Substantive provisions of labour legislation:
The Effective Abolition of Child Labour
Children’s work is as old as humanity itself and is still very common
in certain regions. But a consensus has emerged over the past two centuries
or so, leading to almost universal recognition that child labour is harmful
for children, bad for families and detrimental to national development and
economic performance. Children who spend their youth working are in their great
majority denied access to education and personal development. They are thereby
denied the fundamental right to equality of opportunity, which is essential
to any democratic society. The elimination of child labour is an integral part
of the process of national development and poverty alleviation.
More recently, there has been overwhelming recognition of the urgent need
to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, as witnessed by the extremely
rapid and widespread ratification of the ILO’s Convention on this subject.
Under the terms of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights
at Work of 1998, all ILO member States have an obligation to promote, respect
and realize the principle of the effective abolition of child labour. The
Declaration calls upon the ILO to assist member States in doing so and to encourage
other international organizations to support their efforts. The Minimum
Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Recommendation
No. 146, and the Worst
Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) and Recommendation
are the ILO’s primary instruments governing the
progressive elimination of child labour, giving priority to its worst forms. The
legislative guidance provided in this chapter draws primarily on these instruments.
Convention No. 138 sets forth a series of standards with respect to the minimum
age for admission to employment or work, the application of which should be
at the heart of any member State's policy to eliminate child labour, even if
the effectiveness of such a policy rests largely on complementary policy measures
in the fields of education, employment and health, as outlined in Recommendation
No. 190. When countries ratify Convention No. 138, they must at the same time
declare a minimum age for admission to employment or work which cannot be lower
than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and, in any case, not less
than 15 years. Member States whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently
developed may initially specify a general minimum age of 14 years.
While a large number of countries have set national minimum age standards
that are within the parameters of Convention No. 138, in many cases the effective
abolition of child labour in all economic sectors remains a long-term objective,
requiring important economic advances before it can fully be met. Some forms
of child labour, however, cannot be condoned, even as a temporary measure over
a longer period of time. For this reason, the ILO adopted Convention No. 182
according to which ratifying countries commit themselves to taking immediate
and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst
forms of child labour as a matter of urgency.
The following sections provide guidance on how to give effect to these two
approaches, firstly the legislative prohibition of child labour as defined
by Convention No. 138, and secondly the elimination of the worst forms of child
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Legislative prohibition of child labour
Legislation aiming to effectively eliminate child labour across all economic
- establish a series of minimum ages for admission to employment;
- ensure effective implementation and enforcement measures;
- provide for social and economic measures aimed at preventing child labour
and protecting and rehabilitating children who are already in the labour
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Legislation on minimum age for admission to work
(1) Legislation on the minimum age for admission to work should:
- establish a general minimum age for all types of work which,
must not be less than the age of compulsory schooling, and in any case not
less than 15 years;1
- all types of work include, for example, domestic work, work in
family undertakings, work as a self-employed person and maritime work, unless the
ratifying State has decided (in accordance with the provisions of the Convention)
not to apply the Convention to particular occupations or particular sectors.
Countries which have declared 14 years to be the initially applicable general
minimum age, because they consider that their economic and educational facilities
are insufficiently developed to set a higher minimum age (developing countries),
may establish a general minimum age of 14 years. 2
(2) Legislation on the minimum age for admission to work should also:
- require a minimum age of 18 years for admission to all work that is likely
to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons (hazardous
- determine hazardous occupations, either by:
- listing these occupations in the legislation, or by;
- delegating such determination to the executive or a competent authority,
- outlining a procedure to come to such determination, possibly involving
an advisory committee to ensure consultation with the social partners
and obtain expert input with respect to safety and health matters.
(3) Legislation on minimum age for admission to work may provide for a lower
minimum age for light work. To be in conformity with the Convention,
such legislation must:
- specify a minimum age of 13 to 15 for light work (or 12 to 14 in developing
- identify a competent authority to determine activities which constitute
light work, that is work that is unlikely to be harmful to the health and
development of the child worker and that will not affect school attendance,
nor the ability to benefit from schooling;3
- mandate the same authority to determine the number of hours during which
and the conditions under which such employment or work may be undertaken.
