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Report for discussion at the Meeting of Experts on Labour Inspection
and Child Labour

Note on the proceedings

Geneva, 27 September-1 October 1999

International Labour Office   Geneva




List of participants

Report (1)


1. Following a proposal by an Informal Ministerial Meeting on Child Labour held during the 83rd Session of the International Labour Conference (June 1996), the Governing Body of the International Labour Office decided at its 273rd Session (November 1998) that a Meeting of Experts on Labour Inspection and Child Labour should be convened. The Meeting was held in Geneva, from 27 September to 1 October 1999.

Agenda of the Meeting

2. The Meeting was convened for experts on labour inspection and child labour to share ideas and experience on: the role of labour inspectors in combating child labour; best practices and approaches; and to formulate recommendations for future national and international action.


3. Forty-four experts were invited to the Meeting, 22 of them appointed by Governments, 11 after consultation with the Employers' group and 11 after consultation with the Workers' group of the Governing Body.

4. Several observers also attended the Meeting, representing the following intergovernmental organizations: the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Arab Labour Organization (ALO); and the following non-governmental international organizations: the General Confederation of Trade Unions (GCTU), the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the International Council of Nurses (ICN), the International Movement of Apostolate of Children (IMAC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), Public Services International (PSI) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL). There was an observer from the Government of Germany and one from the Government of the United States.

5. The list of participants is annexed to this report.

Opening session

6. The Meeting was opened by Mr. Kari Tapiola, Executive Director of the Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector of the ILO. Welcoming the participants to the Meeting, he pointed to the very great increase in interest in the fight against child labour following the holding in recent years of several international, regional and national meetings on the question, the discussions of the Committee on Child Labour at the International Labour Conference in 1998 and 1999 and the unanimous adoption of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182) and Recommendation (No. 190) in 1999. The need to develop successful means to end the exploitative practices of child labour -- which was the objective of this Meeting -- was therefore high on the international agenda.

7. Recalling the destructive effects of hazardous working conditions for the health, educational opportunities and development of working children, he highlighted the efforts of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to strengthen national capacities to address the child labour problem through practical technical cooperation programmes. IPEC had conducted specialized training programmes on a regional basis resulting in national training programmes for a few hundred labour inspectors.

8. The recently adopted Convention No. 182 and Recommendation No. 190 on the worst forms of child labour stressed the need for immediate and effective enforcement measures to prohibit and eliminate such practices as child slavery, trafficking of children, forced labour, forced participation in armed conflict and the use of children in prostitution, pornography, illicit activities and hazardous work as a matter of urgency for all those under the age of 18. The keystone of ILO policy on child labour remained the effective elimination of all its forms. The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, adopted in 1998, placed an obligation on all member States to respect, promote and realize, among other objectives, the effective abolition of child labour; and the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), now increasingly being ratified, remained a fundamental instrument on child labour. These instruments promoted comprehensive interventions to strengthen law enforcement and labour inspection. The latter had a key role to play in designating hazardous activities, identifying workplaces where they exist, and tackling the very difficult question of obtaining access to the informal sector, rural areas, private homes, and small home-based industries where child labour occurs, as well as taking account of the situation of girls and other vulnerable groups.

9. A coordinated approach involving all ILO constituents as well as other international organizations, NGOs, academics and civil society was needed to take the wide range of measures to promote economic development, and universal education and other measures of prevention, rehabilitation and social integration, and to tackle the underlying issues of poverty and lack of resources hindering effective action.

10. The representative of the Director-General, Mr. Werner Blenk, Programme Manager of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), welcomed participants and highlighted the main issues before the Meeting. Stressing the strong normative structure provided by the ILO with which to combat child labour, he outlined the practical technical cooperation activities conducted by IPEC within that structure, and stressed the complexities of the issue which involved, inter alia, political, cultural, development and human rights questions. Whilst being rooted in poverty, child labour also contributed to poverty by depriving children of the chance to grow and develop into productive adults. Recalling the multidisciplinary nature of the problem, he pointed out the need for labour inspectors to work with all those involved. He hoped the Meeting would produce a number of practical and usable recommendations. Labour inspectors knew reality on the ground and were therefore ideally placed to ensure improvements in the fight against child labour where it exists.

