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October 9, 2006

‘EU-India Summit should focus on urgent issues of child labour and education’

The campaign ‘Stop Child Labour- School is the best place to work’ calls on the European Union (EU) to raise the issues of child labour and right to education at the EU-India Summit on October 13th. Tomorrow, on October 10th, the new Indian regulation prohibiting domestic child labour and work in restaurants, hotels, bars etc. comes into force. While applauding this, ‘Stop Child Labour’ is concerned about the rehabilitation and education of the children freed from these types of work. The EU itself can and should also contribute to eradicating child labour ánd implementing the right to education in India.

In a letter to the Finish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, acting president of the EU, the campaign ‘Stop Child Labour’ raises five points. First, the EU is urged to bring up the issue of rehabilitation and education of children banned from work after October 10th. As the EU is already supporting primary education in India (€200 million over 2002-2008), it should support the transition from ‘work to school’ via the existing or new to be developed programmes. Secondly, ‘Stop Child Labour’ also urges the European Union to reach an agreement with India on monitoring and rehabilitation of child labour in the operations and supply chain of EU-based companies. Such an agreement should also include other labour rights.

Thirdly, the European Union should strongly encourage fast and effective implementation of India’s 86th Constitutional Amendment of 2002 which made education a right of every child. However, an Education Bill which translates this fundamental right into practice is still to be presented to Parliament and even then the Bill still has to be implemented. The result is that more than 100 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 are not in school on an average day.

More than three out of four countries have now ratified both ILO Conventions 138 (Minimum Age for Employment) and 182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour). India has not signed either of these Conventions. In line with recommendation of the European Parliament which calls on India to ratify both Conventions, ‘Stop Child Labour’ asks the EU to convey this call to India at the Summit.

A fifth and related point to be raised at the Summit is the relation between ILO Convention 138 which says that a child is not allowed to work until it is 15 (or 14 if a developing country so decides) and the fact that the Millennium Development Goals aim only at five years of education. This gap between the legal working age and the provision of education should be closed. ‘Stop Child Labour’ therefore urges the EU and India to aim at ‘every child in a free and full-time school until he/she is at least 15 by 2015’.

Child labour is a worldwide problem which, according to ILO’s latest Global Report on the issue, still affects the lives of 218 million children. India has the largest number of working children in the world: 13 million children according to official Indian statistics, but unofficial estimates claim between 60 and more than 100 million. The Indian Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act prohibits child labour in a limited number of occupations and processes that are considered hazardous. Domestic labour and work in hotels, restaurants, bars etc. have now been added to that list. In other occupations, e.g. agriculture, child labour is limited to 6 hours a day (although not enforced). There is no legal limit to the work a child can do at home, even if this home-work is part of an industrial subcontracting chain.

The letter of Stop Child Labour to PM Mattin Vanhanen can be found at: http://www.schoolisthebestplacetowork.org or at http://www.indianet.nl/pdf/br060929.pdf

More information:
Gerard Oonk (India Committee of the Netherlands): tel. +31(0)30-2321340, email: g.oonk@indianet.nl

The campaign ‘Stop Child Labour – School is the best place to work’ is run by the six Alliance2015 organisations (HIVOS, The Netherlands; German Agro-Action; Concern, Ireland; CESVI, Italy; PIN, Czech Republic; IBIS, Denmark ) in co-operation with the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), the Dutch Teachers’ Union (AOb) and the India Committee of The Netherlands (ICN). The campaign also co-operates closely with the International Federation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).