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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
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View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentCareer opportunities
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View the documentChild labour
View the documentClaims of workers in cases of employers' insolvency
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Child labour

The general criteria for determining child labour are the age of the child and the nature of the work. An overriding principle is that work should not interfere with the education and the fullest mental and physical development of the child. Age is a crucial factor because, up to a certain age, the primary occupation of children should be obtaining an education and engaging in other activities appropriate for their healthy development, including play. In addition, children are affected by work differently and more intensely than adults - and the younger the child the greater the vulnerability. The hazardous nature of work and the conditions under which it is carried out are also important criteria.

Child labour is an issue directly affecting the rights of women - who as mothers and family carers have to deal with and compensate for the consequences of such abuse. It is a human resources development problem which deprives women and men of jobs they might perform far more satisfactorily than children and prevents future adult women and men from acquiring skills and exercising rights at work. It thus also prevents the development of equitable employment policies and programmes.

Since its foundation in 1919, the ILO has been working towards the abolition of child labour. A number of Conventions and Recommendations have been adopted to this end.

National action against child labour must aim at preventing the problem, as well as withdrawing children from hazardous work and providing alternatives. A phased and multi-sectoral strategy, including the following steps, could be applied:

• motivating a broad alliance of partners to acknowledge and act against child labour;

• carrying out a situation analysis to find out about child labour problems in a country;

• developing and implementing national policies on child labour prevention;

• strengthening existing organizations and setting up necessary institutional mechanisms;

• creating awareness of the problem nationwide, in communities and workplaces;

• promoting the development and application of protective legislation;

• supporting direct action with (potential) child workers;

• replicating and expanding successful projects; and

• mainstreaming child labour issues into socio-economic policies, programmes and budgets.

C. 29: Forced Labour, 1930
C. 138: Minimum Age, 1973
C. 182: Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999

→ see also Girl child labourers

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