Election of Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons

11. Mr. András Békés, expert nominated by the Government of Hungary, was unanimously elected as Chairperson of the Meeting. Mr. Majyd Aziz (SITE Association of Industry, Pakistan), expert nominated after consultation with the Employers' group, and Mr. Eliud Shivachi (Central Organization of Trade Unions, Kenya), expert nominated after consultation with the Workers' group, were unanimously elected Vice-Chairpersons.

12. The Chairperson welcomed all participants to the Meeting, which he considered most timely in view of the recent adoption of Convention No. 182, which was attracting almost unprecedented support from the international community. Reminding participants of the need to focus on the role of labour inspectors in combating child labour, on identifying best practices and approaches, and on making recommendations for possible national and international action he invited them to harness the undoubted intellectual challenge this represented to the practical output expected of the Meeting.

Statements by observers

13. An observer from Public Services International recalled that many PSI-affiliated unions had labour inspectors amongst their members. He expressed concern that government expenditure cuts had had adverse effects on the functions of labour inspectorates and of associated services, with resulting demoralization of staff and loss of trained persons, especially in developing countries where conditions attached to IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programming often required public expenditure cuts, which reduced essential services to the poor and those exploited at work. He recalled the need for close cooperation between labour inspectors, employers' and workers' representatives and other public service workers, and the problems of ensuring labour protection in small enterprises where workers were not represented. Labour inspection coverage should be extended to all workplaces, especially rural areas and the informal sector, for which additional training and resources were needed.

14. An observer from the International Council of Nurses spoke of nurses' role as occupational health professionals in the fight against child labour and for the healthy mental and physical development of children. She hoped the Meeting would provide benchmarks for sound future strategies, notably on data collection (especially birth registration); the consolidation of legislation to protect workers accompanied by credible enforcement mechanisms; cost-effective reforms; the adoption of multidisciplinary and tripartite approaches and social dialogue; and the establishment of equal access to education for all children, with particular attention to the needs of girls.

Introduction to the relevant instruments

15. Mr. Wolfgang von Richthofen, Senior Labour Inspection Specialist of the Labour Administration Branch and deputy representative of the Director-General, outlined the provisions of ILO standards on ILO's labour inspection, emphasizing also the historical perspective of their development. Labour inspection was already mentioned in the ILO's 1919 Constitution, and the Labour Inspection Recommendation, 1923 (No. 20), laid the ground for subsequent labour inspection standards, providing a benchmark for the cooperative and preventative approaches needed for labour inspection to be successful. Prior to the Second World War, several other instruments had referred to labour inspection in different sectors; in 1947 labour inspection standards which consolidated in the Labour Inspection Convention (No. 81), followed in 1969 by the Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention (No. 129). Both instruments were accompanied by a series of Recommendations (Nos. 81, 82, 85 and 133). Between the adoption of these two Conventions, the issue of labour inspection in member States was discussed several times by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, a measure of its overall importance. Convention No. 81 was identified by the ILO Governing Body as one of the ten most important ILO standards as regards the overall activities and policies of the ILO and had been ratified by 122 member States as of September 1999. In 1995, the Protocol to Convention No. 81 was adopted, covering labour inspection in the non-commercial sector, i.e. the public services.

16. He outlined the differences between Conventions Nos. 81 and 129 which indicated important developments over time, in particular the possibility of applying the provisions of the latter Convention to all categories of worker in all categories of workplace (in agriculture), including tenants, sharecroppers, people working in small family enterprises, etc., and the different options for specialization offered in Article 7, paragraph 3, of that Convention. With the creation of a new programme structure in the Office, labour inspection was to be part of a new InFocus programme on "SafeWork", using a global, multidisciplinary approach, under the newly created social protection sector.

