A child is anyone who is under 18 years old. Not all work done by children should be labelled as child labour. Children have responsibilities towards their families and communities and activities that do not harm the health, personal development or education of a child are an important part of growing up.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHILD LABOUR AND HELPING THE FAMILY
Every country will have a minimum age of employment. Children below this age should not be employed in work, but can be expected to support their families in other ways. For example, this can include helping parents around the home or assisting with a family business. Such activities teach a child valuable life skills and can make a positive contribution to the welfare of his or her family and community.
However, dangerous and exploitative work that prevents a child developing properly is child labour. This work can be physically, mentally or socially damaging. Just as important, when work stops a child going to school, or makes him or her leave too early or be too tired for school, then it is also child labour. It is important to be aware of the age and ability of the child and the type, conditions and hours of work when thinking about whether a specific activity is child labour.
ANY LABOUR THAT A CHILD DOES SHOULD NOT DEPRIVE IT OF ITS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
Every child has the right to life and the right to an education. Any form of work that interferes with a child’s development and causes them harm will be child labour. Any form of work that prevents a child getting an education will be child labour.
There are certain types of work that are so dangerous that no child should ever do them:
- Slavery and forced labour, including the use of children as soldiers in armed conflict
- Using children in the sex trade
- Using children in illegal activities, such as making and selling drugs,
- Other hazardous work which harms the health, safety and morals of children.
There are also other types of work that children should not do:
- Working under water or underground such as for example in mines, or working with dangerous working equipment
- Working in unhygienic circumstances or environments where there are toxic substances around
- Carrying stolen objects
- Working long hours or working through the night.
Examples of the types of hazardous work which are unacceptable include work underground or underwater, such as mining, work in high or cramped places, work where dangerous equipment or tools are used, or work in unhealthy environments where there are dangerous substances. Lifting heavy objects, working for long hours or having to work at night are also hazardous for children. Begging has been identified as hazardous work and children should not be separated from their families or forced to stay somewhere for work.
ALL CHILDREN HAVE A RIGHT TO EDUCATION – OUR CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE
Child labour prevents children from getting a good education and can leave them stuck in a cycle of poverty. But if children, both girls and boys, are given the chance to go to school and fully develop, they can go on to lead healthy productive lives and make a greater and more positive contribution to their families and communities. Children are our future, and we should all work together to ensure that they have the opportunity to grow and develop without being harmed or held back by child labour.