TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Jun17/06)
16 June 2017
Third World Network

In "historic" move, India ratifies ILO Conventions on child labour
Published in SUNS #8482 dated 15 June 2017

Geneva, 14 Jun (Kanaga Raja) - The Government of India, on Tuesday 13 June, deposited at the International Labour Office, its instruments of ratification of two fundamental International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on the elimination of child labour.

According to an ILO news release, the ILO Conventions in question are the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).

The ILO is currently holding the 106th session of its International Labour Conference here. Earlier on the same day, Jamaica became the 14th member State to ratify the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention of 1930 as well as the 84th member State to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006.

India now becomes the 170th member State of the ILO to ratify Convention No. 138 and the 181st member State to ratify Convention No. 182.

Convention No. 138 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment requires member States that have ratified the Convention to specify a minimum age for admission to employment or work within its territory and on means of transport registered in its territory, and that subject to Articles 4 to 8 of the Convention, no one under that age shall be admitted to employment or work in any occupation, except in cases of light work and artistic performances.

Convention No. 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour requires member States that have ratified the Convention to take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency.

For the purposes of the Convention, the worst forms of child labour comprises the following:

(a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, 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 the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; 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.

According to the ILO news release, the Minister of Labour and Employment of India, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya, said that ratification of the two ILO Conventions reaffirmed his country's "commitment to a child labour free society".

Speaking at the event on handing over of India's instruments of ratification here on Tuesday, Mr Dattatreya said today is "a historic moment" for India "as we are going to take another giant step to affirm our commitment for a child labour free India" by deciding to ratify the ILO's Conventions on minimum age in employment, and on the worst forms of child labour.

This will also mean integrating India's national efforts and international commitments in order to eradicate child labour, said the Minister, noting that India has ratified six out of eight core or fundamental Conventions of the ILO.

According to a press release issued by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN here, the Minister also said that the Government of India has been working in a concerted manner to eliminate child labour from the country by following a multi-pronged strategy by including both stringent legislative and Project-based approach.

He noted that a landmark step in the endeavour to have a child labour free society was the enactment of the Child labour (Prohibition and Prevention) amendment Act, 2016 in August 2016 that provides for complete prohibition on employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and processes and prohibits employment of adolescents (14-18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes.

He said the age of admission to employment has been linked to the age of compulsory education under Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009.

According to the press release, besides the amendment in the Act, the Indian Minister said that the Government of India has also notified the amendment in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Central Rules after extensive consultation with the stakeholders.

The Rules for the first time provide a broad and specific framework for prevention, prohibition, rescue and rehabilitation of child and adolescent workers.

Specific provisions have been incorporated in the rules in order to clarify issues related to help in family and family enterprises and definition of family with respect to child.

Further, it also provides for safeguards of artists which have been permitted to work under the Act, in terms of hours of work and working conditions.

The rules also provide for specific provisions incorporating duties and responsibilities of enforcement agencies in order to ensure effective implementation and compliance of the provisions of the Act.

The Minister mentioned that among the various measures taken recently to meet the objective of the child labour free society, the prominent one was strengthening of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP), which is a rehabilitative scheme, providing bridge education and vocational training to adolescents.

This scheme has been strengthened recently in terms of improving its quality and extending its coverage to all the districts of the country. For effective implementation of the project, the NCLP guidelines have been reviewed.

"The momentum of the recent initiatives taken to eradicate child labour has to be maintained as elimination of child labour is also crucial for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030," Mr Dattatreya underlined.

Also speaking at the event, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that India's ratifications of Conventions No. 138 and No. 182 are an "historic step".

"We all recognize the great progress India has made against child labour in recent years and the major role played by its convergence model of coherence between public policies and services, which was strongly supported by the ILO."

Today, he said, India's ratifications of Conventions 138 and 182 solidifies further - in treaty obligations - that commitment to the global fight against the scourge of child labour in all its forms.

They also represent a positive step on the country's path towards full respect for fundamental rights at work.

From today, Ryder said, "as a result of what we are about to do, Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour will cover more than 99 per cent of the world's children, and the coverage of Convention 138 on minimum age in employment will leap from approximately 60 per cent in the world to almost 80 per cent."

According to Ryder, this is a huge advance in the long march towards eradication of child labour in all of its forms worldwide, which is in Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the United Nations.

According to the ILO news release, India's ratification confirms the status of Convention No. 182 as the most rapidly ratified ILO Convention.

Universal ratification is within reach: as of today, only six member States remain to ratify this fundamental Convention. This reflects the overwhelming global consensus, as re-affirmed by the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, and more particularly Goal 8-Target 8.7, which aims at the complete eradication of child labour by 2025 and calls for immediate action to prohibit and eliminate its worst forms, said Ryder.

"I want to pay tribute to the government, to the employers, to the trade unions and to civil society in India and to all who have assisted them in building an extraordinary alliance in India over the past decades - an alliance that made this latest great step possible," said the ILO Director-General.

In this context, Ryder also mentioned 2014 Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi (an Indian activist fighting child labour), saying that his prize has been a source of pride for all India as well as for the ILO.

Meanwhile, in a video message on India's ratification of both ILO Conventions, Mr Satyarthi said: "India now joins the club of those countries which are collectively committed to put an end to the menace of slavery and child labour."

He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Labour Minister Dattatreya for taking this bold step in ratifying ILO Conventions 138 and 182.

"That means we are expressing our strong resolve that we are going to put an end to all forms of child labour up to the age of 14 and all worst forms of child labour like slavery, trafficking, forced labour up to the age of 18," said Mr Satyarthi.