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Insights into Editorial: Historic ratification: On universal ratification of a labour standard


Context: universal ratification of Convention 182:

ILO Director General celebrates the universal ratification of ILO Convention No. 182, the first ILO Convention in history to achieve universal ratification.

As of this day, children benefit from critical legal protection from the worst forms of child labour in every ILO member State.

Since its adoption in 1999, ratification of this Convention and ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age has ushered in targeted programmes to tackle child labour through education, social protection, and decent work for adults and youth of working age, resulting in a decline in child labour of almost 100 million since 2000.

The welcome decision by the Kingdom of Tonga to outlaw the worst forms of child labour is the first time in the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s 101-year history that a labour standard has been universally ratified.


Indian Constitution provisions:

Article 21(A) and Article 45 – The child has the right to Education i.e. the state shall provide compulsory and free education to the children of the age six to 14 years.

Article 24 –There is a provision under which a child below the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any mine, factory or hazardous workplace.

Article 39(f) –The child’s youth and childhood are to be protected against moral and material abandonment and exploitation.

ILO conventions of 182:

  1. The historic first universal ratification of a global labour standard may be an occasion for celebration; it is nonetheless a moment for sober reflection.
  2. The two instruments on child labour are among the eight core ILO Conventions regarded as embodying the spirit of the 1998 declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work.
  3. Convention 182, which was adopted in the 1999 annual international labour conference, prohibits the sexual exploitation of children, trafficking, deployment in armed conflict and other conditions that compromise their overall well-being.
  4. The Convention complements the ILO’s efforts under the 1973 Minimum Age Convention to prevent the employment of children below a lower age threshold.
  5. Under the influence of both these ILO standards, millions of young boys and girls have been rescued from hazardous conditions of work.
  6. Concomitantly, these have resulted in significant increases in enrolments in primary education. The landmark ratification, however, does not detract from the enormity of the challenge that remains.
  7. An estimated 152 million are trapped in child labour and 72 million of them are engaged in hazardous work.
  8. If anything, current efforts would have to be stepped up significantly to achieve the ambitious goal of total abolition of the scourge of child labour by 2025.
  9. But the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening a reversal of recent gains, with widespread job losses, deterioration in conditions of work, decline in household incomes and temporary school closures.

IPEC+ Flagship Programme:

The IPEC+ Flagship Programme brings together two leading ILO technical cooperation programmes:

The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and the Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP/FL) – to establish a major new force in the fight against child labour, forced labour and human trafficking.

It recognizes that these unacceptable forms of work deny workers their basic human rights at work and that, while their overlap concerns 4.5 million children trapped in contemporary forms of slavery, they share root causes of poor governance, discrimination and social exclusion, family and community poverty and lack of access to decent work and to the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The objective of the IPEC+ Flagship Programme – in line with target 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, is to provide ILO leadership in global efforts to eradicate all forms of child labour by 2025 and all forms of contemporary slavery and human trafficking by 2030.

It also aims to ensure that all people are protected from and can protect themselves against these gross human rights violations.

IPEC+ Flagship Programme and COVID-19:

COVID-19 has plunged the world into a crisis of unprecedented scope and scale. The harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally.

They are expected to be most damaging for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations, such as children in child labour and victims of forced labour and human trafficking, particularly women and girls.

These vulnerable groups are more affected by income shocks due to the lack of access to social protection, including health insurance and unemployment benefits.

IPEC+ Flagship Programme has developed plans to mitigate the risks and to repurpose its strategy and is seeking to allocate additional funding to support efforts to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on child labour and forced labour.

The recently launched brief COVID-19 impact on child labour and forced labour:

The response of the IPEC+ Flagship Programme presents 6 key interventions aimed to reach around 1 million vulnerable children, communities and families in an additional 10 countries:

  1. Leveraging our field presence
  2. Mobilizing our global and regional networks
  3. Producing knowledge and data
  4. Investing in gender-responsive monitoring and compliance solutions
  5. Building resilience through social dialogue
  6. Repurposing and innovating our operations

Yet ILO warns that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse years of progress. As we look towards 2021, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, ILO emphasises that now is the time to deliver on the promise of Convention 182 and put an end to child labour in all its forms.


In order to contribute to this goal of elimination of Child labour, the ILO launched Alliance 8.7, a global partnership designed to align the efforts of those working towards the achievement of SDG Target 8.7.

Goal 8 aims to Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Instruments relating to the freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation are among the others.

These conventions provide the necessary framework to counteract the predominance of informality in the conditions of work and ought to be a priority for governments.

Though belated, India has signalled its legal commitment to the elimination of child labour with its 2017 ratification of Convention 182 and the instrument prescribing the minimum age of work for children.

As the world prepares to designate 2021 as the year to abolish child labour, governments must seize the moment to instil hope in the future generations.