In the cases where young persons have not yet completed compulsory education,
the legislation may specify a minimum age of 15 for light work.4
Legislation may provide an exemption from the general minimum age:
- for such purposes as artistic performances (for example, any
public performance in the interest of the arts, science or education, in
[commercial or non-commercial] advertising, modelling etc). To do so in conformity
with the Convention, the legislation should:
- identify a competent authority that grants permits in individual cases;
- mandate the authority to limit the working time and prescribe the
conditions of work;
- for work done in schools as part of a publicly authorized programme of
education or training;
- for work done in enterprises as part of a publicly authorized programme
of education or training (apprenticeship), provided that the legislation
specifies a minimum age of 14 years.
MINIMUM AGES FOR ADMISSION TO EMPLOYMENT
ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
Countries with insufficiently developed economies and educational facilities
General minimum age for admission to employment
not less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling, and in
any case not less than 15
Hazardous work and other forms of work categorized as a worst form
of child labour
13 to 15
12 to 14
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Implementation of legislation on minimum age for admission
The effective implementation and enforcement of minimum age legislation requires
sanctions for violators of minimum age laws, proper investigation to identify
the existence of child labour and effective inspection of workplaces.
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Sanctions for violations of legislation
Minimum age provisions should be enforced through sanctions. The legislation
- provide for penalties and other necessary measures for violations of child
- ensure that the law provides for sanctions for all persons responsible
for under-age employment (e.g. employers, parents, guardians, etc.);
- ensure that the sanctions are sufficiently deterrent;
- diversify sanctions between criminal, civil and administrative sanctions;
- diversify sanctions as a function of the seriousness of the offence, e.g.
heavier sanctions for the employment of children in hazardous than in non-hazardous
work, heavier sanctions for repeat offenders;
- facilitate the access of children to legal remedies, e.g. by ensuring
that children can join trade unions as soon as they are admitted to work,
or by guaranteeing legal standing for trade unions (or other civil society
organizations concerned with child labour) to represent children in law;
- ensure that laws do not subject children themselves to penalties for engaging
in under-age work even if the activity is illegal.
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Investigation, inspection and other means of enforcement
Investigation. In order to properly enforce child labour laws and
create effective programmes aimed at the elimination of child labour, instances
of child labour and the circumstances surrounding such labour first have to
be identified. The legislation can support the identification of occurrences
of child labour by:
- mandating a systematic review of the national child labour situation,6 including the collection of
detailed information and statistical data on the nature and extent of child
labour, including information on:7
- the sex of child workers, their age, occupation, branch of economic
activity, status in employment, school attendance and geographic location;8
- violations of national provisions for the prohibition and elimination
of the worst forms of child labour;9 and
- ensuring that NGOs, trade unions, religious institutions, charitable organizations
and other concerned groups play a role in the investigation of child labour.10
Inspection. Once the existence of child labour is established, compliance
with minimum age legislation should be actively pursued. Labour inspection
services normally carry out this function, and a legal mandate is important
to ensure that their work is bolstered by the necessary authority and carried
out equitably. In providing for such a mandate, the legislation could:
- establish a framework for the operation of labour inspection setting out
certain necessary entitlements, including training to detect abuses in the
employment of children and young persons and to correct such abuses, adequate
transportation in order to inspect rural areas, etc;11
- ensure that labour inspection services have the power to secure the enforcement
of legal provisions relating to the employment of children and young persons;
- ensure that the mandate of the labour inspection services extends to all
workplaces where child labour actually exists;
- establish the role of inspectors in supplying information and advice on
effective means of complying with child labour provisions and securing their
- mandate a gender balance within the labour inspection services;
- ensure that labour administration services (including labour inspection
services) work in close cooperation with the services responsible for the
education, training, welfare and guidance of children and young persons;13
- provide that the labour inspection services have a duty to respond to
alleged violations reported by trade unions or any other public or private
organizations which, in the discharge of their functions, are liable to obtain
critical information on violations of the provisions relating to child labour;
- entrust the labour inspection services or administrative services with
the authority to hand down administrative sanctions (fines, suspension of
operating licenses, etc.);
- ensure that records are kept of violations, and that best practices on
the elimination of child labour are publicized;14
- ensure that anyone obstructing the inspection process is subject to sanctions.