17. Mr. Ricardo Hernandez Pulido, Head of the General Working Conditions Section, Application of Standards Branch, outlined the provisions of ILO child labour Conventions. The ILO had been concerned with child labour from its earliest days, adopting at its First Session in 1919 Convention No. 5 on the minimum age in industry. Subsequently, it adopted a series of other Conventions concerning child labour in specific sectors, then a consolidating instrument, Convention No. 138, on the minimum age for work, adopted in 1973, which provided a global standard covering all sectors, i.e. it is a single, flexible instrument and should be capable of easy ratification. It provides that the minimum age for work should not be less than that of compulsory education, and be at least 15 years. Countries at a certain level of economic development may fix the minimum age for work at 14 years. The minimum age for work "which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons" is 18 years, but under certain conditions may be 16 years. In respect of light work, the minimum age is 13, but in the case of developing countries this age may be 12. The Convention had been ratified by 78 countries as of September 1999. The associated Recommendation No. 146 provided guidance on criteria to be applied to the determination of hazardous work and on enforcement measures, and addressed several of the specific issues that child labour raises for labour inspection services.

18. Reflecting mounting international concern with the problems of child labour, Convention No. 182 and Recommendation No. 190 were adopted unanimously in 1999, and called for immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency. Recommendation No. 190 ascribed an important role to labour inspection in this sphere. A massive campaign to ratify Convention No. 182 was under way and a considerable number of countries had indicated that they had already taken action in this respect.

19. Mr. Zafar Shaheed, Joint Director of the InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration, introduced the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, adopted in June 1998, under which all member States have an obligation "to respect, to promote and to realize" the fundamental principles and rights of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. He explained that the purpose of the follow-up to the Declaration was promotional, aiming to identify areas in which technical cooperation could help member States implement the fundamental principles and rights and to encourage member States' national efforts; it did not duplicate the established supervisory mechanisms.

20. He explained that a newly established structure in the ILO to promote the Declaration would serve as an entry point to the work of other ILO departments, linking into the full range of their activities. For example, as regards forced and bonded labour, it would stress the need to go beyond the legal framework and address the social structures that permit work under such involuntary conditions; action to eliminate child labour would be supported and complemented by action on other fundamental principles and rights; and action to establish minimum levels of social protection through the development of social safety nets would help families remove their children from work and find other income-generating activities. In order effectively to respect and realize the fundamental principles and rights at work, mechanisms of social dialogue and tripartite cooperation needed support, for which the engagement of trade unions and employers' organizations and business was essential. Encouragement would be given to research on the linkages between core labour standards and development and on the costs and benefits of a rights-based approach to development. For all this, an office-wide effort was essential.

General discussion: The role of labour
inspection in combating child labour

21. One expert outlined the key issues for trade unions in this discussion, namely: the extension of labour inspection's authority to reach sectors where child labour was most prevalent; the lack of resources for labour inspection; the importance of inter-agency cooperation, of training, data collection and targeting, clarity of legislation and statutory powers, the role of access to basic education in prevention and rehabilitation; voluntary measures by companies; and the use of new technology to aid the work of labour inspectors. Convention No. 182 gave trade unions and tripartism a central role in combating child labour. Ratification was of course crucial, but action could be taken prior to ratification, and showing that rapid action was possible could act as a powerful spur to ratification.

22. Several experts from developing countries reported on the difficulties encountered by labour inspection as regards child labour in their countries. It was generally agreed that combating child labour in the informal sector presented very great difficulties, notably as regards access by inspectors to home-based work. Employers cooperated with the labour inspectorate in the organized sector, but the worst forms of child labour were often to be found in the informal sector or in non-commercial settings, such as the home or domestic service.

23. One expert questioned why so little progress had been made on the elimination of child labour worldwide despite the adoption 80 years previously of the first international instrument on the issue. It was not just a question of lack of political will; the costs involved were considerable, especially in rural areas. He contrasted the approaches of large, well-organized commercial farms with those of the small, informal agricultural sector where farmers were often illiterate and ignorant of the law. He considered it important to identify certain sectors for action, for example agriculture, certain specific crops, and the farming environment. He stressed that labour inspectors could not solve the problem alone, and that it was very important to educate employers, parents and the inspectors themselves on how to tackle child labour which presented more complicated problems than merely trying to ensure legal compliance.

