In an announcement published for World Day Against Child Labour, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder obliges Governments, workers and employers to create a last drive to stop child labour.
How we treat our children is a reflection of our societies and values. The World Day Against Child Labour gives us an opportunity to take stock, define goals and recommit to action.
Our reflection this year – the ILO’s Centenary – is particularly significant because the ILO has been working for the abolition of child labour since its earliest days. Two of the first six Conventions the ILO adopted in its first year, 1919, addressed child labour. Its abolition is now the subject of one of the ILO’s fundamental principles, along with ending forced labour and work-related discrimination and promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining.
In 100 years we have made substantial progress, not least because of intense advocacy and national mobilization backed by legislative and practical action. Between 2000 and 2016 alone, there was a 38 per cent decrease in child labour globally. The ILO’s Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182) has achieved almost universal ratification by the ILO’s 187 member States, and the ratification rate of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) is not far behind.
Countries in every region can be proud of this progress, but we cannot be complacent. It would be fitting if universal ratification of Convention No. 182 is achieved in the ILO’s Centenary year. And our member States are striving towards this goal.
Of course, legal foundations are essential, practical change is another. 152 million children are still trapped in child labour, and 73 million of these – almost half – are in hazardous work. This is simply unacceptable.
We need to urgently accelerate the pace of progress. But to do this – and also meet Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for the end of child labour by 2025 – more coherent action is required, ensuring the availability of quality education, social protection for all, and decent work for parents.
In 100 years of working together for social justice, the global community has achieved so much. The ILO is proud to have played a part in this progress. I urge Governments, workers and employers to come together and make a final push to end child labour and ensure that it does not reappear.