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The Agricultural Sector that relies on child labour is not UN sustainable Goal. Action to improve the living and working condition of adult workers in agriculture is therefore key to the elimination of child labour, which means enforcing employment rights and strengthening the position of trade unions in the sector.

On 12 June 2021, the World Day focused on the elimination of child labour in agriculture, because this is the sector that accounts for the largest share of child labour in the world. Migrant children who work on farms are at even higher risk of exploitation and abuse.

The Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union (CCWU) calling on the trade unions across the world to support the World Day against Child Labour, and to take action to help root out child labour, particularly in agriculture sector, by:


Putting pressure on employers to eliminate child labour in their supply chains

Lobbying governments to ratify and fully implement the key ILO Conventions, and to promote rural development strategies that improve rural livelihoods and mainstream child labour concerns into agricultural policy-making.

Raising public awareness through campaigns against child labour in agriculture sector.

There are many international instruments which aim at the abolition of child labour.

The United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery of 1956 stated that all countries should secure the abandonment of all practices whereby children or young people are delivered by their parents or another guardian to another person “with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person or his labour.”

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 contains a commitment by the signatory states to “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and 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 convention puts the signatory states under obligation to ensure the implementation of this article, particularly through regulation of working hours and conditions and through providing penalties or sanctions to effectively enforce it.

The ILO Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (No 138) of 1973 sets the international labour standards that aim at abolishing child labour. The minimum age for employment is set at the age of completion of compulsory schooling, but it should not be less than 15 years. For certain types of employment, which could jeopardise the health, safety or morals of young people, the lower limit is set at years of age. The Convention further recognises the right of individual countries to permit light work for persons between 13 and 15 years if it does not prejudice their attendance at school or other forms of training.

There are also other ILO labour standards with a bearing on child labour.

Child labour is a complicated issue. Whereas there is wide agreement about the importance to curb and finally abolish child labour, there is much discussion about what measures should be taken and what effects different action will have on the situation of the children involved. The CCWU call on Trade Unions Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour defines some of the elements which any campaign should contain. Among these are:

Reviewing national polices and legislation;

Finding appropriate means to apply labour laws to combat child labour and to eradicate the most hazardous and abusive forms such as bonded labour;

Support for non-formal education and vocational training initiatives;

Improvement of existing working conditions and development of alternative work schemes as transitional protective measures;

Provision of health, nutrition, welfare and counselling services;

Promotion of self-organisation among working children and their advocates;

Development of public awareness campaigns both in industrialised and developing countries, and

Development of national plans of action to combat child labour.

Trade unions can make positive contributions to the struggle against child labour and promote awareness of the problems among trade union members and the public.


Sherwood Clarke
General President
Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union

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