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Answer given by Mr. Špidla on behalf of the Commission,


Written question [E-3320/08, May 29, 2008] by Thijs Berman and Richard Howitt,

subject: Child labour

September 2, 2008

Question 1
The campaign ‘Stop Child Labour — School is the best place to work’ recently published the ‘Action Plan for Companies to Combat Child Labour’. Is the Commission willing to support and promote this Action Plan in all relevant economic programmes, political dialogues and development programmes?

Question 2
To strengthen the fight against child labour, citizens, employers and organisations should be able to use a hotline to report on child labour. Is the European Commission willing to open and support a Child Labour Hotline to enable them to submit information on child labour in the direct operations or the supply chain of EU-based companies?

Question 3
As more in-depth information on child labour used by EU-based companies is needed for effective EU policies against child labour, is the Commission willing to back up the Child Labour Hotline with substantial research capacity?

Question 4
The Parliament has, in its resolution on CSR, requested an annual report on CSR to be submitted by the European Commission. Is the Commission willing to publish such a report every year and therein include the findings of the Child Labour Hotline and the research done by the Hotline in such a report?

Question 5
The complete Dutch Parliament has decided that any support (e.g. participation in trade missions, subsidies) can only be given if a company makes clear that it either does not use child labour in its operations or supply-chain or, alternatively, provides a public time-bound action plan to combat any such child labour. Is the Commission willing to implement a similar policy for its support to companies as well?

Answer given by Mr Špidla on behalf of the Commission (September 2, 2008)

The Commission recognises the link between child labour and education and thus the importance of such actions as the campaign 'Stop child Labour – School is the best place to work' mentioned by the Honourable Member.

The Commission promotes a holistic approach to the elimination of child labour, combining action with regard to the labour market, social dialogue and social protection, which will contribute to improving access to education. It encourages approaches along the lines of the Brazilian 'Bolsa Família' programme that aim to combine the obligation of legal compliance with incentives to send children to school by compensating their families for loss of income from child labour. Such initiatives have to be linked with support to education sectors, including lower secondary education, to provide quality schooling at least up to children's minimum working age.

This multifaceted approach forms part of the basis for such Commission documents adopted recently as the Communication A special place for children in EU external action(1) and the Action Plan accompanying the latter as a Staff Working Document(2) that maintain the fight against child labour as a priority for regional and global action. Both of those documents were welcomed in recent Council conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in the EU's external action(3).

Combating child labour is also part of the EC strategic partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since 2004, whereby the Commission supports decent work actions in external co-operation, which includes fight against child labour in all its forms as per ILO conventions n. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and n. 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment. The most recent Commission Staff Working Document "Report on the EU contribution to the promotion of decent work in the world"(4) also indicates the main actions supported by the EC to combat child labour. For example, in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, in Egypt a €20 million project aiming at improving the condition of children at risk of marginalisation, including working children engaged in hazardous work and other worst forms of child labour (2003); in Moldova a €25 million project for the development of integrated social services for vulnerable children and families at risk (2003); in Asia, in Pakistan a €5 million project aims at combating child labour and being implemented in partnership with ILO.

The "EU Action Plan on children's rights in external action" recognises that the ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) should be scaled up by EU donors. The Commission it self recently allocated € 15 million to IPEC in order to combat child labour in African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP). Child labour is also a priority area in the thematic programme 'Investing in people'. The Commission will continue to use bilateral trade negotiations and the GSP + scheme as vehicles for achieving the ratification and effective implementation of fundamental labour standards, including the ILO's Core Labour Conventions relating to child labour.

The Commission organises and delivers, in collaboration with the ILO, regional seminars for the EC Delegations allowing colleagues to become more aware of the importance of and enhance understanding of decent work principles, including combating child labour, and how these principles can be applied and mainstreamed in EC interventions in partner countries.

The Commission also takes every occasion to encourage its partners in all geographical areas to ratify and effectively implement the above mentioned conventions.

The rights of children are also a cross-cutting issue to be mainstreamed together with other Human Rights in all actions of the European Community development policy.

In Article 50 of the Cotonou Agreement, the Parties reaffirm their commitment to internationally recognised core labour standards, as defined by the relevant International Labour Organisation Conventions, including the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. The EC is discussing with ACP partners to extend the obligation to respect core labour standards to contracts financed under the European Development Fund, pursuant to the Cotonou Agreement.

The Commission also remains committed to working with companies and stakeholders to promote corporate social responsibility globally(5). In that regard, the Commission liaises with other international organisations to encourage transparency, including informing consumers on how products are made.

Finally, the EU imposes(6) to the companies that have been awarded contracts financed by the Community budget, the obligation to respect the core labour standards in the implementation of such contracts.

(1) COM(2008) 55 final.
(2) 'The European Union's Action Plan on children's rights in external action' (SEC(2008) 136).
(3) 2870th External Relations Council, 26 and 27 May 2008.
(4) SEC(2008)2184 of 2 July 2008.
(5) COM(2006) 136 final.
(6) Regulation (EC) No 1905/2006 of Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation, OJ L 378, 27.12.2006; Regulation (EC) No 1638/2006 of Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 2006 laying down general provisions establishing a European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, OJ L 310, 9.11.2006; Regulation (EC) No 1889/2006 of Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on establishing a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide, OJ L 386, 29.12.2006.