2013 World Day Against Child Labour

Urgent action needed to prevent and eliminate child labour in domestic work

The ILO calls for concerted action and a robust legal framework to clearly identify, prevent and eliminate child labour in domestic work.

Statement | New York | 17 June 2013

2013 World Day Against Child Labour
“No Child Labour in Domestic Work”
12 June 2013 - New York

In our continuing global efforts to eliminate child labour in all its forms, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its partners commemorate this years’ World Day Against Child Labour with the theme of “No to Child Labour in Domestic Work”.

This theme reflects an intersection between two important areas of the ILO’s work that stubbornly persists in denying basic human rights to some of the most vulnerable people in the world: the exploitation of children working in private households often outside the protection of labour laws.

When taken together, we are witnessing an unacceptable form of abuse which can longer continue. We are here today to raise our voices in unison to call for the elimination of child labour in domestic work

To better understand and combat this terrible form of child labour, the ILO has been actively working with communities, organizations and listening to the children themselves on what gives rise to this terrible situation that denies them basic rights.

This research has been published in a new ILO report, entitled “Ending child labour in domestic work”, that calls for an end to this practice and for the protection of young workers, of legal working age, against abusive working conditions in domestic work.

The report states that globally there are an estimated 15.5 million children – a person below the age of 18 - involved in paid or unpaid domestic work in households other than their own. Of these children, 10.5 million are estimated to be in child labour either because they are below the legal minimum working age, or are working under hazardous conditions. Additionally, we have found that an undetermined number of children are in domestic work as result of forced labour and trafficking.

Six and a half million of these child labourers are aged between five and 14 years-old. More than 71 per cent are girls.

These children carry out tasks such as cooking, cleaning, ironing, gardening, collecting water, looking after other children and caring for the elderly.

They are often isolated from their families, hidden from the public eye and are extremely vulnerable to physical, psychological and sexual violence and abusive working conditions. These children are highly dependent on their employers and a significant number might end up being commercially sexually exploited.

This situation constitutes a serious violation of a child’s rights and remains an obstacle to the achievement of many national and international development objectives. The ILO calls for concerted and joint action at the national and international levels which demands a robust legal framework to clearly identify, prevent and eliminate child labour in domestic work.

Sadly, it is often difficult to protect child domestic workers. They toil behind the closed doors of their employers’ homes and societies rarely think of what they do as work. The reason for this misperception is due to the blurred relationship with the employing family. We too often hear the excuse that the child is not a worker but “part of the family”.

This deceptive attitude disguises the exploitative arrangement, often characterized by long working hours, lack of personal freedom and sometimes hazardous working conditions. This hidden nature of the child’s vulnerable situation makes it difficult to protect them from these abuses.

The ILO’s report makes a number of key recommendations to eliminate child labour from domestic work from which I would like to briefly highlight some of the main points.

Firstly, we must develop statistical visibility and further enhance our knowledge on child domestic work through improved data collection on trends and working conditions as well as better statistics that can inform effective policy development. This will also contribute to our efforts in strengthening coordination of networks and partnerships as well as help in the development of practical tools for action against child labour.

We must give high priority to transforming social attitudes through increased awareness-raising and advocacy activities that challenge prevailing assumptions that child domestic workers are like “one of the family” and clearly indicate and insist on the proper treatment by employers of children performing domestic work.

The ILO asks Member States, that have not done so, to ratify and implement ILO Conventions on minimum age and on the worst forms of child labour (No’s 138 and 182) and on decent work for domestic workers (No. 189). This is a critical step in promoting decent work conditions for domestic workers of all ages by safeguarding their rights and interests and recognizing domestic work as “real work” in national labour and social policy.

Furthermore, national laws must set a clear minimum age for domestic workers not lower than that established for workers generally, properly regulate working and living conditions of domestic workers, and ensure that children in child labour situations and young workers in domestic work have access to justice and legal redress.

A key to the success of national efforts is establishing effective labour inspection that ensures respect for international labour standards and allows inspectors or other relevant officials to enter private premises – which are in fact workplaces – in order to enforce provisions applicable to domestic work.

It is vital to enhance the role of the social partners and to extend freedom of association and to effectively recognize the right to collective bargaining in domestic work. Young domestic workers of legal working age must be ensured of their right to join or to form unions.

Finally, it is vital to any long-term solution that we engage, inform and work with employers of domestic workers to form local networks of “responsible employer” and worker associations that can formalize the sector and negotiate better working conditions for those below 18 years but above the legal minimum working age.

I encourage you to review the ILO’s new report which you will find in the back of the room as well as on our web site along with a wealth of research on ending child labour in domestic work and in other sectors. And on behalf of the ILO, I thank you for your commitment and action to end child labour in domestic work.