World Day Against Child Labour

How we treat our children is a reflection of our societies and values

In a statement released for World Day Against Child Labour, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder urges Governments, workers and employers to make a final push to end child labour. Country Director of ILO Bangladesh, Tuomo Poutiainen spoke about the efforts which have been made and the actions that are still needed to tackle child labour in the country.

Statement | Dhaka, Bangladesh | 12 June 2019
A child working at a workshop in Dhaka fixes battered trucks and covered vans. ©ILO/Mahmud
The World Day Against Child Labour gives us an opportunity to take stock, define goals and recommit to action.

Our reflection this year – the ILO’s Centenary – is particularly significant because the ILO has been working for the abolition of child labour since its earliest days. Two of the first six Conventions the ILO adopted in its first year, 1919, addressed child labour. Its abolition is now the subject of one of the ILO’s fundamental principles, along with ending forced labour and work-related discrimination, and promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining.

In 100 years, we have made substantial progress, not least because of intense advocacy and national mobilization backed by legislative and practical action. Between 2000 and 2016 alone, there was a 38 per cent decrease in child labour globally. The ILO’s Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) has achieved almost universal ratification by the ILO’s 187 member States, and the ratification rate of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) is not far behind.

Countries in every region can be proud of this progress, but we cannot be complacent. It would be fitting if universal ratification of Convention No. 182 is achieved in the ILO’s Centenary year. And our member States are striding towards this goal.

Of course, legal foundations are essential, practical change is another.  Globally, 152 million children are trapped in child labour, and 73 million of these – almost half - are in hazardous work.  This is simply unacceptable.

We need to urgently accelerate the pace of progress. But to do this - and also meet Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for the end of child labour by 2025 – more coherent action is required, ensuring the availability of quality education, social protection for all, and decent work for parents.

In 100 years of working together for social justice the global community has achieved much. The ILO is proud to have played a part in this progress.  I urge Governments, workers and employers to come together and make a final push to end child labour and ensure that it does not reappear.

Bangladesh context

According to National Child Labour Survey 2013, there are 1.7 million child labour in Bangladesh of whom circa 1.28 million are trapped in hazardous forms of child labour. The ILO continues to advocate with Bangladesh government for the ratification of ILO Convention 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment.

Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued a statement on 12 June 2019 reiterating the commitment of her government to eradicate all forms of child labour by 2025. She said: “Bangladesh formulated a National Child Labour Elimination Policy in 2010 and developed a national work plan and committees that are monitoring child labour related activities at national, divisional, district and sub-district levels.”

As part of ILO’s technical cooperation with the Government Bangladesh, child labour monitoring was piloted from 2016-2018 in several remote rural areas in the northwest part of the country. A total of 144 Community-based Workplace Surveillance Groups (CWSG) were formed in 45 rural Unions and three semi-urban towns of Kurigram and Lalmonirhat Districts.

These groups were supported by young activists who identified 2,016 child labourers in tea stalls and eateries, farming and fishing, automobile repair workshops, bidi (cigarette) and brick manufacturing, domestic work, etc. Of those identified, 58 per cent were above the minimum age of admission to employment (14 years), and 44 per cent were in one of the 38 occupations listed as hazardous by the government.

To mark World Day Against Child Labour 2019, ILO Country Director, Tuomo Poutiainen said: “Bangladesh is progressing well in its journey to become a middle-income economy and major efforts have been made to address child labour. Decent work for all cannot be achieved without the elimination of child labour. It is important to continue to provide good basic education, skills and address safe work for youth. ILO’s experience in tackling child labour has shown that a combination of legislative regulation, progressive labour market and youth employment policy, access to social protection programmes and quality education are required for the effective elimination of child labour.”