Other means of enforcement. In instituting other methods of implementation
and enforcement of child labour provisions, the legislation may:
- ensure the verification of ages by:
- maintaining an effective system of birth registration;15
- requiring employers to keep and make available documents indicating
the names and ages of all workers under 18 years of age;16
- reversing the burden of proof with respect to the actual age of a child
(and therefore making the employer responsible for proving that the persons
employed are over the minimum aage for admission to employment or work);
- establishing an alternative procedure for establishing the age of
a young worker; and
- require employers to keep accurate records of all children and young persons
To improve the justiciability of rights, legislation may also:
- ensure access to the courts or appropriate tribunals for the victims of
child labour or their representatives;
- establish special complaints procedures and provide for the protection
from discrimination and reprisals of those who expose violations of the prohibition
of the worst forms of child labour;17
- entrust national institutions for the promotion of human rights with a
mandate to investigate and monitor child labour policy, and particularly
cases of child abuse;
- provide for the adverse publicity of convicted violators;18
- ensure that free legal aid is given to victims of child labour;19
- provide for child-friendly procedures, such as:
- informing children of their role and the scope, timing and progress
of the proceedings, as well as the disposition of their cases;
- allowing their views and concerns to be presented and considered at
appropriate stages of the proceedings;
- providing proper assistance to victims throughout the legal process;
- taking measures to minimize inconvenience to victims;
- protecting their privacy;
- ensuring their safety (as well as that of their families and witnesses)
from intimidation and retaliation;
- avoiding unnecessary delay in the disposition of cases and the execution
of orders or decrees granting awards to victims.
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Social and economic measures to eliminate child labour
Preventive and protective measures
The effective elimination of child labour requires the implementation of social
and economic programmes designed to prevent future use of child labour and
to protect children who are already working.20 In order to optimize the
effectiveness of these programmes, it is necessary to involve the concerned
groups, such as organizations of parents, child protection agencies, employers’ and
workers’ groups, and NGOs in the development of the social and economic
measures adopted to combat child labour.
Prevention. Legislation plays a role in preventing child labour
by providing a legal basis for the adoption of measures and programmes intended
to remedy the economic and social causes that are at the roots of child labour.21 Such
- promote employment-oriented development22 by establishing programmes aimed at stimulating
economic expansion with a view to creating sufficient adult employment and
rendering child work superfluous;23
- institute social and economic measures to alleviate poverty, such as more
equitable access to productive assets (e.g. land, equitable inheritance rights)
and the establishment of minimum wages;24
- provide for social security and family welfare measures aimed at ensuring
child maintenance,25 including:
- measures that provide for a minimum level below which family incomes
should not fall;26
- services such as low-cost community health and education which can
help maintain the health and development of children;27
- ensure the strict application of a non-discriminatory wage policy through
the requirement of equal wages for work of equal value for young persons
and adults, thereby eliminating some of the economic motives for employing
- provide for preparatory training, not involving hazards, for types of work
for which the minimum age is higher than the age of completion of compulsory
- provide for vocational training for children who do not have families,
who do not live with their own families, migrant children or children who
live and travel with their families.
