Cover Image
close this bookAction Against Child Labour (ILO, 2000, 356 p.)
close this folder2. Towards improved legislation
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentINTRODUCTION
View the document2.7 LESSONS LEARNED
View the documentChecklist 2.1 General principles
View the documentChecklist 2.2 Improving national legislation
View the documentChecklist 2.3 Legislation on bonded labour
View the documentChecklist 2.4 Involving employers' and workers' organizations, and others
View the documentAppendix 2.1 ILO Conventions on child labour and forced labour (as at 31 July 1999)
View the documentAppendix 2.2 Minimum ages in ILO Conventions
View the documentAppendix 2.3 Ratification of ILO Conventions on child labour and forced labour (as at 31 August 1999)
View the documentAppendix 2.4 Chart of ratifications of ILO Conventions on child labour and forced labour by country (as at 31 August 1999:
View the documentAppendix 2.5 Excerpts from selected ILO standards on child labour


The review and improvement of national legislation are an integral part of a national strategy to eliminate child labour. Effective policies need a solid framework of child labour laws. They provide a basis for advocating improvements in practice and legal avenues to stop the worst abuses.

Making the law known is critical, especially to children, parents and small and informal sector enterprises, as it contributes to a better understanding of the protection afforded to children and can raise awareness of the risks of child labour.

Improved training is needed for those responsible for enforcement, especially where enforcement of child labour laws is only one aspect of an inspector's work. Involvement of employers' and workers' organizations, NGOs, communities and other segments of civil society may be needed in monitoring the law, especially in the urban informal sector and rural areas.

Box 2.22. Legal framework for sharing responsibility between government and civil society, Brazil

The Government of Brazil has adopted enabling legislation for dealing with the protection of children, including provisions on child labour, which sets up a decentralized structure to take action against child labour at all governmental levels in cooperation with civil society.

In addition, the question of child labour and the ratification of Convention No. 138 has been included in the National Human Rights Programme (Programa Nacional de Directos Humanos) launched by the President of the Republic on 13 May 1996.

The legal structure starts with the Constitution, which contains provisions on promoting children's rights, including the right to education, and the protection of children against exploitation, violence, cruelty and oppression, among others. There is also a provision on the minimum age for admission to employment. The provisions are implemented through the Statute of the Child and Adolescent (ECA).

The Statute of the Child and Adolescent (ECA)

The ECA was adopted in 1990 and provides for the promotion and protection of children's and adolescents' rights, including guidelines for combating child labour. Key aspects are decentralization, participation and mobilization, and the consolidation of provisions on child labour.

· Decentralization is a cornerstone of the policy and is to be accomplished through legally mandated Councils at the national, state and municipal levels.

The National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (CONANDA) is an interdisciplinary council composed of governmental and non-governmental representatives. It is responsible for policies regarding children and adolescents under the ECA. Its function is mainly political: formulation of policies, monitoring and evaluation of activities, and mobilizing society. It provides the orientation for the actions of state and municipal councils that have responsibilities for children and adolescents. The Ministry of Justice heads the National Council. The Council has selected child labour, sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, and juvenile delinquency as priority areas for action.

State councils are similar to the National Council. There are 27, one for each state.

Municipal councils are created by municipal laws. The municipal government appoints half the members, while civil society elects the other members, normally in a public assembly attended by relevant NGOs. The Councils supervise all activities concerning children and all projects and programmes must be registered with it.

There are also autonomous tutelary councils at the municipal level composed of five members from civil society. These are charged with ensuring that the rights of children and adolescents are protected.

· Participation and mobilization. The ECA encourages and provides for the active participation of different segments of society in the implementation of the law and encourages the mobilization of organized groups for the rights of children and adolescents.

· Child labour provisions. Numerous articles of the ECA are devoted to child labour and the protection of working minors. The minimum age for admission to employment is 14, consistent with the Constitutional provision, with an exception of 12 for apprenticeships.

IPEC supports activities to build the capacity of the state and municipal councils, including activities to train trade unions and others to participate in the councils.

Box 2.23. Special committees on child labour

A number of countries, such as Colombia, Kenya, Thailand and Turkey, have established specialized bodies within government to supervise and implement action on child labour. In Turkey, for example, a Child Labour Unit was established in 1992 in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to coordinate child labour activities, develop new concepts and strategies, and improve national legislation. In addition to improving enforcement of child labour laws, its programme includes strengthening the capability of the Ministry, local government bodies, employers' and workers' organizations, and NGOs to deal effectively with child labour.

High-level committees consisting of government representatives, employers' and workers' organizations, NGOs and academics have been set up in Colombia, Kenya and Thailand to assist in policy formulation and programme implementation.

The Brazilian Government created the Executive Group on the Eradication of Forced Labour (GERTRAF) in 1995. The Group is interministerial and its principal objective is to combat forced labour, including forced child labour.

In Portugal, the Council of Ministers established a plan in June 1998 for the Elimination of the Exploitation of Child Labour (PEETI). A National Committee to Combat Child Labour was to be formed with the participation of various ministries, associations and municipalities, workers' and employers' organizations, and NGOs.

A proliferation of laws may lead to confusion among those responsible for enforcement. Consolidating provisions on child labour can help in better implementation and enforcement of the law.

Laws are not static. They evolve with time along with changes in economic circumstances, social structures and cultural attitudes. Improvement in educational facilities, for example, should be accompanied by improvement in the law, especially concerning the minimum age for admission to employment or work and restrictions on hours of work.

Including provisions in legislation which call for periodic studies and reports, setting up statutory advisory committees or bodies, and requiring periodic reviews of prohibited types of work - all ensure continued attention to the issue of child labour and can facilitate progressive improvement in national legislation.

The consideration of ratifying Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 can serve as a catalyst for revising and improving legislation. Ratification of these Conventions is a concrete manifestation of the country's political commitment to take affirmative action on child labour. It provides a rallying point for action against child labour and creates a climate of confidence for advocacy and collaborative action. The ratification process raises awareness of Convention No. 138 and the child labour problem. In IPEC-participating countries, technical advisory services, tripartite consultations and advocacy efforts of IPEC programme partners can play an important part in facilitating the ratification process.

Box 2.24. Designing model legislation

The Child Labor Coalition in the United States, concerned with the resurfacing of child labour problems, especially reports of children working illegally and in dangerous occupations, developed a tool for use by the States in strengthening child labour laws. This advocacy tool is in the form of a Model State Child Labor Law published in 1992 to spur legislative thinking and action. The model sets standards for the employment of minors consistent with the Coalition's primary objective of protecting the health, education, and well-being of working minors regardless of their occupation.

The model law, among other provisions:

· revises and updates the list of Hazardous Occupation Orders - those occupations, machines, and work sites that are prohibited to minors under the age of 18;

· provides equal protection under the law for migrant and seasonal farm worker children and prohibits minors from dangerous agricultural occupations and substances;

· establishes a linkage between educational fulfilment and continuation of work;

· reasonably restricts employment for all minors under the age of 18;

· requires work permits as a means to monitor employment and facilitate investigations; and

· requires labour education prior to employment, so that minors are knowledgeable about the laws protecting them in the workplace.