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
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
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
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
- 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