Protective measures. Young persons can lawfully work when they have
reached the minimum age for admission to employment or work. For those who
are below this minimum age, it may be that national law has not (yet) prohibited
their admission to work, since Convention No. 138 allows the progressive application
of its provisions under certain conditions. In both cases, young persons should
enjoy special legal protection so that they work in conditions that are not
harmful to their well-being. Legislation could:
- establish a general provision that under no condition must a young person
below 18 years of age carry out work that is likely to be harmful to his
or her health, safety or morals, and that whoever employs a young person
has the duty to ensure that she or he is assigned to work that is not hazardous,
or that any hazardous element is removed from the work situation;
- ensure that young persons have the same rights as adults under labour
laws and are aware of their rights;
- regulate the hours of work of young persons, allowing time for rest, leisure,
school attendance and home work;28
- require a minimum consecutive period of 12 hours night rest and weekly
- require annual holidays with pay of at least four weeks;30
- require fair remuneration, bearing in mind the principle of equal pay
for work of equal value;31
- require that all working young persons are covered by social security schemes,
including employment injury, medical care and sickness benefit schemes;32
- require periodic medical examinations to evaluate the health of young
workers and their capacity to do the work in which they are engaged;33
- provide child workers with non-formal education in the evenings and on
weekends, as a transition to formal education.34
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Education is not only the key to enabling young persons to obtain productive
work once they have reached the minimum age, it is also the single most important
factor in preventing child labour and rehabilitating those who have been withdrawn
from child labour. In this regard, it is important to:
- ensure that the minimum age for admission to work is not less than the
age of completion of compulsory schooling;35
- raise the age of completion of compulsory education where it is below
the minimum age for admission to employment or work;
- ensure that basic education is free for all, and in particular for those
who have been removed from situations of child labour.36
Legislation could also:
- require full-time attendance at school or participation in approved vocational
orientation or training programmes up to an age at least equal to that specified
for admission to employment;37
- ensure that work does not interfere with a child's schooling;
- ensure the development of adequate facilities for education and vocational
orientation and training appropriate to the needs of children and young persons;38
- provide for the organization of flexible schooling to help students who
cannot yet be feasibly removed from work (such as evening or week-end classes);39
- ensure that schools make children aware of the hazards of child labour
and inform them of the rights of child labourers;40
- provide for the improvement of the training of teachers to meet the needs
- provide for the enhancement of family protection through non-formal education
on child labour in communities where child labour is a concern.42
Legislation should ensure that children and their families, local communities,
non-profit-making organizations, employers’ and workers’ groups
and agencies concerned with protecting children are included in the development
of preventive and protective measures to combat child labour.43
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Elimination of the worst forms of child labour
While national policy should ultimately aim for the elimination of all forms
of child labour, priority has to be given to the prohibition and elimination
of the worst forms of child labour.44 In both cases, legislation is a key instrument
in consolidating national policy. Convention No. 182 requires member States
to take immediate and effective measures to combat the worst forms of child
labour, which are defined as:
- all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the
sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or
compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children
for use in armed conflict;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the
production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities,
in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in
the relevant international treaties;
- work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried
out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.45
The legislation should in all cases:
- prohibit the worst forms of child labour;46
- provide for the determination and periodical revision of the types of
hazardous child labour (that is, work which by its nature or the circumstances
in which it is carried out is likely to harm the health, safety or morals
of boys or girls below 18), either directly or by mandating a competent authority
to do so;
- establish measures aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labour;47
- apply measures addressing the performance of the worst forms of child
labour by all persons below the age of 18;48
- identify the special needs of certain groups of children who are particularly
- establish effective implementation and enforcement measures.
In addition, the legislation could:
- establish a framework for monitoring the occurrence and elimination of
the worst forms of child labour, or provide for monitoring in particular
- lay down a procedural framework for establishing programmes of action
to eliminate the worst forms of child labour (such as the aspects to be covered,
participants, mandatory gender review, timeframe);
- authorize mutual legal assistance;
- mandate international cooperation;
- mandate cooperation between authorities which have responsibilities for
the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour;
Where measures for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour overlap
with forced labour provisions, the legislation should ensure that children
are afforded the protection set out in those provisions as well as the additional
forms of protection recommended below.
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Slavery or practices similar to slavery
Legislation on the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child
labour must include measures to combat all forms of slavery or practices similar
to slavery, including:
- the sale and trafficking of children;
- debt bondage and serfdom;
- forced and compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment
of children for use in armed conflict;
- other forms or practices similar to slavery or forced or compulsory labour.50
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The sale and trafficking of children
Convention No. 182 does not define the sale and trafficking of children, nor
does it indicate its constituent elements. This omission grants member States
reasonable discretion under Convention No. 182 to consider precisely when a
particular situation amounts to a practice similar to slavery. This discretion
is however circumscribed by the detailed definitions contained in other international
instruments. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography defines the
sale of children as any act or transaction whereby a child is transferred by
any person or group of persons to another for remuneration or any other consideration.
