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Convention 182

Convention 182 - The Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour

The Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182), Date of Adoption:17th June 1999

The Global March movement began with a worldwide march when thousands of people marched together to jointly put forth the message against child labour. The march, which started on January 17, 1998, touched every corner of the globe, built immense awareness and led to high level of participation from the masses. This march finally culminated at the ILO Conference in Geneva. The voice of the marchers was heard and reflected in the draft of the ILO Convention against the worst forms of child labour. The following year, the Convention was unanimously adopted at the ILO Conference in Geneva. Today, with 180 countries having ratified the convention so far, it has become the fastest ratified convention in the history of ILO. A large role in this was played by the Global March through our member partners.

Preamble: "the effective elimination of the worst forms of child labour requires immediate and comprehensive action."

Convention: The Convention is a legally binding agreement between countries on a specific issue calling for particular actions. 

ILO Convention 182: Adopted in June 1999, the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour sets an international legal standard to protect children from some of the most extreme forms of exploitation. 

The Worst Forms of Child Labour:

  • Child slavery (including the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and forced recruitment for armed conflict)
  • Child prostitution and pornography
  • The use of children for illicit activities (such as drug trafficking)
  • Any hazardous work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children

Hazardous Situations:

  • Mines or in the sea
  • Machinery in motion
  • Bearing heavy loads
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Agriculture
  • Tanning
  • Glass
  • Pesticides, herbicides
  • Chemicals
  • Silica dust

Adoption of the New Convention (182): When and Why?

On June 17, 1999, after two weeks of intense deliberations, delegates of the International Labour Conference unanimously adopted a historic convention prohibiting the worst forms of child labour. The event marks the first time in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) history that a convention or treaty has been adopted with the unanimous support of all members.

Decision Making Bodies of the Convention:

In the tripartite system of the ILO there are three official groups: governments, employers and workers. The governments, counting as the remaining half of the House, divided into 4 unofficial sub-groups along with other independent countries. Three of these groups were based on geographical areas, namely: Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Latin American and the Caribbean. The fourth was "IMEC", or the Industrialised Market Economy Countries, which roughly meant wealthy westernised countries.

Adoption of the Convention: How?

After the conclusion of the discussions on both the Convention and Recommendation, the draft text was sent from the Child Labour Committee to the plenary meeting of the International Labour Conference. On June 16 it was presented to the Assembly, a number of speeches were given in support of it, and it was recommended for adoption. The next day, June 17, it was placed before the delegates for a final recorded vote. The new Convention won the undisputed support of the International Labour Conference, with 415 delegates representing governments, employers, and workers voting in favour of the Convention, 0 voting against it, and 0 abstaining.

The Convention Comes into Force:

The ILO Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour came into force November 19, 2000 with nearly 25% of the organisation's 175 members participating as signatories.

Who is Legally Bound by the Convention?

Members States of the ILO who decide to ratify the Convention are legally bound by it, once it is officially in force. Ratification by at least two Member States is needed to bring the Convention into force. 

What Happens when the New Child Labour Convention is Ratified and in Force for a Country?

Once the new child labour Convention is ratified and in force for a country, the country should adhere to the provisions, in both law and practice. For example, C 182 declares, " Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency".

  • The necessary actions range from a reform of laws and their enforcement, to practical and direct help to children and families.
  • For C 182, a ratified country must report every two years and this helps in regular supervision.
  • The government which has ratified also has to be accountable for any allegation of non observance raised by procedures called " representation" or " complaints" under the ILO constitution.

Number of Countries that have Ratified the Convention:

132 countries had ratified the Convention within 3 years of adoption, symbolising the fastest ratified Convention in ILO's 82-year history. Currently, the ratification status stands at 180. The involvement of theses countries in the Convention clearly shows that support for the movement against abusive child labour is gaining momentum worldwide.

The Convention 182: The Core Elements 

1. Government must act immediately to end the worst forms of child labour

2. All children under the age of 18 must be protected from the worst forms of child labour

3. Ending the worst forms of child labour means:

  • No child slavery
  • No child trafficking
  • No children forced to join armed conflicts
  • No child prostitution or pornography
  • No use of children for crimes, including drug trafficking
  • No work that harms the health, safety and moral of children

4. Governments must consult with employers and workers to identify what work is harmful for children

5. Governments must develop a way to monitor the implementation of this Convention 

6. After consulting with employers, workers, and other concerned groups, governments must start programs of action to end the worst forms of child labour

7. Governments must do everything necessary to implement the Convention, including penalising offenders. Recognising how important education is for ending child labour, governments must:

  • Prevent children from starting harmful work
  • Help and educate children leaving harmful work
  • Reach out to children at risk
  • Make special efforts for girl child labourers

8. Countries must help each other to end the worst forms of child labour

Monitoring of the Convention:

The Convention requires governments to establish or designate appropriate mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the Convention. At the international level, the Convention will be subject to the ILO's monitoring procedure. All countries that ratify the Convention must report to the ILO on what they have done to implement it. Their reports are then closely examined by a high level Committee of Experts which may request more information, point out shortcomings, and request that corrective steps be taken.

Convention 182: 

The Strengths

  • Represents a major step forward in the struggle against child labour.
  • Consolidates the global consensus against the worst forms of child labour and will lead directly or indirectly to the liberation of millions of children who are trapped and exploited.
  • Covers a wide range of situations of extremely harmful child labour and offer enough flexibility to be adapted to the priorities in different countries.
  • Emphasises immediate and effective action and together the Convention and Recommendation outline in very specific terms how to realistically end the worst forms of child labour.
  • Will motivate government to begin their work without delay. The structures and processes that this convention establishes at the country level will also be important for the longer term goal of ending child labour.

Convention 182: The Shortcomings

  • Does not explicitly define as one of the worst forms of child labour which by its very nature blocks children's access to education.
  • The Convention explicitly bans the forced recruitment of children for armed conflict, including conscription but doesn't refer to the participation of children in those conflicts.
  • The Convention should formally require that children and their families be consulted in the design and implementation of programmes of action.
  • No mention is given in the text of the Convention to the situation of children in hidden work sectors, such as children working as domestic servants in homes of others.
  • The only mention of girls in the Convention is in Article 7, which calls for governments to take account of the special situation of girls in the measures they undertake. While these general references can serve as the basis of significant government action, the seriousness of the problem of girl child labour deserves much more specific commitments.

The Convention does not give a fixed deadline by which the worst forms of child labour must be eliminated. It will ultimately depend on the level of public concern, the political will of governments and the resources invested for exploited children. Governments that take a token approach will likely see children exploited in their country for many years to come, but those that take a sincere and comprehensive approach to ending the problem may achieve results in a very short time frame.