Why focus on Child Labour?
The issue of child labour has received much attention in the
international agenda. It is a pressing global matter, with approximately
218 million children between 5 and 17 engaged in child labour, of which
166 million are under 15. An estimated 127 million children aged 5 to 17
are working in dangerous environments, exposed to hazardous conditions,
machinery or substances (ILO, 2006). Many children are thus engaged in
the worst forms of child labour, as defined by International Labour
Organisation Convention No. 182, 1999.
In January 2001, DCI�s International Secretariat created the Child
Labour Desk, with the aim to reinforce DCI's action on the prevention
and elimination of child labour, especially in its most hazardous forms,
and to strengthen DCI�s efforts to protect all working children. Since
then, DCI's ideological contributions to international and national
discussions on child labour have been numerous. In particular, DCI has
proposed a strong children's rights perspective on the understanding of
child labour, taking the implementation of the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child as a reference point. For DCI, child labour is of
great concern because it inherently implies a violation of various
children�s and adolescents� human rights.
The work of the Child Labour Desk is inspired by this commitment to
children's rights, and tries to unify diverse views within DCI under the
principles declared in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Child labour is a complex issue. It is a multi�dimensional phenomenon,
with many different factors to be taken into account. The two factors
most closely related with child labour are inclusive educational systems
From the fieldwork carried out by DCI�s various national sections around
the world, we have observed that access to education and overall school
attendance are hindered when children and adolescents are forced to work.
It is also evident that joining the labour force at an early age greatly
limits the possibilities for future job options, and hampers the
prospects for earning decent wages, thus perpetuating the
inter-generational poverty cycle. According to UNESCO, around 100
million children are still deprived of formal education worldwide, of
which 60 million are girls and 40 million boys. This is why one of the
focal points of DCI�s Child Labour Desk is the promotion of education
for working children, working directly with the educational system and
on the other hand contributing towards generating economical
alternatives for the families of working children.
DCI is currently implementing a 3-year international project on child
labour and inclusive education, with financial assistance from the Dutch
the links below for more information:
There are three strategies that can be implemented with children in
order to protect them from economic exploitation: 1) education
strategies 2) support service provision 3) income generating
The promotion of education systems, which take children�s needs into
consideration, may prevent a child from joining the workforce. At the
same time, if this type of education system is available, it has the
potential to keep children from dropping out of school. In order to
achieve this goal and make education a strong weapon against child
labour, it is important to involve children in the development of
education systems. Child participation is the only method to ensure
child-friendly education. However, this is rarely done in the formal
education systems that exist today.
Several forms of education for working children exist such as:
- Basic education
This provides the individual with �tools� for life, such as literacy and
numeracy, as well as �content,� such as knowledge and values. Basic
education can be provided in a non-formal setting as explained below.
- Non-formal education
Non-formal education allows working children to attend and participate
in school, without being extracted from their work environment and then
reinserted into the formal education system.
- Vocational training
Courses offered within this type of education scheme should be
appropriately researched so that the training offered corresponds to the
needs of the local job market.
Working children have varying degrees of education. It is important that
education strategies appropriately address the age and situation of the
working child being targeted. The first step is to define the situation
of the working child, the second is to ascertain his/her needs, and
lastly, provide an education which is best-suited to their particular
Support service provision
Social service programmes are often a standard resource for working
children. The programmes aim to improve the living standards of children,
enhance local capacity, and reduce child labour in the long-term.
Shelters and drop-in centres are alternative environments for working
children who have basic needs. These centres may be open during the day
for children to bathe, rest and have a hot meal. Some centres are open
24 hours, and provide a place for children to sleep for a few nights.
The centres normally include a range of support interventions, e.g.:
- Advocacy and psychosocial counselling for children and their families;
- Legal assistance: many working children are victims of exploitation
and abuse, and some of them are in conflict with the law.
- Psychological counselling for child victims of abuse and exploitation
who need psychological support
- Health services
- Food and Nutritional support.
Careful consideration must be administered when establishing shelters
and drop-in centres within a community or near the children�s workplace.
The centres themselves should be built in accordance with the community,
and large, over-equipped establishments should be avoided. Children
should be involved in the decoration and design of the centre so that
they feel comfortable and safe.
Alternatively, a rehabilitation scheme may be undertaken with the
intention of withdrawing children from work. A rehabilitation centre
will need to have access to services such as health care, training,
counselling, as well as a safe environment and even legal aid.
Many children have to work in order to supplement the family income.
