DCI's Position on Child Labour

A. Child labour

Despite increasing international awareness on issues concerning child labour, in addition to the widespread ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the role played by the International Labour Organisation Conventions No. 138 and 182, approximately 220 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 remain engaged in child labour. Nearly 70% of these children are subjected to hazardous working conditions.

The elimination of child labour is a priority for Defence for Children International. This includes the exploitation of children in hazardous working conditions, and any other form of work which endangers the lives of children, or impedes their right to health, development, or access to education. Specific references to child labour may vary between the national sections of DCI due to the context or situation. For example, some DCI National Sections do not include child soldiers or the phenomenon of child sexual exploitation under the definition of child labour. These issues are perceived as separate issues with inherent differences. As a result, DCI prefers to reference child labour in terms of, �intolerable or hazardous forms of work,� rather than use the phrase, �the worst forms of child labour,� as stated in the ILO Convention No. 182.

DCI also recognises that not all forms of work are harmful to a child. If the labour does not interfere with a child�s education, and if there are no harmful effects on the child�s development, some work can provide an opportunity for children to advance their professional skills. It additionally allows the child to socialise and integrate into society. Consequently, some DCI National Sections have adopted a position defending a child�s right to work, as long as the activity involving the child does not violate his/her rights.

B. Child labour from a Child Rights� Perspective

In addition to Article 32 of the CRC, which ensures protection for children from economic exploitation, DCI places emphasis on the rights of children in general, and specifically stresses the right to education (Arts. 28 and 29), leisure (Art. 31) and protection (Article 3). DCI believes the standards established by the CRC not only provide children with the best possible opportunities for development, but they are the necessary framework for analysing child labour.

1. Child Labour and Poverty

DCI identifies poverty as an underlying factor contributing to the problem of child labour. Poverty undermines many civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. Consequently, the violation of rights and the economic desperation impacting families, serve as push factors for children entering into the labour force. Child labour is often used as a method of survival.

Diverse studies demonstrate that the lower the income generated by adults in a household, the greater the risk minors face of being forced to work at an early age. For instance, a study published by the World Bank indicated that parents accounted for 62 percent of the reason children entered into the workforce. In addition, working children have been found to be at a higher risk of dropping out of school as opposed to children who are not working.

Although children are often not well paid, they still serve as a major contributor to the family income. In developing countries, working children and adolescents provide as much as 25% of the total household income. When evaluating solutions to child labour it is imperative to recognise the significant financial role the child can have in the family. The loss of income can heavily impact a family if a child is removed from work. Similarly, there are costs associated with the reinsertion of these children into the school system which must be considered.

In order for intervention on child labour to be successful, additional resources must be made available, and the eradication process must be gradual. DCI argues that poverty reduction strategies should raise income levels, in order to provide a decent standard of living for families and their children. This will inevitably lead to a reduction in child labour. The action of governments is necessary and urgent.

2. Child Labour and Education

To effectively combat the problems of child labour, an accessible, competent and appealing education system is imperative. Schools which are inaccessible and provide a low-quality education become contributing factors to children entering into the work force.

In the promotion of education in the context of child labour, it is important to recognise how the relationship between the two sectors can vary. For example, there are many children who are active in the work force but also attend school, and this includes a number of children who work so they can attend school. There are also children who neither work nor attend school. In addition, it has been found that children who have access to quality education develop competencies and skills which prepare them for employment opportunities in the future. Convention No. 138 of the ILO, concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Work reinforces the importance of linking education to child labour. Convention No. 138 explicitly links each country�s definition of the minimum age for employment with the minimum age for leaving school. Research conducted by DCI in 2005 has further demonstrated the benefits of matching compulsory education with the minimum age of employment.

Child labour is interlinked with relevant international agendas, such as the Education for All and Poverty Reduction Strategies. DCI strongly believes that the right to a quality education and an open, competent school system are essential components for combating child labour. Therefore, DCI condemns work which prevents a child from attending school because it violates a child�s right to education (CRC, Art. 28), and it is detrimental to a child�s development. Through participation in education, children are more likely to avoid harmful and illegitimate forms of work.

C. Legislation and Child Labour

DCI is highly concerned about the investment States are currently making to eradicate child labour. Recently, experts for the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed their concern about the integration of the CRC and other relevant international instruments into national law systems for State Parties. In addition, the Committee raised its concern over the application of national legislation relating to child labour. DCI believes that stronger legislation is needed if financial resources are not sufficient to assist in the implementation of child labour laws and policies.

As highlighted in the ILO Global Report 2006, �The End of Child Labour: Within Reach,� policy choices matter, and those which open gateways of opportunity for people living in poverty are central to efforts towards eliminating child labour. DCI also recognizes that comprehensive and coherent policies are needed, in order to carry out national action plans combating child labour directly and indirectly.

Defence for Children International therefore:

- Urges State Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ILO Convention No. 182 to develop national legislation, policies and plans of action shaped on the strengths of the Conventions in a complementary process.
- Urges State Parties to commit to the right to education and the poverty reduction strategies in the elimination of child labour in all its forms, including the worst forms of child labour.
- Urges State Parties to develop appropriate national, regional and international action plans for child labour which aim to reduce the number of working children, promote education, and reduce poverty for civil society actors, working children, adolescents and their families,
- Urges State Parties to allocate sufficient financial resources to implement appropriate national, regional and international plans of action, to invest in education, and work towards the elimination of poverty.

[2] UNICEF, Poverty and Children, Lessons of the 90s for Least Developed Countries, Document to review the policies of the Evaluation, Policies and Planning Division. UNICEF, May 2001.
[3] Matz, Peter. Costs and benefits of education to replace child labour, id.
[4]Matz, Peter. Costs and benefits of education to replace child labour, Working document IPEC/IL, October 2002.
[5] Maty, P., Murillo, V., Rodriguez, I., & Cappa Maria, J., �Manual sobre escuelas inclusivas Educacion y Trabajo Infantil,� DCI Costa Rica and DCI Child Labour Desk DCI-IS, November, 2005.

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