24. Other experts raised a number of problems encountered in rural areas. For example, the mere presence of a stranger, i.e. the labour inspector, might alert children working in agriculture to disappear. Labour inspectors therefore needed to act very quickly in order to be effective. But the parents needed to have their children near them while they worked for there was no childcare provision; indeed there was very little work in such areas anyway, and parents had to take advantage of what opportunities they had. There were also problems with children who would not cooperate with the labour inspectors; these had then had some success using a multidisciplinary approach working with, for example, the juvenile police and the labour courts and the social services.

25. A range of proactive measures and "best practices" to combat child labour in agriculture in the United States was described by one expert. These measures were taken as part of the Government's enforcement initiative, not as a result of complaints by children or their parents, which were unlikely to be forthcoming. They included targeting hand-harvested crops such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions and garlic; the threat of confiscation of these crops as illegal goods if harvested by children, which generally ensured immediate compliance by employers; education campaigns on, for example, the dangers prevalent in agricultural workplaces explained for parents and teenagers (in relation to summer jobs); booklets on farm safety in English and Spanish targeted at children; and associations setting up campaigns in partnership with businesses to tackle child labour in agriculture.

26. Another expert with particular experience in working on coordinating measures against child labour in Africa stressed that the real issue was often the very survival of the working children and their families. Labour inspectors therefore had to act with great care and sensitivity, lest their action set off unintended effects, and result in worse situations. The speaker considered that labour inspectorates should have a clear legal framework for their actions and that they should act as a catalyst drawing attention to the problem. He believed that few countries had developed specific programmes for labour inspectors, considering their task to be merely that of ensuring compliance with the law. Most countries did not recognize the complexity of the issue.

27. In developing countries generally there was a great shortage of human and material resources to carry out the functions of labour inspection. There were perhaps genuine intentions to apply the law, but performance failed to measure up to these intentions. Posts existed but qualified inspectors could not be found and there were insufficient funds for training and purchasing equipment.

28. However, in order to establish the role of labour inspectors in combating child labour, the experts repeatedly stated that it was important to give priority to the fight against child labour and to develop methods to select amongst the many other functions of labour inspectors. Child labour had many aspects, even the worst forms of child labour tended to cover a very broad range of activities. Although child labour in principle was just one form of illegal employment, and therefore fell directly among the responsibilities of labour inspectors, it occurred in numerous, very different settings, each of which presented specific - and often additional - problems for labour inspectors already burdened with a wide range of other tasks. However, tackling this particularly nefarious form of illegal work would also have a major impact on other aspects of the work of labour inspectors and moreover, as one expert pointed out, the worst forms of child labour could be considered to be just the tip of the iceberg represented by other, "lesser" forms of child labour occurring throughout society.

29. One of the difficulties, in this context, was defining the role of labour inspectors in combating child labour. The labour inspectors' role was to ensure compliance with the law, based on an established legal framework defining their powers and, as a rule, the workplaces where those powers should be exercised. But, as was repeatedly pointed out, the vast majority of incidents of child labour occurred in the informal sector in both urban and rural areas, in home-based activities carried out by the children's families or, as in the case of domestic service, in "invisible" workplaces such as the child's own home or someone else's home, and thus very difficult - indeed often legally impossible - to reach by inspectors.

30. Labour inspectors faced problems justifying intervention in such informal work situations, not to speak of the practical problem of gaining access to shifting workplaces in the informal sector (e.g., the street) or to private homes. It was not surprising, therefore, that a number of experts considered the scope of labour inspection's coverage needed to be reviewed and broadened, before its role in combating child labour could effectively be developed.

