Child Labour and International Labor Organization

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Each organization is founded to pursue specific goals. The International Labor Organization (ILO) was established with the aim of ensuring good working conditions. One of the objectives of the organization was to abolish child labor. Towards attaining that goal, the organization has taken many initiatives that have yielded mixed results. This position is reflected based on the case of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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The International Labor Organization (ILO)

The International Labor Organization is a tripartite agency of the United Nations which focuses on promoting working conditions across the world. ILO brings together workers, employers, and governments from one hundred eighty-three states in its bid to attain its objectives (Haas, 2008). The pursuit of decency in working conditions is reflected in four primary objectives.

  • Firstly, the organization endeavors to uphold the fundamental rights and principles of work reflective of international labor laws and standards.
  • Secondly, the organization pursues the creation of employment that guarantees the sustainability of enterprises and income-generating opportunities.
  • Thirdly, the objective revolves around the extension of social protection to society.
  • Fourthly, the organization pursues the objective of engaging the three parties in social dialogue in a bid to solve work-related concerns.

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It emerges that non-discrimination and gender parity in employment are the main pillars of the four objectives. It is significant to note that the four objectives apply both to the formal and the informal sectors of all the economies. Regarding the pursuit of decency, each part of human engagement is captured in as far as, wage employment is concerned (Haas, 2008). Put differently, decency must prevail irrespective of whether the engagement is private or public.

The organization works hand-in-hand with other global organizations that operate in the sector of commerce, economics, human rights, finance, and development (Haas, 2008). Similarly, the organization cooperates with regional groups such as the EU in a bid to promote and enhance an integrated approach towards ensuring decency at workplaces.

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Child Labor

Child labor involves work that is harmful to underage people (Emerson and Souza, 2011). In other words, labor that harms children is deemed as child labor. Alternatively, child labor is seen as work that keeps children away from school or denies them an opportunity to develop. It should be appreciated that the gap across the world between the rich and poor has kept widening. In the process, many children from poor backgrounds have been forced to abandon school for work. Based on the ILO estimation, roughly two hundred fifteen million children work under hazardous, extremely exploitative, and illegal conditions (Haas, 2008).

Poverty has been cited as the biggest contributing factor to the issue of child labor (Haas, 2008). A big number of children work in fishing, commercial agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and domestic services. The worst part occurs when children are forced to engage in illicit activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and traumatic endeavors such as fighting as soldiers.

Understanding of child labor requires that its characteristics are highlighted. To begin with, child labor involves a violation of a country’s laws on working age (Emerson and Souza, 2011). Secondly, it is a threat to children’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The third element gravitates around intolerable abuse. Abuse is seen in the form of slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, or child trafficking which are so humiliating that they devalue the worth of human life. Another characteristic is that child labor denies children an opportunity to go to school.

Finally, child labor is an affront to international labor regulations. As already pointed, in the present times, child laborers are estimated to be 215 million globally (Emerson and Souza, 2011). 53 percent of the 215 million come from the Asia and Pacific regions. On the other hand, 30% of the children laborers live in sub-Saharan Africa while 7% reside in Latin America.

Examples of Child Labor

Examples of child labor across nations. Based on estimations, 60% of children work in forestry, fishing, and agriculture sectors (Emerson and Souza, 2011). For instance, children have been found working in banana plantations in Ecuador, cotton farms in Egypt, flower farms in Colombia, orange farms in Brazil, cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, tea plantations in Bangladesh, and Argentina, and in vegetables and fruit farms in the United States. Children working in such areas are subjected to long working hours under extreme temperatures. This exposes children to health risks such as dangers posed by pesticides, poor sanitation, inadequate food, and water. Moreover, children laborers are underpaid or not compensated at all.

Children have also been forced to work in the manufacturing sector. Some children laborers work in the manufacturing of goods across various countries (Emerson and Souza, 2011). For instance, children work in the carpet industry in India, Egypt, and Pakistan. In India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, children work in the clothing industry, while in Pakistan children are forced to work in soccer balls and surgical instruments industries. Similarly, China is accused of allowing children to work in the fireworks industry.

Why Child Labor Should be Abolished

The question of abolishing child labor has dominated world debates. Based on this paper, there are several reasons which support the abolition of child labor. The primary aim of abolishing child labor is to accord children their right to lead a decent life. It is clear that child labor denies children an opportunity to lead a decent life.

