(Oct. 1, 2020) On August 4, 2020, the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced that Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour had been ratified by all countries that are parties to the ILO, marking the first time in the organization’s history that all member states have ratified a labor convention. Convention No. 182 provides for the elimination and prohibition of the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, trafficking, and forced labor. It prohibits using children in armed conflict, pornography, prostitution, and other illegal activities such as drug trafficking, as well as in hazardous work.
The Convention is one of the ILO’s eight Fundamental Conventions, which together address the abolition of child labor, elimination of forced labor, abolition of work-related discrimination, and rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association.
Since the ILO’s creation in 1919, child labor has been a core concern. The ILO has reported that the incidence of child labor and its worst forms diminished by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2016, as ratification rates of Conventions 182 and 138 (on the minimum age to work) increased, and countries adopted effective laws and policies accordingly.
However, the global commitment to end child labor is urgently needed now, as experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse decades of progress on this issue. Widespread school closures and the economic difficulties that families are facing could cause children who are at risk of missing out on an education to get involved in dangerous work.
According to the ILO announcement, there are approximately 152 million children performing child labor, 73 million of whom are in hazardous work. Seventy percent of child labor occurs in agriculture and is usually related to poverty and the parents’ difficulties finding adequate work. The ILO indicated, however, that global ratification of Convention No. 182 demonstrates the will of all of its member states to ensure that every child is free from child labor in its worst forms.