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:
- the urgent need to protect children from violence in all forms
- exploitation and child labour
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:
- respect and support children's rights
- contribute to the elimination of child labour
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:
- protect children from economic exploitation
- from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous
- or to interfere with the child’s education,
- or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development
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:
- 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;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for production and trafficking of drugs; and
- 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:
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its optional protocols;
- ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and its accompanying Recommendation 190;
- ILO Convention 138 on the Minimum Age to Admission to Employment and its accompanying Recommendation 146;
- ILO Convention on 29 on Forced Labour and its Protocol of 2014;
- North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation
Government of Canada:
- Labour Program: represents the country in international discussion of child labour, negotiates and implements Labour Cooperation Agreements (LCAs) with Canada's free trade partners, and represents Canadian interests with the ILO
- Government of Canada's Approach to Corporate Social Responsibility Abroad
- Public Safety National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
- The Official Development Assistance Accountability Act
- International Labour Organization Child labour information including standards, projects, publications;
- ILO NORMLEX Ratifications by country;
- UN Treaty Bodies Database includes States Party Reports, Concluding Observations and General Comments from the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
- US Department of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs including annual country Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor that focus on the prevalence, legislation, enforcement mechanisms, coordination, policies and social programs;
- The Understanding Children’s Work (UCW) including country reports on child labour and youth employment;
- Human Rights Watch produces children’s rights reports including on child labour.
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