The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention
Against Transnational Organized Crime gives the following definition of trafficking:
Article 3. Use of terms
For the purposes of this Protocol:
(a) "Trafficking in persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation,
transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use
of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception,
of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving
or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person
having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation
shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others
or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery
or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended
exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant
where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;
(c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt
of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered "trafficking
in persons" even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in
subparagraph (a) of this article;
(d) "Child" shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.
In the light of the above, legislation aimed at the prohibition and elimination
of child trafficking should:
- recognize the trafficking of boys and girls as a crime against the person
and not only a crime against the State. The law should punish the various
intermediaries involved up to and including the point of exploitation, and
target both sexual and labour exploitation. The law should provide criminal
penalties for the perpetrators of trafficking;
- diversify the penalties according to the seriousness of the violation;
- ensure that the use of all methods of pressure to which a boy or girl
up to the age of 18 years is normally susceptible (e.g. physical violence,
psychological coercion and deception) are explicitly punished;
- explicitly penalize the unlawful deprivation of liberty, debt bondage,
servile and exploitative conditions (see the case of Hungary);
- penalize the illegal deprivation of identity documents;
- ensure that the victims of child trafficking are not treated as illegal
aliens, but are protected against expulsion on the basis of illegal residency
status including, where necessary, through the provision of temporary residence
- provide for the protection of witnesses;
- diversify sanctions to include civil and administrative penalties and
- make provision for assistance to the victims of trafficking;
Legislation may also:
Note : United Nations Model Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters
- provide for the improvement of transnational cooperation by permitting
mutual legal assistance and extradition.
[…]2. Mutual assistance […] may include:
(a) Taking evidence or statements from persons;
(b) Assisting in the availability of detained persons or others to
give evidence or assist in investigations;
(c) Effecting service of judicial documents;
(d) Executing searches and seizures;
(e) Examining objects and sites;
(f) Providing information and evidentiary items;
(g) Providing originals or certified copies of relevant documents and
records, including bank, finance, corporate or business records.
- envisage the provision of assistance to foreign countries to help them
meet international standards with respect to trafficking;
- take the form of extra-territorial criminal laws against child
(sexual or labour) exploitation in those countries that still do not have
these laws. Such laws are commonly used to combat child sex tourism, but
can apply to any situation where a citizen is instrumental in the exploitation
of children abroad.
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Debt bondage and serfdom
Debt bondage is a condition in which an individual has pledged her/his services
or the services of a person under his/her control as security for a debt owed
to an employer.51 These situations develop into forced labour
where the services are not reasonably applied to the elimination of the debt.
The individual is therefore forced to continue working to repay a debt that
does not diminish and in some cases even increases if it is necessary to take
out further loans (see Chapter VI). Serfdom
is a situation in which an individual is bound to render services and work
on land belonging to another person and is not free to change her or his status.52 Children are particularly vulnerable to these
forms of bonded labour. They often inherit debt from their parents or are born
into a condition of serfdom. In some cases, families sell their children into
bonded labour in exchange for money.
Legislation concerning children subject to debt bondage and serfdom should:
- adopt the measures set out in Chapter VI for the elimination of debt bondage
in the context of forced labour, especially measures prohibiting or limiting
the advancement of wages or loans by the employer;
- ensure that enforcement measures regarding forced labour are applied to
children who are engaged in bonded labour or serfdom;
- prohibit anyone other than the young person concerned from entering into
a labour contract for her/his employment;
- ensure that no third party is a recipient of the wages earned by a young
- provide special protection in addition to that afforded by forced labour
enforcement provisions (see Other measures for the enforcement
and implementation of provisions on the worst forms of child labour below).
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Forced or compulsory labour
The Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and the Abolition of Forced Labour
Convention, 1957 (No. 105), are the primary ILO instruments addressing forced
and compulsory labour (see Chapter VI). They
apply to children as well as adults. In order to protect children from these
forms of labour, legislation should address forced labour in general and in
addition should provide specific protection for children. Special attention
should also be paid to the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for
use in armed conflict.
