Child labour

There are few images more heart-rending than that of a girl or boy who is forced to work or is denied the opportunity to go to school.

Despite increasing global recognition of the rights of the child, there are currently approximately 168 million children between the ages 5 and 17 who are engaged in child labour.

This accounts for almost 11% of the child population as a whole.

Children in hazardous work make up almost half of all child labourers numbering 85 million (55 million boys and 30 million girls) and this number is used as an estimate of the number of children in “the worst forms of child labour.”

Canada efforts to stop child labour exploitation

The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canadian efforts abroad.  Under Canadian law (the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act), all Canadian official development assistance must be consistent with international standards of human rights.

Labour provisions of Canada’s recent Free Trade Agreements include a commitment to abolish child labour.

Canada has supported UN resolutions on rights of the child including:

We helped draft the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child and ratified it in 2000.

Canada considers the worst forms of child labour to be a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No.182).

Children’s rights and business principles

The Government of Canada welcomed the Canadian release of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. We also encourage Canadian companies to integrate the Principles into their business practices as a tool for guiding the actions they can take to:

Working with partners to combat child labour internationally

In addition to advocating these issues among the international community, Canada works in collaboration with our international partners, including other donors and the ILO to combat child labour internationally.

The Government of Canada contributed to The Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, adopted at the Global Child Labour Conference in May 2010.

Reducing poverty through development aid and cooperation is central to Canada’s efforts to prevent and reduce child labour.

Global Affairs Canada funds projects which promote affordable access to primary education, child protection, good governance, and improvements in the status of women—all of which reinforce the well-being of children.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canada supports the ratification and implementation of international standards that:

ILO Conventions

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour urges governments to take immediate and effective measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency to include:

a)    all forms of slavery or slave-like practices, such as the human trafficking of children, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

b)    the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

c)    the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for production and trafficking of drugs; and

d)    work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

ILO Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment is one of the eight ILO “fundamental” Conventions that are considered core to promoting decent work. Convention 138 aims to ensure that children do not leave school to start working too young by setting the age at which children can be employed or work".

International human rights standards

Canada has ratified the following international human rights treaties relevant to child labour including the worst forms of child labour:

Related links

Government of Canada:

International sites:

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