As long as there is child labour in any country or community, social justice cannot be achieved

Opening speech by Mr Satoshi Sasaki, OIC and Deputy Director, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi at the World Day Against Child Labour Consultation by VVGNLI.

Statement | NOIDA, India | 12 June 2023
Good morning!

I am happy to be here, to mark the World Day Against Child Labour. It offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the collaboration among the ILO’s constituents and stakeholders towards achieving the SDG target 8.7: “End child labour in all its forms by 2025”. World Day Against Child Labour serves as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement, and for nearly two decades, the world has made steady progress in reducing child labour. However, over the past few years, multiple conflicts and crises and the COVID-19 pandemic, have plunged more families into poverty – and forced many more children into child labour.

Promoting concrete actions to address root causes and advancing social justice, the theme for the World Day this year is “Social Justice for All. End Child Labour!”. The social justice theme is timely, as it is linked to child labour in many ways. Firstly, the presence of child labour is an indicator that society lacks social justice. Whether in the world at large, a country or a community, as long as there is child labour in society, social justice cannot be achieved. In many cases, Child labour is the result of unfair distribution of wealth and opportunities, discrimination and lack of social protection for the vulnerable and marginalised. When such gaps exist, families and communities are forced to resort to child labour.

Social justice cannot be achieved without eliminating child labour since child labour produces a future generation that is uneducated, unskilled and perpetuates poverty. In 1998, the ILO's Member States expressed their shared commitment to uphold basic human rights at work by adopting the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW). Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining, Elimination of all forms of Forced or Compulsory Labour, Effective Abolition of Child Labour and Elimination of Discrimination in respect of Employment and Occupation are the categories of labour standards that should be considered fundamental because they protect workers' basic rights. The 110th International Labour Conference (2022) added Occupational Safety and Health as the fifth fundamental principle.

The adoption of this Declaration underlines the international community's commitment to respect and promote these principles and rights, whether or not they have ratified the relevant ILO Conventions. The situation in relation to child labour suggests a lack of satisfactory responses to the multiple challenges that affect the world of work. The Durban Call to Action, adopted at the 5th Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour in 2022, provides a blueprint for turning the tide against child labour using every available economic, political and social lever. It seeks to ensure that child labour is prioritized in national and global policymaking and activities, in development cooperation and in financial, trade and investment agreements. The recent ILO-UNICEF report provides extensive evidence that child sensitive social protection reduces poverty while also contributing to income security in households. Such efforts help improve outcomes of child health, education, and food security and protection. Further, it provides resilience for households, allowing them to boost their productivity and earning potential, and lowers the risk of the intergenerational poverty.

ILO’s technical assistance on child labour is provided within the framework of the India’s Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) 2023-2027, falls under Priority 1, Outcome 1.3 (Promote the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work). The Outcome is aligned with the United Nation Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). It aims at supporting constituents on child labour policy, enforcement, and plans of action, including convergence-based models. Through various interventions, Government of India has been addressing issues related to social justice. One such intervention is seen in the aspirational districts’ program, which focuses on human development and inclusive growth. Ministry of Panchayati Raj launched the Child-Friendly Panchayat Award in 2019 bringing the focus of local governance towards child rights – survival, development, protection and participation. It is in this line; effective elimination of child labour could be integrated within the child friendly panchayat framework and this could be an effective mechanism for preventing child labour in India. I am glad to see that Government, representatives from workers and employers’ organisations and civil society have come together to define goals in achieving social justice and commit their actions to end child labour. It is equally important to leverage capacities and improve coordination and policy coherence to increase the scale and impact of actions towards social justice.

The World of Work Summit of the ILO in Geneva on 14-15 June will provide an opportunity to forge a Global Coalition for Social Justice. To construct the path toward a world free from child labour, realizing decent work, and ensuring that social progress goes hand in hand with economic progress and development, social justice for all is the way to end child labour.

Thank You!