India ratifies two international ILO conventions against child labour
ICN, April 6, 2017
On March 31, 2017, the Indian government ratified two conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on child labour. It concerns Convention 138 which determines the minimum age for employment. Normally that is 15 years, but countries can also opt for 14 years. The other treaty, ILO Convention 182, stipulates that children under the age of 18 should not be allowed to do hazardous work or any work that is detrimental to their morals and physical or mental health.
India belonged to the small group of countries that had not yet ratified these conventions. Convention 138 has been ratified by 169 countries and Convention 182 by 180 countries. The ratification implies, among other things, that India should regularly report to the ILO on the progress of the elimination of child labour. This progress is assessed by an ILO expert committee. There are no real hard penalties, but a negative review will cause loss of face.
ILO welcomes ratification of child labour conventions
The ILO welcomes the decision of the Indian Government to ratify the two key international conventions on child labour. The Ministry of Labour and Employment placed it before the parliament on April 10.
Once it has deposited the instrument of ratification of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), India will have ratified six out of eight ILO fundamental conventions.
“India is taking a major step forward on minimum age for employment starting at the age of 14 in line with the ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’. India is also firm on eliminating worst forms of child labour for children up to age 18 and younger. The ratification will provide opportunities to step up the fight against child labour,” said Panudda Boonpala, Director of the ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India.
Labour in family companies still permitted
Child rights activists fear that this will be at the expense of the educational results of those children who both learn and work. Within ILO Convention 138, there is much less space for work after school for children aged 13 to 15 years – only up to two hours – but it is the question whether the ILO will address India on this matter.
However, the most important issue is how the government will implement the new child labour law. The pressure of Indian non-governmental civil and of international organizations is increasing, and ratification of the ILO Child Labour Conventions also contributes to this. Yet, there is still a lot of skepticism with Indian child rights organizations as long as the government does not spend much more attention and money on better primary education, especially for the poor, and does not uphold even the present law much more firmly.