Legislation concerning children in situations of forced or compulsory labour
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Forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in
Legislation to prevent and eradicate the forced or compulsory recruitment
of children for use in armed conflict should:
These recruitment procedures should include:
- establish 18 as the minimum age for forced participation in hostilities
and for forced recruitment into all armed forces and armed groups;
- foster a wider concept of child soldier than just children who carry arms:
child soldier should include any person under 18 years of age who is part
of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity,
including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers and those accompanying
such groups other than purely as family members: it includes girls recruited
for sexual purposes and forced marriage;
- mandate proper recruitment procedures and the means to enforce them, bringing
those responsible for illegally recruiting children to justice.
- requirement of proof of age;
- safeguards against violations;
- dissemination of the standards to the military, and especially to recruiters;
- dissemination of the standards and safeguards to the civilian population,
especially children at risk of recruitment and their families and the organizations
working with them;
- where the government establishes, condones or arms militias or other armed
groups, including private security forces, it must also regulate recruitment
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Other forms of slavery and practices similar to slavery
and forced or compulsory labour
Legislation addressing the worst forms of child labour should cover all other
forms of forced or compulsory labour and practices similar to slavery, including:
As is the case with all forms of forced or compulsory labour involving children,
legislation should ensure that enforcement provisions regarding forced or compulsory
labour and practices similar to slavery also apply to children. In addition,
legislation should provide that all forms of slavery or practices similar to
slavery involving children are criminal offences subject to criminal penalties
(see Other measures for the enforcement and implementation of provisions
on the worst forms of child labour below).
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Child prostitution and pornography
Convention No. 182 does not define prostitution or pornography, but with the
same reservation expressed before under the section on the sale and trafficking
of children, reference can usefully be made to the Optional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution
and child pornography. The Protocol defines child prostitution as the use
of a child in sexual activities for remuneration or any other form of consideration,
and child pornography as any representation, by whatever means, of a child
engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation
of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.
Legislation addressing child prostitution and pornography should:
- prohibit the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for
the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;56
- ensure that enforcement measures regarding forced labour, in particular
those regarding trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (see Chapter
VI), are applied to children;
- provide for special protection for children in addition to that afforded
by forced labour enforcement provisions, including penal and other sanctions
(see Other measures for the enforcement and implementation
of provisions on the worst forms of child labour below).
database of legislation on sexual offences against children.
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The use of children for other illicit activities
In addition to addressing the situation of children who are victims of trafficking,
prostitution and other hazardous forms of work, legislation on child labour
should also explicitly prohibit the use of child labour in other illicit activities,
- the production and trafficking of drugs;
- the trafficking of other goods;
- gambling operations;
- other organized criminal activities;57
- activities which involve the unlawful carrying or use of firearms or other
Legislation targeting child labour in these types of activities should:
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Work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals
All forms of work, which by their nature or the circumstances in which they
are carried out are likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children,
must be prohibited and eliminated. This obligation under Convention No. 182
adds focus to the already existing (and still valid) obligation under Convention
No. 138 to outlaw the admission of persons below 18 years of age to work which
is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of children below 18 years
of age. The hazardous child labour envisaged by Convention No. 182 is work
that directly affects the health, safety or morals of children, can be identified
in practice within a national context and must subsequently be subject to a
programme of action containing immediate and effective measures to eliminate
From this perspective, the hazardous work determined in accordance with Convention
No. 182 may take the form of a core list selected from an enumeration of hazardous
types of work drawn up in accordance with Convention No. 138. It may accord
with this list, or it may be an entirely new list, depending on the assessment
of the government in consultation with the social partners.
