrawn from domestic labour, returned to primary school or given vocational skills training. Trade unions in Kenya are also running an awareness raising campaign against the worst forms of child labour with IPEC assistance.

Direct support to working children

Several trade union initiatives have addressed the situation of specific groups of children. Some have succeeded in withdrawing children, others have improved working conditions, while others have provided education.

In Indonesia, the aim has been to strengthen the capabilities of individual child workers at centres run by a union institute, in order that union workers can improve the quality of life of working children. Children have also received basic education and vocational skills training, as well as health care and nutrition at these centres.

In Turkey, the Confederation of Trade Unions has established dialogue with employers on child labour issues, although successful dialogue has not always been possible in other countries.

Campaigning for policy change and collective bargaining

Policy change is a major objective in IPEC-supported union programmes. Main changes are required in the law and national enforcement mechanisms for labour standards and international conventions - as well as the provision of basic education. Unions have played an active role in this respect in Pakistan, Tanzania and Turkey.


IPEC’s experience of partnerships with trade unions has provided valuable lessons, especially with regard to how assistance is organized and administrative procedures have subsequently been improved within the ILO and its field offices.