31. The basic "tension" between labour inspection's enforcement and prevention functions was also referred to by the experts. Several experts expressed the view that this issue tended to be heightened by the tasks of combating child labour. It was difficult to enforce regulations in relation to work that took place in nebulous contexts not always, or not specifically, covered by the law. In fact, in some countries, recent legislation specifically excluded informal sector workplaces from the scope of labour inspection's responsibility. Yet it was essential to make it absolutely clear that child labour would not be tolerated even - and particularly - in societies where it had proliferated without any sanctions over time. On the other hand, it could be argued that child labour would be more effectively eradicated through the full range of preventive measures using persuasion and education of all concerned (employers, parents, the children themselves). The imposition of sanctions, while aiming at compliance by employers, might unintentionally drive the children into more dangerous or degrading forms of work, into even less visible workplaces. However, preventive measures were also likely to achieve the aim of raising awareness throughout society of the desirability of eliminating child labour once and for all. In the context of child labour, it was necessary to develop a clear, considered, coherent and consistent policy establishing the balance needing to be struck between the two broad categories of labour inspectors' methods of intervention.

32. Discussion of the approaches labour inspection might take to combating child labour also led to discussion of training issues. Given the wide range of tasks incumbent on labour inspection, the training of inspectors brought forth a range of views among the experts. These could broadly be categorized into support for a good basic education and for specialization in one or more aspects of labour inspection's multifaceted role. Given the many demands on an almost always underfunded and overstretched labour inspectorate, many experts opted for a good basic education supplemented by highly developed coordination and cooperation with closely associated services.

33. Combating child labour would inevitably require labour inspectors to be trained in a number of additional areas, starting with the phenomenon of child labour itself, its incidence and range and the desirability of its abolition, as well as the relevant international standards and national regulations. In view of the sensitive nature of child labour, there was a need for training in the psychology of handling intimidated and bewildered children whose only experience was of poverty, insecurity and often violence, and who had no knowledge of their rights or the functions of labour inspectors. Some experts mentioned the value of employing women labour inspectors when dealing with cases involving child labour. They were perhaps perceived as less daunting to the children involved; they were certainly more acceptable in situations where only girls were employed or where religious attitudes required that women talk to girl workers and inspect their working conditions.

34. An aspect of the role of labour inspectors in combating child labour, mentioned several times, was their personal reaction, i.e. considerable sympathy for the child workers and their families and the impossible dilemmas they faced: for many parents, especially mothers alone and parents in situations of extreme poverty and deprivation, there was simply no alternative to putting their children to work. Working children often meant survival of the family unit and there was no perspective before them other than immediate, physical survival. Training was seen as the appropriate way for inspectors to acquire the necessary professional understanding in such emotionally demanding situations; again, a clear policy needed to be evolved on this question.

35. A related issue raised by several experts concerned the attitudes sometimes displayed by the child workers themselves and their parents. For these, the negative connotations associated with child labour were not immediately obvious, it provided them with an income - however small - and sometimes the chance to get some minimal training, which could be, in some cases, more attractive than the apparent alternative of inadequate schooling followed by unemployment - and thus they did not perhaps appreciate the intervention of labour inspectors. Apart from the difficulty of facing such potentially hostile reactions, inspectors often also had no choice but to resort to some legal or even physical force in order to fulfil their obligations. This was unseemly in professional terms, and also raised the serious issue of their own security. This in turn raised the broader issue of the limitations on the proper conduct of labour inspection in dangerous and violent conditions obtaining in certain circumstances. This issue emphasized the need to enhance and improve the status and working conditions of labour inspectors generally (see below).

36. There was broad consensus on the need for labour inspectors to develop further a coordinated approach with other concerned professionals and agents. This was true in a general way for labour inspection and referred to, for example, in Article 9 of Convention No. 81, but was particularly appropriate in the case of child labour, some aspects of which were of more direct concern to other professionals as well (e.g., child prostitution, or involvement in criminal activities). The coordinated approach was also variously described as integrated, multidisciplinary, or holistic, but amounted to essentially the same: to maximize the impact of labour inspectors' efforts, to avoid duplication of functions, and to save scarce resources and inspectors' time. Many experts provided examples of successful efforts in this sphere, mentioning reform measures in the inspection system itself, and in particular work with the police, social services, and juvenile courts. Furthermore, intermediaries had proved particularly useful in dealing with sensitive aspects of child labour.

37. Much of the discussion focused on the practical aspects of various approaches adopted, but the issue of the necessary political will to deal with child labour and how to activate it, was a recurring priority theme. The central question remained: given that the international legal framework existed and the relevant Conventions had been ratified in many countries, why were they often not applied? The harmonization of national legislation to prepare for the application of ratified instruments was the stage at which labour inspectorates therefore had an obvious role to play, enabling the transformation of policies into appropriate national, enforceable regulations and good practice.