Legislation can play the following role in the process of prohibiting and
eliminating the engagement of children in work that is likely to harm their
health, safety or morals:
- establish a prohibition in general terms of the admission of boys and
girls below 18 to hazardous work;
- mandate tripartite consultations to determine hazardous work, starting
from the following broad categories:
- work which exposes children to physical, psychological or sexual abuse;
- work underground, under water, at dangerous heights or in confined
- work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involves
the manual handling or transport of heavy loads;
- work in an unhealthy environment which may, for example, expose children
to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise
levels or vibrations damaging to their health;
- work under particularly difficult conditions, such as work for long
hours or during the night or work where the child is unreasonably confined
to the premises of the employer;59
- pay attention to work situations which are hazardous by nature, and work
situations which are hazardous by the circumstances in which the work is
carried out (in which case, for example, adjustment of the circumstances
may render the work acceptable), taking into account the fact that:
- girls and boys may be exposed to different hazards;
- no category of work or economic sector is in principle free from harmful
- ensure the periodical revision of the list, for which purpose, the legislation
- delegate the determination of types of hazardous work to a specified
competent authority (rather than petrifying the list of hazardous
forms of work in the legislation itself);
- outline a procedure to determine hazardous work, such as
mandating an advisory committee to the government which ensures gender-balanced
participation of the social partners, other concerned organizations,
occupational safety and health experts, paediatricians, etc.
- provide for penal, civil and administrative sanctions for violators of
the respective provisions.
For examples of the types of work governments have considered hazardous for
children and young people, see ILO, Child labour: Targeting the intolerable,
p.49, Annex 5.60
See the other example in the section above on Legislation on
minimum age for admission to work.
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Special groups and hidden work situations
Legislation can also establish measures to reach out to children at special
risk,61 who include:
- younger children; 63
- children with special vulnerabilities or needs64 (such as children with disabilities and street
- children of minority groups;66
- children in hidden work situations,67such as child domestic workers68 (see Chapter
The measures taken in this respect should aim to:
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Implementation and enforcement
In order to ensure the implementation and enforcement of provisions concerning
the worst forms of child labour, legislation should provide for penal and other
sanctions and should support other measures, such as the removal of children
from the worst forms of child labour, the establishment of rehabilitation programmes
and measures focusing on children at special risk.
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Other measures for the enforcement and implementation of
provisions on the worst forms of child labour
The legislation should also support measures for:
- the identification and denounciation of the worst forms of child labour71 (see Investigation,
inspection and other means of enforcement above);
- the prevention of the engagement of children in the worst forms of child
labour (see 72 Preventive and
protective measures above)
- the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and their
protection from reprisals;73
- the rehabilitation and social integration of children who have been removed
from the worst forms of child labour through measures addressing their educational,
physical and psychological needs;74
- the access of all children removed from the worst forms of child labour
to free basic education, and where possible and appropriate, vocational training;75
- the provision of special attention to children at special risk76 (see Special groups of children above);
- ensuring that all programmes are developed and undertaken in consultation
with relevant government institutions, and employers’ and workers’ organizations,
taking into consideration the views of other concerned groups77 (such
as children, parents, community organizations78);
- the provision of an effective complaints procedure; and
- enhanced international cooperation and/or assistance, including:
- support for social and economic development, poverty eradication programmes
and universal education;79
- the creation of mechanisms for gathering and exchanging information
with other states concerning criminal offences involving child labour.80
Other measures essential to the enforcement and implementation of provisions
on the worst forms of child labour include establishing effective labour inspection
systems and instituting social and economic programmes aimed at preventing
child labour and protecting child workers. These are discussed above in connection
with the measures aimed at eliminating all forms of child labour in general.
1. Convention No. 138, Article 2(3).
2. Ibid., Article 2(4).
3. Ibid., Article 7(1).
4. Ibid., Article 7(2).
5. Ibid., Article 9(1).
6. Bequele, pp. 23-27.
7. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph 5(1).
8. Ibid., Paragraph 5(2).
9. Ibid., Paragraph 5(3).
10. Bequele, op. cit., pp. 24, 43-57.
11. Recommendation No. 146, Paragraph
12. Ibid., Paragraph 14(2).
13. Ibid., Paragraph 14(3).
14. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
15. Recommendation No. 146, Paragraph
16. Convention No. 138, Article 9(3).
17. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
18. From recommendations on the enforcement
of legislation against child bondage, ILO, 1992, pp. 7-8.
