Child Labour

There are few images more heart-rending than that of a child who is forced to work or is denied the opportunity to go to school. Yet, despite increasing global recognition of the rights of the child, there are currently approximately 168 million children between the ages 5 and 17 who are engaged in child labour, many in circumstances which jeopardise their safety, security and dignity.

In 1999, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted Convention 182 on the Prohibition and Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour which include slavery, child prostitution, recruitment of child soldiers, child pornography, and other forms of work likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. Canada participated in the drafting of this convention, ratified it in 2000 and encourages countries which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the agreement. Canada has also made substantial contributions to the ILO’s International Program for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labour Program (SIMPOC).

Development cooperation and poverty reduction are central aspects of Canada’s child labour strategy. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) funds projects which promote affordable access to primary education, child protection, good governance, and improvements in the status of women—all of which reinforce the well-being of children.

In addition to ILO Convention No. 182, Canada is a party or signatory to a number of other international legal agreements that have child-labour prohibitions, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Slavery Convention, the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation, and the ILO’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Forced or Compulsory Labour (PDF Version, 259 KB)*.

“The faces of hazardous work are disturbing and painful. The lives and bodies of these children are literally diminished by what they do. If adults need protection against hazardous work, think how much more imperative it is for us to save children in the same situation. We must do better for them.”

Juan Somavia, Director General of the International Labour Organization

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