38. The manner in which labour inspection was organized was also repeatedly brought up in the discussions. Although Article 4 of Convention No. 81 was clear in stating that labour inspection should, if national law and practice so permitted, come under one central authority, some countries varied in the extent to which labour inspection was organized under a central, regional or local body. The further labour inspection was removed from this central authority, the greater the risk of involvement of vested interests in decisions affecting its independence. Pressure to change the manner of organizing had often occurred because of the perceived costs of running labour inspection without highlighting the benefits also in economic terms. This had been a particular issue in developing countries because of the regular requirement of many structural adjustment programmes to cut public expenditure and reduce public services more or less drastically. The impact on the independence and operation of labour inspection was therefore largely negative, with obvious consequences also for the ability of inspectors to meet the challenge of combating child labour.

39. It was clear that tripartism had an essential role in all efforts to establish ways in which labour inspectors could contribute to the fight against child labour. The involvement of governments, employers' and workers' organizations in this context was repeatedly mentioned. Some experts spoke of good practices developed by employers as positive models with which to counterbalance cases of exploitation and abuse of child workers. Workers' organizations had a clear role in identifying cases of child labour, including in the informal or "invisible" workplaces; reporting hazards and unacceptable working conditions; and being actively involved in workplace health and safety councils or similar institutions. The principles of freedom of association and job security were key elements of labour protection, as lack of respect for them seriously affected the work of labour inspectors, because of workers' fear of reprisals, victimization or dismissal. There was a complementarity between freedom of association and the ability of adults to earn a decent wage to support their families without having to rely on additional income from their children. It was important that labour inspectors' role in combating child labour should not entail curtailing inspection of formal sector workplaces, as any such a reduction in standards there would undermine standards everywhere.

40. The role of labour inspectors in combating child labour repeatedly evoked considerations of their status and working conditions, which were clearly of importance in this context. It was generally considered that inspectors' status needed to be enhanced and their working conditions improved, if labour inspection was to be carried out in the most effective and efficient way. Labour inspectors regularly found themselves under considerable undue pressure not to perform their tasks properly because of the threat they appeared to represent to important economic interests, whether corporate or more local. They therefore needed recognition, respect and support at the political level and from the community, but this was difficult to achieve if their independence was threatened, their status low, and their salaries and working conditions inadequate. Unfortunately, this was often the case and, in such circumstances, resulted in low motivation and poor performance and, at worst, a serious risk of corruption, and further downscaling of status. Several experts reported problems in attracting new entrants to the inspectorate in their countries, which was a measure of these general problems. The solutions proposed involved improving salaries and conditions in various ways, but not necessarily only increasing the number of inspectors, for labour inspection involved far more than simply visiting all workplaces - which would be impossible anyway. Increased and improved training and modern technical equipment were important, but above all attention needed to be given to ensuring the accountability of labour inspection to a central authority and to successfully inspiring management to devise more effective ways of carrying out the functions of labour inspection.

General discussion: Best practices and approaches

41. Reference was made throughout the discussion to examples of practices and approaches adopted in national systems of experts attending the Meeting. Many described their labour inspection systems and provided details of successful solutions and best practices developed for, or adapted to, their national situations, some of them organized on a central basis, others at a regional or local level. Many experts referred to the need to establish reliable data collection systems on all aspects of child labour relevant to inspection, including such basic data as birth registers and school-attendance records.

42. Certain elements emerged consistently from the examples cited, for example, the need to carefully develop a coordinated approach with other agencies involved or with the social partners, non-governmental organizations, schools, youth protection services, religious or community leaders, etc. Such joint approaches were very helpful, inter alia, in raising public awareness of child labour. Another approach was to develop strategies focusing efforts on, for example, the informal sector, particular industries (e.g. coalmining, agriculture, forestry), hazards involved in the use of chemicals and pesticides and others. Some experts called for social programmes focusing on children's development needs such as schooling, health care, alternative forms of income generation, etc. One example involved the creation of a national taskforce to rescue children from hazardous working conditions; this employed a coordinated approach, and organized surprise raids which were then publicized to increase public awareness. In another example, a resource model was developed to establish the numbers of children involved, the companies employing them, the numbers of inspectors available, and then to identify ways of improving compliance. One project contracted the police force concerning investigative skills and individual constitutional rights.