20. See Bequele, op. cit., p. 31.
21. Ibid., op. cit., pp. 29-41.
22. Recommendation No. 146, Paragraph
23. Bequele, op. cit., p. 33.
24. Recommendation No. 146, Paragraph
25. Ibid., Paragraph 2(c).
26. Bequele, op. cit., p. 34.
27. Ibid., pp. 34-35.
28. Recommendation No. 146, Paragraph
29. Ibid., Paragraph 13(1)(c).
30. Ibid., Paragraph 13(1)(d).
31. Ibid., Paragraph 13(1)(a).
32. Ibid., Paragraph 13(1)(e).
33. Bequele, op. cit., p. 38.
34. Ibid., p.38.
35. Convention No. 138, Article 2(3).
36. Convention No. 182, Article 7(2)(c);
and Bequele, op. cit., pp. 130-133.
37. Recommendation No. 146, Paragraph
38. Ibid., Paragraph 2(d).
39. Bequele, op. cit., p. 38.
40. Ibid., p. 141.
41. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
42. Bequele, op. cit., p. 40.
43. Convention No. 182, Article 6(2);
Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph 2; and Bequele, op. cit., pp. 43-54.
44. For an overview of the magnitude
of the problem of children engaged in the most egregious forms of child labour,
see Child labour: Targeting the intolerable, Report VI(1), ILC, 86th session,
Geneva, 1998, pp. 3-22.
45. Convention No. 182, Article 3.
46. Ibid., Article 1.
47. Ibid., Article 1.
48. Ibid., Article 2.
49. Ibid., Article 7(d).
50. Ibid., Article 3(a).
51. United Nations Supplementary Convention
on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices
Similar to Slavery, Article 1(a).
52. Ibid., Article 1(b).
53. Convention No. 29, Article 11(1).
54. Principles and Best Practices on
the Prevention of Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces and Demobilization
and Social Reintegration of Child Soldiers in Africa (the "Cape Town Principles"),
adopted by the participants at the Symposium on the Prevention of Recruitment
of Children into the Armed Forces and Demobilization and Social Reintegration
of Child Soldiers in Africa, organized by UNICEF in cooperation with the NGO
Sub-group of the NGO Working Group on the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
Cape Town, 30 April 1997.
55. The ILO Committee on Child Labour
agreed that domestic work where children are mistreated or humiliated and other
types of work or activities where the child is delivered to and wholly dependent
on the employer are covered by the phrase practices similar to slavery. Report
of the Committee on Child Labour, ILC, 86th Session, Geneva, 1998, para. 130.
56. Convention No. 182, Article 3(b).
57. See Report of the Committee
Labour, op. cit., para. 134.
58. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
59. Ibid., Paragraphs 3 and 4.
60. Child labour: Targeting the intolerable,
61. Convention No. 182, Article 7(d).
62. Ibid., Article 7(2)(e).
63. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
64. Ibid., Paragraph 2(iv).
65. Report of the Committee on Child
Labour, ILC, 87th Session, Geneva, 1999, para. 228; and Report of
on Child Labour, 1998, op. cit, para. 256.
66. Report of the Committee on Child
Labour, 1999, op. cit., para. 228.
67. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
68. Report of the Committee on Child
Labour, 1999, op. cit., para. 222; and Report of the Committee on
1998, op. cit., para. 130.
69. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
70. Bequele, op. cit., pp. 23-25.
71. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
72. Convention No. 182, Article 7(2)(a).
73. Ibid., Article 7(2)(b).
74. Convention No. 182, Article 7(2)(b);
and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 39.
75. Convention No. 182, Article 7(2)(c).
76. Ibid., Article 7(2)(d).
77. Ibid., Article 6.
78. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraph
79. Convention No. 182, Article 8.
80. Recommendation No. 190, Paragraphs
11 and 16. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child also calls
for States parties to take all appropriate bilateral and multilateral measures
to prevent the abduction of, the sale of, or trafficking in children (Article
Updated by MB. Approved by AB. Last Updated
10 December 2001.