Child workers will continue to be sent to work as long as their families
depend on their income in order to survive. Therefore, in many
instances, providing alternative income-earning opportunities for
working children and their families can improve their quality of life,
and it can help reduce the economic exploitation of children. Developing
micro-credit schemes for working children and their families is one of many potential solutions.
DCI�s International Child Labour Programme
DCI�s International Child Labour Programme has the following objectives:
� Through the promotion of education, reduce the numbers of children
involved in the worst forms of child labour, and those who are working
below the minimum age of employment.
� Mainstream child labour and child rights standards into all national
and international policies, and influence the formulation and
implementation of policies concerning children and their families.
� To promote the participation of children in awareness-raising on
issues concerning children�s rights and child labour.
The programme works directly with the national sections of DCI, taking
action at three levels: national, regional and international. This year,
the International Child Labour Programme supported a project linking
child labour with inclusive education for the following DCI National
Sections: DCI Cameroon, DCI Ecuador, DCI Paraguay and DCI Togo.
The strengthening of DCI�s capacity to advocate, influence and monitor
policies at the national, regional and international level is one of the
objectives of the programme. The programme also interacts with all
sections and associated members of DCI on a regular basis through
international events, policies, research and debates. The programme will
continue to build and reinforce the capacity of the relevant parties by
providing technical advice, and by producing publications and training
For more information:
Child Labour Liaison Desk, DCI- IS, Geneva
The Child Labour Liaison Desk has four main objectives:
- To act as a facilitator in the field of child labour between DCI and
national, regional and international actors, including donors, in the
prevention, intervention and elimination of the worst forms of child
labour and in the protection of child workers.
- To promote and articulate a common position on child labour within DCI
as a Movement.
- To reinforce and promote initiatives of DCI Sections, and to aid in
the development of programmes on child and adolescent labour within DCI
as a Movement
- To promote the participation of child workers in all DCI actions
The activities implemented towards the achievement of the above
objectives may be grouped as follows:
1. Networking and sharing information
The Child Labour Desk places great emphasis on collecting material and
resources on child labour, and maintaining the dissemination of
information with DCI Sections and other bodies dealing with child
� Up-to-date information: The Child Labour Desk introduced initiatives
for the regular provision of up-to-date news on child labour. The
information is exchanged between DCI Sections and the Child Labour Desk,
and concerns developments in policies, legislation and practice in the
field of child labour. Details concerning the Sections' activities in
the field of child labour are also regularly collected.
� Electronic Newsletter: The Child Labour Desk published its first
newsletter in December, 2001. It was created in order to exchange and
provide information for DCI Sections, other NGOs and individuals active
in the field of child labour. The newsletter contains updates in
policies, legislation, practice and lobbying in the field of child
labour, as well as thematic articles, conferences, events, publications
If you want to subscribe to our electronic newsletter, please e-mail us:
� Technical advice and support to sections: DCI National Sections
frequently approach the Child Labour Desk for support in drafting
projects on child labour. Technical advice is given throughout the whole
� Consultations within DCI: In order to maintain communication and
effective performance at DCI, regional and international consultations
take place in various capacities. For one, the DCI Movement meets every
three years during its International General Assembly. Participants from
each DCI national section discuss the national and international
strategies, concepts developed, methodologies applied, and relationships
with donors. DCI also periodically organises regional consultations for
groups of DCI National Sections, in order to improve their global
position on child labour. Regional consultations focus on regional
strategies in specific fields relating to child labour. They also
provide an opportunity to exchange methods of good practice, and improve
on areas of weakness as well as highlighting the strengths of each
� Co-operation with other actors: One of the main tasks of the Child
Labour Desk is to act as a facilitator between the DCI Sections and
other actors at different levels.
Collaboration with ILO/IPEC continues for the elaboration of specific
initiatives which aim to reinforce the presence of child labour issues
on the international agenda. The Desk actively collaborates with NGOs
operating in the field of children's rights, in particular those that
are members of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the
Child. Several initiatives within the thematic Subgroup have been
3. Monitoring, lobbying and advocacy
The Child Labour Desk monitors conditions of working children worldwide,
and advocates for the implementation of international standards on child
labour, to ensure the protection and removal of children engaged in the
worst forms of labour. This is done through:
- The NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its
- Participation in the sessions of the UN Committee on the Rights of the
- Participation in the UN Human Rights Council
- Participation in the ILO Conferences
- Participation in other international events
4. Research and documentation of Children�s Rights
The Child Labour Desk is dedicated to undertaking research and
developing manuals/brochures on child labour. So far we have published
the following resources:
- Training Manual on Child Labour for NGOs, DCI-IS, Geneva, 2004
- The World of Working Children, Second Edition, DCI-IS, Geneva, 2003