The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has expressed grave concern over a wide gap that remains between ratification of conventions on child labour and actions countries take to deal with the problem.
In a report issued in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the annual World’s Day Against Child Labour, the ILO has a view that, worsening child labour trends around the world were not being accorded with seriousness actions in response.
“There is no room for complacency when 215 million children are still labouring to survive and more than half of these are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, including slavery and involvement in armed conflict. We cannot allow the eradication of child labour to slip down the development agenda – all countries should be striving to achieve this target, individually and collectively,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia from Geneva.
The World Day against Child Labour, marked each year on 12 June, is the major annual advocacy event focussing on child labour. The theme this year is “Human Rights and Social Justice: Let's end child labour”.
According to a press release availed by the ILO office in Dar es Salaam, new estimates released on June 1 showed that 5 million children are caught in forced labour, which includes conditions such as commercial sexual exploitation and debt bondage – and this is thought to be an underestimate.
The ILO’s Child Labour Convention number 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and number 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour are amongst the most widely ratified of all ILO conventions. Of the ILO’s 185 member states, 88 per cent have ratified the first and 95.1 per cent the latter. The goal is universal ratification by 2015, it said.
The new report, entitled ‘Tackling Child Labour: From Commitment to Action,’ said progress in reducing child labour has often been outweighed by failure to translate commitments into practice.
“The largest gap between commitment and action is in the informal economy, where the majority of violations of fundamental labour rights occur,” the report said. “Children in rural and agricultural areas, as well as children of migrant workers and indigenous peoples, are most vulnerable to being caught in child labour, it added.
The report also said that relatively few cases on child labour reached national courts of law. “Sanctions for violations are often too weak to be effective deterrents against exploitation of children. This means national judicial and law enforcement institutions along with victim protection programmes need to be strengthened,” it noted.
The report said the ILO recognised important progress being made in a number of countries to improve law and practice, including a growing list of countries establishing national plans to tackle child labour.
“There are many new legislative prohibitions that aim to identify and prevent hazardous work by children. It said that a marked increase in international cooperation and mutual assistance among member States, particularly on issues concerning trafficking,” it said.
“We should also build on national policies and programmes that are in place and learn from them to ensure effective action against child labour in all parts of the world,” said the ILO DG.
He added: “Decent work for parents, and education for children are indispensable elements of strategies for the elimination of child labour. Let us redouble our efforts and move forward with the Roadmap adopted in The Hague in 2010 to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016.”
According to the report, the ILO’s conventions seek to protect children from exposure to child labour.