43. The training needs of labour inspectors were repeatedly mentioned by almost all experts, notably the wide range of new areas in which inspectors needed guidance and skills to build competence, which also involved the development and use of specific training manuals.

44. Monitoring received much attention and was also the subject of a panel discussion, at which presentations were made of several successful examples to this approach. These were the ILO/UNICEF/BGMEA project in the garment industry in Bangladesh; the soccer ball and surgical instruments projects in Sialkot, Pakistan; and the carpet project in Lahore, Pakistan. All employed a dual approach, i.e. monitoring and verification in the first instance, and the rehabilitation of the children concerned in the second instance.

Presentation of recommendations of the
two working groups and designation of
the members of the drafting group

45. Mr. F. Nolla Fernandez, Rapporteur for working group 1, presented the working group's recommendations, as did Ms. Corlis Sellers, Rapporteur of the other working group.

46. Mr. Steyne regretted that interpretation facilities had not been available during the informal group meetings. He stated that this had slowed down discussion during those meetings and hence the overall proceedings. Mr. Aziz expressed similar regrets.

47. The Meeting designated the following experts as members of the drafting group for the recommendations for future action: Mr. Majyd Aziz, Mr. A. Echavarría Saldarriaga, Mr. J. Kleynhans, Mr. A. Lodwick, Mr. F. Nolla Fernandez, Ms. Birgitta Normann, Ms. Corlis Sellers, Mr. Eliud Shivachi, Mr. Seenithamby Sivagnanam, Mr. Simon Steyne, Mr. J.G. Tobar Anouch.

Consideration and adoption of draft
recommendations and draft report

48. At its final sitting, the drafting group submitted its draft recommendations to the Meeting. A number of amendments were proposed, some of which were approved by the Meeting.

49. At the same sitting, the Meeting unanimously adopted the recommendations as amended and the present report, with the understanding that minor drafting changes would be made, if requested, to the latter.

Geneva, 1 October 1999.

(Signed) Mr. András Békés,


Recommendations (2)

Action at national level

A. Governments, in close collaboration with employers' and workers' organizations, should create, promote and ensure a political environment and policy framework within the context of national labour and social policies, which fully underscores the importance of abolishing child labour. Ministries of labour have a special responsibility in this regard. It is only with strong political commitment that the labour inspectorate of a member State can play a leading, indeed any, role in the eradication of child labour, and particularly its worst forms. Therefore:

B. Labour inspection should, if possible, go beyond the minimum standards contained in Article 3 of Convention No. 81 (and Article 6 of Convention No. 129), and take a more proactive, prevention-oriented role. Labour inspectors should not only identify children working in illegal conditions during an inspection, remove them from the workplace where appropriate, and prohibit the employer from continuing to employ them, but should also play an advisory role and facilitate measures to complement any supervisory action.

C. Labour inspection should actively participate in the national determination under Article 4 of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) of the exact list of hazardous work to be prohibited for children under 18 years of age and to be eliminated as a matter of urgency.

D. Labour inspection systems should be functional, professional and effective, operate within efficient structures, and comprise an adequate number of properly trained, equipped and motivated inspectors. A professional labour inspection system should use the available resources in an economical and systematic way, inter alia, by means of prioritizing, proper planning and programming of all the activities that it has to perform by law. Such a system should be based on the framework of a larger labour administration system, headed by highly competent managers and strongly supported by the responsible political authorities.

E. Inspectors should be well informed, independent and well trained also in child labour issues. Familiarity with child labour issues and sensitivity to the situation of children who are working, particularly in hazardous work, are essential if labour inspectors are to contribute successfully to abolishing child labour.

