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E-2939/06, 5 September 2006

Answers of Mr. Spidla on behalf of the European Commission,
to questions by Jules Maaten (ALDE)

Subject: 'Child labour'


During the annual conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) from 31 May to 16 June 2006, the new four-yearly global report on child labour was debated. This worldwide action plan against child labour is particularly concerned with the worst forms of child labour. The campaign ‘Stop Child Labour — School is the Best Place to Work!’ is concerned with all forms of child labour.

  1. Is the Commission aware of the content of the campaign, ‘Stop Child Labour — School is the Best Place to Work!’?

  2. Can the Commission indicate what specific measures it is taking in its external policy to ensure that the Minimum Age Convention (Convention 138), with its objective of enabling all children to attend school until the age of at least 14, is achieved?

  3. What measures will the Commission take if a country with which the EU has bilateral relations is negligent in complying with ILO Convention 138?

  4. If the Commission is not taking any specific measures in the field of education, what measures will it take, in view, inter alia, of the recommendations of the European Parliament in its resolution on the exploitation of children in developing countries, with particular reference to child labour (2005/2004(INI)), in order to combat all forms of child labour?


  1. The Commission is aware of the content of the campaign ‘Stop child labour — School is the best place to work’ and of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) global report on child labour that was debated at the 2006 International Labour Conference. Combating child labour is part of the decent work agenda. The Commission has adopted on 24 May 2006 a communication on ‘Promoting decent work for all — the EU contribution to the implementation of the decent work agenda in the world’1. In it, the communication reaffirms its commitment to the effective implementation of the decent work agenda.

  2. The Commission strongly supports the ratification and application of the core labour standards and of Convention 138 on minimum age in employment2. The EU Council of Ministers3 and the Parliament have also endorsed this policy4. The promotion of core labour standards is also part of bilateral agreements, such as the Cotonou agreement, and of national action plans in the context of the EU neighbourhood policy. The Commission is also in the process of stepping up its cooperation in the field of employment and social affairs with emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.

    The Commission also supports initiatives to combat child labour in the context of external assistance and of its cooperation with the ILO, including the ILO programme on the eradication of child labour (IPEC). In line with European Consensus on Development and the communication on decent work, the Commission will strengthen its support for initiatives in the fields of social protection, youth employment, rights at work and social dialogue.

  3. The Commission will react depending on the seriousness, nature and context of the negligence in the application of Convention 138 and on the nature of the bilateral relations with the country concerned. The Commission highlights that it has already suspended or initiated the procedure for the suspension of the benefits of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) in case of serious and systematic violations of core labour standards. The Commission also recalls that the GSP+ system requires the ratification and effective application of the core labour standards conventions. Furthermore, the effective application of core labour standards can, in many circumstances, be improved through technical cooperation. The Commission will address this issue as part of its country, regional and thematic programming of external assistance5.

  4. The link between child labour and education has been recognised by a number of European Parliament resolutions, expressing the belief that free, compulsory, quality education should be made available to all children, up to the age of 15 as stipulated by the ILO. However, to date, the European Union and its Member States continue to deal with education and child labour as separate issues. The communication6 towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child of 4 July 2006 provides a coherent framework for the coordination of the internal and external activities already in place, including the linkage between child labour and education, and proposes concrete actions for the protection of children's rights.

  1. COM(2006)249 final and SEC(2006)643.
  2. COM(2001)416 final and COM(2006)249 final.
  3. Council conclusions of 21 July 2003 (doc. 11555/03) and of 3 March 2005 (doc. 6286/05).
  4. Parliament Report, A 6-0308/2005 of 15 November 2005.
  5. COM(2006)249 final.
  6. COM(2006)367 final.