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Background to Press Release

May 4, 2006

The ILO is aiming too low:
For most children the end of child labour is not within reach

The campaign ‘Stop Child labour – School is the best place to work’* fears that the majority of working children will not benefit from the global action plan that the ILO has published today in its Global Report called ‘The end of child labour – Within reach’. The ILO wants to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the coming 10 years, but has little to offer to the majority of children doing other work. These include 92 million children involved in so-called economic activities and a probably much larger number of children, not counted by the ILO, who are working in their own home or on their parents’ fields.

Even though the good news is that child labour presently counted has decreased by 11% to 218 million, the total number of working children would go up sharply if all working children would be counted.
The campaign Stop Child Labour strongly feels that the promises made by many countries on the right to education and the elimination of child labour should now be shaped into a global action plan to get all working children out of work and into full-time education.

In the Global Report the ILO proposes a plan that aims to eliminate all worst forms of child labour by 2016. These worst forms include slavery, the use of children for prostitution, pornography and activities like drugs trafficking and work that can harm the health, safety or morals of children. These forms of child labour are prohibited under ILO Convention 182 ratified by 160 countries. However, the other ILO Convention against child labour - the Minimum Age Convention 138 - also prohibits all forms of child labour that keep children out of school, at least until they are 14. This Convention has been ratified by 144 countries. Both Conventions should guide the future child labour policy of the ILO.

The ILO rightly states in its report that ‘perhaps the greatest progress has been made in recognizing the link between child labour elimination and Education for All’ and that action should be taken against child labour in order to realize the right to education. Like the ILO we also strongly feel that non-formal education, often used for working children, should not become a parallel system competing with formal education, but a means of transition for working children to go back to school.

The Global Report fails to discuss an important issue. UN Millennium Goal 2 aims to provide every child with five years of basic education. ILO Convention 138 however does not allow children to work until they are 14 or 15. After four years of education a child is only 10 and would officially have to wait four or five years before it is allowed to work. Many working children fall into that age group. In order for the MDG’s to be consistent with existing international obligations, we therefore appeal to the UN and its member states to aim at providing at least 8 years of education for every child by 2015.

* The campaign 'Stop Child Labour – School is the Best Place to Work’ is run by the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), the Dutch Teachers Union (AOb), Hivos (The Netherlands), India Committee of The Netherlands, Concern (Ireland), German Agro Action, IBIS (Denmark), People in Need (Czech Republic) and CESVI (Italy).