Legislation has been the single most important response of governments to the problem of child labour. Although insufficient on its own, legislation can be a powerful instrument in combating child labour. It can serve as a deterrent to the economic exploitation of children, being the basis for both preventive measures and punitive action against violators.
Assistance in revising and developing national legislation and drafting rules to facilitate its implementation has been a major and traditional aspect of the ILO's work. This has been reinforced in recent years with assistance from the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to governments, focused on legislative reform and on improving the enforcement of laws on child labour. For example, assistance has been provided in consolidating and harmonizing disparate laws affecting children, and in expanding the coverage of laws and increasing penalties for offenders, such as for those exploiting children in prostitution and trafficking. In several countries, there are discussions about enlarging the scope of laws to cover the informal sector, strengthen law enforcement, and set up specific judicial bodies to hear cases on child abuse, including child labour.
This chapter outlines the framework for developing or revising national legislation on child labour.1 It can be used to raise awareness on the basic legal protection to be given to children in relation to work, as a reference for conducting reviews of the adequacy of legislation, and to advocate for legislative change. It contains information on international legal standards on child labour, including the new ILO standards on the worst forms of child labour. It gives a number of examples from national legislation and of initiatives to improve national legislation on child labour. Checklists are given on basic considerations for national legislation, for improving national legislation on child and bonded labour, and for involving employers' and workers' organizations. Several appendices provide further information on the ratification of relevant ILO Conventions and minimum ages established in ratifying countries. Excerpts from texts of relevant ILO standards are provided in Appendix 2.5.
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