Workers Rights


An end to child labour

Child labour is still rife around the world. No country or region is immune. Crises such as natural disasters, economic downturns, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and armed conflicts increasingly draw the young into child labour. Millions are employed on farms or in the so-called 'informal' economy. Others are used as very cheap labour in sweatshops making consumer goods such as carpets and toys, or in restaurants, and even in mines and quarries.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that more than 200 million children - one in every six children aged 5 to 17 - are doing work that is damaging to his or her mental, physical and emotional development. Children work because their survival and that of their families depend on it. Child labour persists even where it has been declared illegal, and is frequently surrounded by a wall of silence, indifference, and apathy. But that wall is beginning to crumble. While the total elimination of child labour is a long-term goal in many countries, certain forms of child labour must be confronted immediately.

The ILO has two core labour standards relating to child labour:

  • ILO Convention on the Minimum Age of Entry into Employment, No. 138 (1973) says that governments must have a national policy to ensure the effective abolition of child labour.
  • ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, No.182 (1999) sets out the first steps that governments must take to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

Ending child labour is not a simple issue. Taking children out of employment may push them onto the streets. Therefore family incomes must rise, by paying fair wages. The ILO International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) is active in over 90 countries, its SCREAM - Supporting Children's Rights through Education, the Arts and the Media - programme, which is a main tool to promote children's participation and youth empowerment and has been translated into 19 languages.

On June 12 2002, the ILO launched the International Day Against Child Labour to keep up the international momentum to stop child labour, especially its worst forms.

An end to Child Labour

In an report 2006 ILO could confirm "We are beginning to see an encouraging reduction in child labour - especially in its worst forms - in manu areas of the world. From 2002 - 2006 child labourers fell by 11 percent. The IPEC played an important role in this progress, as well as an important political and NGO mobilisation in many countries around the world. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has been an active member in the Irish Task Force against Child Labour and in the Global Campaign for Education.

Congress' active work was of utmost importance to realise the third phase of the Irish Aid/International Labour Organisation partnership programme. The third phase of the partnership programmes includes an €1 million support from Irish Aid to ILO's special programme to eliminate Child Labour (IPEC). It was launched on the 4th November 2008 in Irish Aid volunteering centre in Dublin. This was also the official opening of the Irish Aid and ICTU sponsored exhibition of photographs on the subject of "Ethiopian women with disabilities at work".

Partly as a result of the publicity generated from the Global March against Child Labour, the Republic of Ireland was the first European Union country to ratify ILO Convention No.182 to combat the worst forms of child labour.

Yet the Republic itself still has no national programme of action. According to teachers' unions, children's performance in school is affected by the long part-time hours many work during the school term. The Labour Inspectorate takes few offending employers to court. The ICTU wants to see more done to combat child labour in the Republic.

More information: