Manual Child Labour in a Globalized World: A Legal Analysis of ILO Action

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Child Labour in a Globalized World: A Legal Analysis of ILO Action. Edited by Giuseppe Nesi, Luca Nogler, and Marco Pertile, Ashgate Publishing Limited,
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Child Labour in a Globalized World

Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Similar Items Related Subjects: Child labor -- Law and legislation -- Cases. Labor laws and legislation, International. Industrial safety -- Law and legislation. Linked Data More info about Linked Data. The ILO's legal activities towards the eradication of child labour: Convention and the origin of the ILO's action in the field of child labour, Matteo Borzaga; The contribution of the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work to the elimination of child labour, Lee Swepston; The worst forms of child labour: Freedom from child labour as a human right: Home About Help Search.

Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions. That clearly poses the problem of the democratic legitimacy of international actors and the mechanisms of international law might not seem flawless in this respect. As has been repeatedly noted, the renewed interest in the elimination of child labour might be read in the context of the pursuit of a protectionist agenda by Western countries to the detriment of developing ones: The whole issue of child labour would constantly run the risk of falling prey to the interests of powerful lobbies.

Difficult as it may be, we are persuaded that the challenge of defining new mechanisms and a more democratic international order should be taken up. Through an incremental process, it seems feasible to identify a common ground even at the global level. The widespread rejection of the worst forms of child labour by the constituents of the ILO, that is, governments, workers and employers of the world, testifies to this.

That comes as no surprise in view of the heterogeneity of the international community and the different political agendas of its members, which are often difficult to reconcile. For those same political, economic and cultural reasons that have long impeded the adoption of effective measures against child labour, the agreement on a comprehensive definition has not been an option even in recent times. As is often the case with highly controversial issues, identifying common ground can only be possible through an incremental approach. In a very down-to-earth perspective, international law often crystallizes international consensus on a specific aspect of the matter when the time is ripe to do so, step by step through the adoption of instruments that are limited in scope.

Basu, Global Labor Standards, supra note 29, at 2. Together with the ILO, different organizations at the global and the regional level took part in standard-setting: Later, four categories of worst forms of child labour to be eradicated immediately were singled out. But the issue of child labour is touched upon in different perspectives in other international legal instruments.

Under specific conditions, some of the worst forms of child labour, for instance, can be qualified as international crimes inter alia under the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Other international rights of the individual are indirectly but clearly relevant to child labour. One might think of social rights such as the right to education, the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to private and family life. Those are rights pertaining to each individual that assume a special meaning with regard to the situation of children and to child labour.

They can be seen as preconditions for addressing the roots of the phenomenon and giving the fight against it a genuine anti-rhetorical dimension. A more specific definition emerges adopting the point of view of ILO Conventions , on the minimum age for admission to employment, and , on the worst forms of child labour. The ILO instruments are certainly the more specific ones, are widely ratified nowadays, and represent the legal and policy framework for the most active international actor operating in the field. In this perspective, it should be pointed out that a dichotomy arises, as the legal framework does not exclude the fact that children legally carry out some forms of economic activity.

Other chapters in this book will examine the content of those instruments. For the time being, suffice it to say that Convention prohibits economic activity performed by children below the age of 13 12 in developing countries and sets the minimum age for admission to employment at 15 14 in developing countries or in any case the age corresponding to the end of compulsory schooling. A number of flexibility clauses are provided concerning the economic sector, the type of work and the level of economic development of the country concerned.

Light work is permitted for those reaching 13 and 14 12 and 13 in developing countries. As has been mentioned, Convention prohibits four worst forms of child labour and calls for urgent elimination of them. They are defined as follows: Within such worst forms, a distinction is usually drawn, in the practice of the ILO, between two sub-categories.

The Fight Against Child Labour in a Globalized World 11 a distinction is essentially descriptive and does not reflect any difference in the legal regime regulating the four worst forms. It refers to the fact that, while the unconditional forms are always unacceptable as they are per se incompatible with the health and the development of children, hazardous work — the conditional form — identifies a category that is strictly dependent on the situation and the environment in which the work to be prohibited is carried out.

In such a case, a worst form of child labour might turn into a legitimate form of work, provided that the minimum age requirements are complied with. As mentioned, other instruments at the international level already addressed some of the problems lying at the basis of the worst forms of child labour.

