No individual or organization acting alone can eliminate the worst forms of child labor, but together we can make a difference. Individuals, governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and civil society groups each have a unique and vital role to play. To reach our goal, we must focus our collective efforts on eradicating the root causes of child labor so that children can break out of the cycle of poverty.
How can we meet this shared responsibility?
- Laws and regulations: National governments play a central role in the elimination of the worst forms of child labor through adopting and enforcing national legislation against child labor and its worst forms in particular.
- Labor inspection and enforcement systems: Putting effective enforcement and monitoring mechanisms in place is crucial to the success of these efforts.
- Social protection programs: Increase access to social protection programs aimed to help ensure the basic needs of families living in poverty are met so that parents can send their children to school instead of sending them to work.
- Public Awareness: Sensitize the public about child labor, the value of education and training, and the longer term costs of child labor, in terms of health, employment opportunities, persistent inequalities and intergenerational poverty.
- Education and training: Primary education should be free, compulsory, and accessible with a particular focus on girls.
- Decent Work: Promoting decent work for adults that is consistent with the fundamental principles and rights at work will help ensure adult workers can better support their families.
- Trade unions and other civil society groups: Effective worker organizations are critical elements of any effort to identify and deal with child labor and other labor abuses. Adult workers who have the right to organize and negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment can better support their families and be helpful advocates in the fight against exploitative child labor.
- Empowerment of women: Studies show that when women are educated, trained, and empowered, the incidence of child labor drops dramatically. Programs that give women the opportunity to make a living ensure that the basic needs of families are met without having to pull children out of school.
- Company Engagement: Though they do not substitute for strong government action to protect children and workers, companies’ social compliance programs can help fill critical gaps where governments have not yet developed full capacity.
- Consumers’ Buying Power: We are all interested in reducing the chance that the products we buy —and the raw materials they come from — are not manufactured, mined or harvested by children who should be in school.
For more information:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor Toolkit
- International Labor Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor
- United Nations Resources for Speakers on Global Issues — Briefing Paper on Child Labor
About the Author: Carina Klein serves as a Labor Officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.