General minimum age for admission to employment or work
Convention No. 138 and Recommendation No. 146
A minimum age for admission to employment or work is to be set. It must not be less than the age of completion of compulsory education and, in any case, not less than 15 years. The general minimum age is to be determined at the time of ratification of the Convention. It could be raised later, but not lowered (Article 2).
Recommendation No. 146 provides that the minimum age should be fixed at the same level for all sectors of economic activity and the objective should be to raise progressively to 16 years the minimum age for employment or work.
For countries whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed, the minimum age can be set initially at 14 years. Employers' and workers' organizations must be consulted to fix the age for admission to employment at age 14. Countries which use this provision have to continue to report to the ILO on whether the reason for setting the lower age continues to exist.
Social policy Conventions
Two social policy Conventions10 require that the school-leaving age and the minimum age for employment be prescribed. Although the ages are not specified in these Conventions, they provide that the employment of school-age children during school hours should be prohibited where educational facilities are available. The underlying principle is that the employment of children must not deprive them of the possibility of receiving an education.
Problems in national legislation
National legislation often falls short of providing complete coverage by either excluding or omitting persons working otherwise than under a contract of employment, excluding categories of work and excluding branches of economic activity. Many countries have not established a single minimum age for any employment or work. Commonly excluded categories are agriculture, family undertakings and domestic service. Other excluded categories include enterprises with fewer than a specified number of workers, apprentices, self-employed workers, homeworkers and temporary or casual workers.
Many countries, however, do conform to the spirit of Convention No. 138 concerning a minimum age. Some 45 countries have set the minimum age for admission to employment or work at 15, and another 37 at 14. In 23 countries the basic minimum age is 16. At least 122 countries have legislation prohibiting work for children below the age of 14, at least in some sectors.11
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