F. In dealing with child labour, the labour inspectorate should plan and programme its inspection activities in such a way that every establishment liable to inspection, and where child labour is known to occur or may be expected, is inspected with reasonable frequency, and should react speedily to complaints.

G. To eradicate child labour, a comprehensive set of measures must be taken that require the collaboration of other actors. First, it should be ensured that labour inspectors work closely with other departments of labour administration. Furthermore, the labour administration services should work in close cooperation with services responsible for health, education, training, welfare and guidance of children and young persons.

H. Good active working relationships should be sought with employers' and workers' organizations at all levels and other concerned groups such as NGOs, as these are often well placed to identify instances of abuse and to support children once they have been removed from work.

I. Labour inspectors responsible for child labour should also be competent and be given specialist support to be able to ensure the enforcement of provisions concerning hazardous types of work. This requires training of labour inspectors to successfully detect hazardous work agents, processes and working conditions.

J. Labour inspectors must be empowered to use improvement notices, stop notices, prohibition notices as well as their powers of inspection and prosecution to target the worst forms of child labour. Sanctions should be available as a powerful tool and all necessary measures should be taken to ensure that the authority of the labour inspectorate is supported by the police and judiciary system.

K. Labour inspectors should be protected in their capacity as agents of the government and should be provided with police protection where danger or threat of bodily harm is evident. In addition, they should be indemnified against legal actions arising from the due exercise of their professional duties.

L. Labour administration services should develop innovative activities to target the informal sector, for example, awareness-raising in the community, contributing to the education of employers, cooperatives, producer organizations and trade unions, forming working relationships with workers' and employers' organizations, NGOs, faith-based organizations and women's groups. The policy should also include methods to educate children and their parents about the existing dangers and occupational consequences of child labour. Innovative mechanisms should be developed to reach illiterate populations.

M. Labour inspection should have adequate organizational structures conducive to the effective supervision and prevention of child labour.

N. Inspection services should be strengthened by ensuring adequate conditions of work for inspectors at least in line with the standards laid down in the relevant ILO instruments, in particular Article 6(1) of Convention No. 81 and Article 8(1) of Convention No. 129. All efforts must be made to ensure a balanced inspectorate in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, religion and geography and give due regard to in-service training.

O. A comprehensive national enforcement policy for labour inspection should include clear policy instructions on labour inspection and child labour, which should:

P. The policy should include methods aimed at persuading, influencing and stimulating employers of children to comply with the law on a sustainable basis.

Future ILO action

In order to give effect to the principles and rights contained in the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, the ILO as the constitutionally mandated and competent international body that sets and deals with international labour standards and promotes fundamental rights at work, should:

1. Vigorously promote the ratification and full application of ILO Conventions on labour inspection and child labour and acceptance of their accompanying Recommendations, particularly the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), and the Protocol of 1995 to the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947, the Labour Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, 1969 (No. 129), the Labour Administration Convention, 1978 (No. 150), the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).

2. Support, in full respect of tripartism, the activities of member States to eliminate child labour through technical cooperation undertaken by its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), including continuing support for sustainable projects and credible systems of monitoring and verification.

3. Continue to develop and strengthen member States' labour administration and, in particular, labour inspection systems through increased advisory and technical cooperation services, aimed, inter alia, at enhancing the authority, status, freedom from interference, employment rights and conditions of service of labour inspectors.

4. Support inter-agency cooperation for enforcement and follow-up, and enhance interdepartmental cooperation in the ILO both at headquarters and in the field, including the strengthening of labour administration expertise in the multidisciplinary teams (MDTs).

5. Provide technical assistance to Members' labour inspectorates to combat child labour, including:

6. Continue, through IPEC, together with governments, employers' and workers' organizations, NGOs, and international organizations such as UNICEF, to establish and implement sector-wide programmes that include monitoring of the child labour situation and working with rehabilitation programmes, including the dissemination through ILO publications of best practices in monitoring and verification systems.

7. Further its work in developing cooperation in the United Nations system and with multilateral agencies on the basis of the Declaration, taking into account the need for international policies which support the effective elimination of child labour and the strengthening of the labour inspectorates.

1.  Adopted unanimously.

2.  Adopted unanimously.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.