ILO Conventions and Recommendations on child labour

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 on a massive scale, sometimes in appalling conditions, particularly in the developing world. If progress has been slow or apparently nonexistent, this is because child labour is an immensely complex issue. It cannot be made to disappear simply by the stroke of a pen.

Nevertheless, the basis of determined and concerted action must be legislation, which sets the total elimination of child labour as the ultimate goal of policy, and puts measures into place for this purpose, and which explicitly identifies and prohibits the worst forms of child labour to be eliminated as a matter of priority.

ILO Convention No. 138 and its Recommendation No. 146

  1. Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment and work

    One of the most effective methods of ensuring that children do not start working too young is to set the age at which children can legally be employed or otherwise work. The aim of ILO Convention No.138 on the minimum age is the effective abolition of child labour by requiring countries to:
    1| establish a minimum age for entry into work or employment, and
    2| establish national policies for the elimination of child labour.

  2. Recommendation No. 146

    The Recommendation No. 146 which accompanies Convention No. 138, stresses that national policies and plans should provide for: poverty alleviation and the promotion of decent jobs for adults, so that parents do not need to resort to child labour; free and compulsory education and provision of vocational training; extension of social security and systems for birth registration; and appropriate facilities for the protection of children, and adolescents who work. To achieve the elimination of child labour, laws setting minimum ages for work should be embedded in such comprehensive policy responses.

ILO Convention No. 182 and Recommendation No. 190

  1. Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour

    Child labour, as the statistics clearly demonstrate, is a problem of immense global proportions. Following its comprehensive research into the issue, the ILO concluded that it was necessary to strengthen existing Conventions on child labour. Convention No. 182 helped to focus the international spotlight on the urgency of action to eliminate as a priority, the worst forms of child labour without losing the long term goal of the effective elimination of all child labour.

  2. Recommendation No. 190

    The Recommendation No. 190, which accompanies Convention No. 182, recommends that any definition of “hazardous work” should include: work which exposes children to physical, psychological or sexual abuse; work underground, underwater, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces; work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools or carrying heavy loads; exposure to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels or vibrations damaging to health; work for long hours, night work, and unreasonable confinement to the premises of the employer.

Ratifications of ILO Conventions on child labour (1975-2019)