Encouraging child labor reflects an affront to humanity. Each person, irrespective of age, has a right to leading a comfortable life. However, child labor does not work in harmony with such expectations. For instance, child labor exposes children to various dangers such as harm from pesticides and high temperatures. This has the potential of harming the health of children. Another concern is that children need to grow and develop into responsible adults. For this to occur, children should be taken to school. However, child labor impedes children's development since they spend a considerable amount of time working. Another dehumanizing attribute of child labor is the denial of reasonable pay. Often, employers pay children a minimal package as upkeep. This is a mark of exploitation which must be rejected at all costs.

International standards guide the formation of working guidelines. In particular, the laws outline the minimum age for admitting people to the work. However, child labor does not regard such provisions. For this reason, child labor is anti-social cohesion since it puts states at war with international organizations. For example, the countries that fail to comply with ILO provisions are likely to attract the wrath of the organization and other human rights-based organizations. The child should be discouraged since he/she subjects to emotional, mental, and physical torture. This is an issue that threatens societal well-being since children are the future of any country. Other abuses such as slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, or child trafficking are also humiliating, in addition, to being inhuman. Hence, efforts to protect children from forced labor should be supported.


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The Success of ILO Conventions

When assessing the success of an organization, the focus is on its influence in regards to what it was created to pursue. The ILO has been at the forefront in fighting to ensure decency in working conditions. As demonstrated earlier, it was formed to ensure dialogue among states, employers, and workers.

The organization works hand-in-hand with other global organizations that operate in the sector of commerce, economics, human rights, finance, and development (Haas, 2008). Similarly, the organization cooperates with regional groups such as the EU in a bid to promote and enhance an integrated approach towards ensuring decency at workplaces. The ILO has also advised such groups as the G8 and G20 in an effort to promote its goals.

ILO has initiated many programs aimed at addressing the issue of child labor. For instance, using a mobile training network, ILO advances training among women in Europe. This is a sound program that empowers women. Through such empowerment, poverty levels are reducing, leading to a decline in the chances of children engaging in child labor.

When working with institutions such as the EU, ILO was focused on monitoring the ratification and adoption of international labor conventions. The organization also monitors the application of conventions across countries. In 2006, the EU cooperated with ILO to ensure the approval of the Declaration of the ILO on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization across the developing world. The ILO also cooperates with Africa, Asia (through ASEM), the Caribbean, and Latin America (Haas, 2008). The ratification of conventions such as the Minimum Age Convention by a number of countries including the United Arab Emirates is a testament to the results of the ILO initiatives. Despite the success attained, the ILO has some ground to cover regarding the protection of child rights as demonstrated by the case of UAE which lacks the capacity to protect children as anticipated by ILO.

UAE and Compliance with ILO

The 1973 ILO Minimum Age convention was ratified by a number of countries including the United Arab Emirates. The UAE ratified the convention in 1998 (Gomaa, 2012). It should be highlighted that the convention focused on proposals or suggestions regarding the minimum age acceptable for employment. The issue of age was the fourth agenda item during the session. This convention was an improvement on the Industry Convention of 1919, the Minimum Age Convention of 1920, the Minimum Age Convention of 1921, etc. (Representing Children Worldwide, 2013).

Under Article 16 of the constitution of the UAE, the society is expected to protect children and other vulnerable groups from such acts as incapacity, illness, and forced/unfair employment practices (Representing Children Worldwide, 2013). Under the Criminal Code, Article 350 goes further to state that whoever exposes children to danger in any way risks a fine, imprisonment, or both. In the article, a larger section focuses on child trafficking and child labor. This issue is of major concern since many children are employed to work as camel jockeys in the Emirates.

Despite such efforts to entrench the protection of children's rights in the constitution, some issues remain unaddressed. For instance, the law does not have express provisions allowing children to be heard whenever there are proceedings on issues affecting them (Representing Children Worldwide, 2013). In a nutshell, there is no adequate infrastructure to protect children from abuse.

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In 1997, the United Arab Emirates acceded to the Children Rights Convention although it expressed its misgivings on Articles 7, 14, 17 and 21 (Representing Children Worldwide, 2013). The league remains reserved as it is yet to ratify the Optional Protocols relating to the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography. The committee on children rights, however, applauded the country’s efforts to review the Child Protection Act. Despite the efforts, the committee felt that non-discrimination had not been reflected in the domestic law adequately.


The ILO was established to enhance working conditions across the world. While focusing on the abolition of child labor, the organization engaged in many initiatives that led to mixed outcomes. This position is held in reference to the case of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) concerning the protection of children's rights.