Opening Address to ILO/MOLSW National Tripartite Workshop on the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

by Ms Mitsuko Horiuchi, Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Bangkok | 22 December 1999

Khun Prasong Rananand, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Thailand
Distinguished Participants
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am pleased to welcome you to the ILO/MOLSW National Tripartite Workshop on the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). I am grateful to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Khun Prasong Rananand who has kindly agreed to inaugurate this workshop. It is indeed a fitting time for this event, jointly organized by the ILO and the Royal Government of Thailand, following the ILO workshop on workers' rights and human rights held on 12 February 1999. In recent years, Thailand has progressively lifted its human rights record. The adoption of the People’s Constitution in 1997 and the strong support that the Thai Government gave to the adoption of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its follow-up at the International Labour Conference in 1998 was a significant milestone on the road to improving workers' rights and human rights.

The Declaration rests on the notion that by the virtue of their membership in the ILO --- and the fact that they have accepted the Constitution of the ILO --- all member States have an obligation to respect the principles and rights contained in the ILO’s fundamental Conventions, even if they have not ratified them.

These principles and rights are well known to you. They are freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; the abolition of all forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour and elimination of the worse forms of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. As a founding member of the ILO, and an active member of the ILO Governing Body, the Government of Thailand has ratified three ILO core Conventions. These are the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), and most recently, this year, the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100).

Child labour has been a central concern since the creation of the ILO in 1919. Today, child labour is still a cause for concern, for two reasons: first, because of the number of children affected is still very high; second, and most importantly, because it robs children of the futures they deserve. Child labour deprives children of adequate education, good health and basic freedom.

It is generally recognized that the complete abolition of child labour will take a long time, due primarily to the deep-seated cause of poverty. We need to tackle issues including the unemployment and underemployment that affects so many of the parents of child workers. We need to tackle limited access to training, weaknesses in social protection systems, and quantitative and qualitative deficiencies in the education system.

I must praise you for making progress in combating and eliminating child labour. In Thailand, the proportion of working children is declining as a result of a range of factors such as a high per capita income, the spread of basic education, the reduction in the size of families, and increased awareness in society.

I firmly believe that the partnership between the Government of Thailand and the ILO will change the lives, the opportunities and the destinies of millions of children. Thailand is among the first generation of 37 countries actively participating in the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).

The ILO has two central Conventions related to child labour, namely the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). Ratification and implementation of these Conventions will guarantee and safeguard the basic rights of children. Convention No. 138 is a flexible instrument – the flexibility that its provisions allow for is one of the themes which will be explored during this workshop.

Articles numbers 53, 80 and 86 of the Constitution, and Articles numbers 44 to 52 of your country’s Labour Protection Act, which came into force in 1998, provide basic infrastructure for implementing the provisions of this Convention.

Another pleasing development is the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare’s work to develop a National Child Labour Prevention and Solution Plan for 1997-2001, which was later approved by the Cabinet of the Royal Government of Thailand, intended as a framework for all parties concerned with putting an end to child labour in Thailand.

I trust that this workshop will lead to the ratification of Convention 138 by the Government of Thailand in the year 2000. I do sincerely hope that it will also pave the way for the subsequent ratification of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). This is also a fitting time to mention a high-level meeting on child labour that we plan to organize in Jakarta next year, from 8-10 March.

In conclusion, I wish hope that this workshop will be fruitful and productive. The ILO stands ready to provide technical support and do all it can to assist the Government of Thailand to ratify these two fundamental ILO Conventions.