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From different perspectives, they might qualify as violations of human rights or even as international crimes of the individual. It is however submitted that in the present case the inclusion in the ILO legal framework of legal concepts that were, at least in part, already regulated elsewhere, has some positive side effects. Firstly, from a conceptual point of view, qualifying international crimes or violations of human rights as forms of work implies the full recognition of the economic dimension of those phenomena.

Labelling the conduct and the facts that lie at the basis of slavery, forced prostitution and forced recruitment in armed conflict as worst forms of child labour means a step forward in the understanding of the problem. Criticizing this approach on the grounds that it could have a legitimizing effect for those conducts seems moot.


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Recognition of a painful reality in a legal text does not imply legalization. Secondly, from an operational point of view, classifying such behaviour in terms of employment relationships prompts the involvement of the ILO and of its programmes in the fight against the phenomenon and in the assistance to its victims. For all the criticism of the action of the ILO and of its possible missteps, on the whole that would seem a positive result.

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Having provided a legal definition of child labour, the incidence of the problem and of its main features should be analysed so as to better evaluate the strategies to be adopted. As Recommendation makes clear: See Beqiraj this volume. Subsequent information papers on global estimates on child labour were adopted in and and became the factual basis for the two global reports adopted by the International Labour Conference in and SIMPOC estimates reveal a considerable decrease of child labour at the global level during the period — Four years earlier the number of economically active children was estimated to be million, of which The decrease for the three groups amounted to 9.

The analysis by economic sector and by regional trends reveals clear inequalities. Child labour is to be found for the most part — 69 per cent — in agriculture, whereas industry and services account for 9 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. Here the number of working children decreased from Progress in other regions is by far less significant. In Asia and the Pacific, the activity rate went from These figures clearly demonstrate that there has been a decline in child labour in the period examined.


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  5. Moreover, one might wonder what the actual impact of the strategies against child labour was in achieving such results or whether the economic trends are to be credited with the success. In this regard it is however worth mentioning that those countries of South America that have adopted national plans against child labour have achieved very significant results.

    At the outset of this chapter, we maintained that, amongst the international actors operating in the fight against child labour, the ILO is the one best equipped to coordinate the efforts of the international community. Some of the following chapters will provide further elements to substantiate this statement.


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    For the time being, suffice it to note four features of the Organization that testify to its uniqueness in the international arena and its potential in the fight against child labour. In such a field, the action of the ILO may profit by the existence of: Of course, one might criticize each and every feature and identify a number of significant shortcomings.

    The action of the ILO against child labour is far from perfect.

    A Legal Analysis of ILO Action, 1st Edition

    The legal framework reveals significant overlap, as the relevant conventions are not always coordinated with other international legal instruments. The supervisory system does not envisage an individual complaint procedure and, as is the rule with international monitoring systems, might leave the impression that it is to a large extent a paper tiger, lacking real powers of enforcement. Again, the representativeness of the constituents of the ILO might be questioned, in a world where governments are being progressively expropriated of their jurisdiction, and the organizations of the employers and workers are in deep waters when it comes to keeping contact with rapidly changing grassroots movements.

    That being said, the fact remains that the action of the ILO against child labour reveals many strong points.

    Child Labour in a Globalized World - A Legal Analysis of ILO Action | Marco Pertile - wesatimunogo.cf

    Legal instruments are detailed and specific. They emphasize the economic dimension of the exploitation of children, thus favouring the adoption of counterstrategies. The supervisory system is polycentric and employs a variety of methods, combining political and authoritative technical bodies. As it is comprehensible, in a field that is deeply connected to economic rights and development strategies, it mainly aims at favouring the adoption of result-oriented national policies rather than imposing sanctions bluntly in case of non-compliance.

    That is all the more important as the Organization combines the activities of supervision with a significant effort on the side of technical cooperation. Over the years IPEC has gained an amount of project experience in the field which is unparalleled by other international bodies. Although the amount of funding devoted to those projects is totally inadequate when compared to the magnitude of the problem, it is nonetheless considerable.

    For all its shortcomings, it favours openness and the creation of linkages between public opinion, civil society and the Organization in a way that is unknown to other international organizations operating at the global level. That is essential in the fight against child labour.