Credit: Robin Thom
ILO's Definition of Child Labour
Child labour is work to which children are compelled, in violation of international and national regulations. The ILO claims that child labour is always illegal, because it designates:
- an economic activity practised by children below the age of twelve;
- a labour which is not light, and accomplished by twelve to fourteen year-old children;
- the worst forms of child labour, whatever the age of the children.
Child labour means a full-time activity, obviously incompatible with schooling. The work can take place inside or outside the house. Working children are often deprived ones, who have to participate to their family survival by becoming a servant, packer, factory worker or by working in the streets. These children often face abusive exploitation by unscrupulous employers: low wages for long hours of work, tiring physical efforts not adapted to their young age, and trying work conditions that endanger the children’s physical and psychological well-being. They might lack food and sleep, be imprisoned on their workplace, or be assaulted or abused. Sometimes, these children’s lives are worthless, simply because they are poor.
UNICEF's Definition of Child Labour
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) considers that child labour becomes exploitation when it implies too young full-time workers, too many hours of labour per day, immoderate physical, social and psychological constraints, dangerous and potentially health-damaging working conditions, insufficient earnings, immoderate responsibilities, and when it constitutes an hindrance to access to education and an infringement of children’s dignity (examples: slavery and sexual exploitation).
Forms of Child Labour to be Abolished
The ILO wants to abolish three types of child labour:
- Labours performed by children who are under the minimum age for that specific kind of work. The minimum ages are specified in national legislations, in accord with international conventions.
- Labours that might harm children physically, mentally or morally; this kind of labour is called “hazardous work”, because of its nature or its working conditions.
- Labours that are part of the “worst forms of child labour”, and include all forms of forced labour (see below).