All member states ratify UN child labour convention
GENEVA, Aug 5: Every member state has ratified a United Nations convention banning the worst forms of child labour, the UN announced on Tuesday, in a historic first - though eliminating such practices remains distant.
The Pacific island nation of Tonga formally lodged its ratification with the International Labour Organisation on Tuesday, meaning all 187 ILO member states have done so - the first convention ever to be universally ratified in the UN agency's 100-year history.
"Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first that means that
all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour," said ILO director-general Guy Ryder.
"It reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises children's health, morals or psychological well-being, have no place in our society."
However, he was under no illusions that ratification equated to implementation. The ILO estimates that there are 152 million youngsters under the age of 18 around the world in child labour, with around half in the worst forms, and 73 million doing work considered as hazardous. Some 70 percent of all child labour takes place in agriculture - two-thirds of which is unpaid family work - and is mostly poverty-related. Nearly one in five African youngsters are in child labour.
Ending child labour has been one of the main goals of the ILO, which was founded in 1919. The UN agency estimates that 152 million children worldwide are affected, with 73 million in hazardous work. Most child labour takes place in the agriculture sector, mainly due to poverty and parents' difficulties in finding decent work.
Convention No. 182 calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, which includes slavery, forced labour and trafficking. It forbids the use of children under18 in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and in hazardous work.
The Convention was adopted by ILO member states meeting in Geneva in 1999. It is one of the organization's eight Fundamental Conventions, which cover issues such as the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of work-related discrimination and the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The Pacific island nation Tonga deposited its ratification instruments with the ILO on Tuesday, becoming the final country to do so. The ILO said incidence of child labour and its worst forms dropped by almost 40 per cent between 2000 and 2016 as ratification rates increased and countries adopted laws and policies, including relating to minimum age to work.
However, the UN agency fears the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse years of gains, especially as progress had slowed in recent years, particularly among children 5 to 11 years, and in some geographical areas. As 2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the ILO plans to raise awareness of the issue to accelerate progress. -AFP