Address at the High-Level Meeting on the Application of Child Labour Conventions Ratified by China

By Mr Qiu Xiaoping, Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Security

Statement | Beijing, China | 06 September 2012
Honorable Ms. Constance Thomas, Director of the IPEC Programme of the ILO,
Honorable Ms. Ann Herbert, Director of ILO Beijing Office,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.
It is a pleasure for me to attend in Nanchang the Conference on the Application of Child Labour Conventions jointly organized by Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China and the International Labour Organization. At the outset, please allow me to extend my warm congratulations on the convocation of the conference on behalf of Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and my heartfelt welcome to all participants, in particular our honorable guests from the ILO. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Jiangxi Provincial Department of Human Resources and Social Security for hosting the conference. Thank you for the support and logistic services.

Elimination of child labour is a fundamental component in the work of the ILO with regard to protecting children’s legitimate rights, and it concerns healthy development of children and adolescents, and concerns social harmony and stability. The Chinese Government has always attached great importance to the protection of the rights of the children and adolescents, and always listed elimination of child labour as an important agenda for realizing sustainable development and creating a harmonious society. Over the years, with sustained and rapid economic growth, the Chinese Government has adopted a variety of measures to reinforce protection of the rights of children and minors, and has scored outstanding achievements on elimination of child labour.

I. Action Plan for elimination of child labour is formulated and carried out.
Building upon geared-up economic and social development of the country, the Chinese Government started to implement large-scale poverty-reduction programme as of 1986. The Government has continuously reinforced its support to poor areas for their development, and forcefully promoted economic and social development in these areas, which helps to lay a sound economic foundation to root out child labour. Starting from 1992, the Chinese Government has consecutively formulated and implemented National Programme of Action for Child Development in China in 1990s, National Programme of Action for Child Development in China (2001-2010), and National Programme of Action for Child Development in China (2011-2020). In these documents, the Government sets the main objectives of protecting children’s legitimate rights by law and banning the use of child labour and economic exploitation of children, and identifies the measures to combat illegal use of child labour and improve the mechanisms of administrative and judicial assistances to children.

II. Efforts are doubled on legislation on protection of minors’ rights and promotion of legal knowledge.
In 1991, the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, which was amended in 2006. In 1994, the Standing Committee of NPC adopted Labour Law of the People’s Republic of China. The two laws contain explicit provisions prohibiting any employer from recruiting persons younger than 16 years of age, which serve as the legal foundation for elimination of child labour. In 2002, the Chinese Government enacted anew Regulations on Prohibition of Child Labour, which provides in definite terms that any enterprise or individual shall be prohibited from job placement service for persons younger than 16 years old, and persons up to 16 shall be prohibited from opening or running business. It stipulates the penalty measures for illegal use of child labour and job placement services for children, and the criminal liabilities associated with forcing children to engage in high-risk work. In the same year, the Standing Committee of the NPC adopted the 4th Amendment to the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which determines employing children for hazardous and heavy work as a crime, and states that the person directly responsible is subject to imprisonment for a maximum of 7 years. The Chinese Government, together with our social partners, through publishing and distributing brochures and organizing lectures on legality, launches extensive campaigns to promote legal knowledge on child protection, and has raised the awareness in the public on protection of rights of the minors and prohibition of child labour.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Government has ratified the international conventions on child labour and is working to have them implemented effectively. In 1999, China ratified Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, 1973 (No. 138). In 2002, China ratified Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182). China is also a party to Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations in 1986. The Chinese Government fulfills its obligations contained in the ratified conventions, submits application reports to the ILO and UN at regular intervals, provides answers and feedbacks to the questionnaires and surveys related to the treaties, and engages in the review exercises on their application at international arena. Such actions testify to the commitment and determination of the Chinese Government to guarantee the rights of the child, and demonstrate the efforts and accomplishments of the Government and the social partners to that end, which is duly recognized by international community.

III. Law enforcement and labour inspection are reinforced.
In the 1980s, China started to explore setting up its labour inspection system. Labour Law of the People’s Republic of China promulgated in 1994 contains a chapter exclusively dedicated to supervision and inspection, which officially establishes the labour inspection structure and responsibilities in the name of law. In 2004, the Chinese Government promulgated Regulations on Labour and Social Security Inspection, which provides the structure, responsibilities and law enforcement procedure of labour and social security inspection, and includes in the items for inspection an employer’s observance of the rules on prohibition of child labour.

At present, every department of human resources and social security at and above the county level has set up a labour and social security inspection system. A 4-tier organizational network of labour and social security inspection (State, province, city and county) is in place, equipped with more than 20,000 full-time inspectors and 26,000 part-time inspectors. From 2009, China introduced and promoted the Twin Networks’ Management initiative in labour inspection service. Based on the administrative coverage of villages and townships, and neighbourhood communities, each employer is put in the inspection grid of its locality. Labour inspector assistants are placed at the service of each grid. The twin networks’ system enables a comprehensive and dynamic supervision of employment practices of all employers. Inspection by classified categories is also made possible.

Labour and social security inspectorates of all levels constantly reinforce labour inspection and law enforcement, actively undertaking daily routine checks and record reviews, addressing the complaints from the public, organizing inspection of a featured item, putting in place and improving the effective and sustainable management system covering employment practices recording, identity verification, and rewarding reporters of child labour cases, so as to effectively prevent and timely address use of child labour and violation of rights of the child.

Given the multi-faceted feature of employment practice, department of human resources and social security works closely with the departments of public security, industrial and commercial administration, education and other agencies. These departments set up cooperative mechanism to prohibit use of child labour and coordinated mechanism for supervision, inspection and control.

IV. The essential role of education for child labour elimination is highlighted.
The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the education of children, and has adopted a variety of measures to protect their rights to education. In 1986, NPC adopted Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China, which was amended in 2006 by the Standing Committee of NPC. The law provides that the State shall institute a system of nine-year compulsory education, all children and adolescents of school age shall enroll in school and receive compulsory education, and compulsory education is a public good that the State shall guarantee by all means.

In order to implement the Compulsory Education Law, starting from 2006, the Chinese Government began to exempt students in compulsory education of all tuitions and fees in rural areas in western part of China. The exemption extended to central and eastern China in 2007. As of 2008, all tuitions and fees for students in compulsory education in urban areas are waived universally. This policy enables students from poor families to finish their 9-year compulsory education, and not to drop out due to economic difficulties. For years, net enrolment rate for boys and girls in China remains above 99%. Over the last two years, gross enrolment rate for junior high school in China reaches 100%. Education in China has witnessed constant development, which provides effective guarantee of the rights of children and adolescents of school age to compulsory education, and plays a preventive role for children to fall victims of child labour.

V. Special protection and relief of the vulnerable groups are underscored.
The Chinese Government attaches great importance to combating trafficking in children, and takes effective measures to rescue and assist street children. At the end of 2007, the Chinese Government published and started to implement National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children (2008—2012), putting in place a sustainable anti-trafficking mechanism that integrates prevention, combating, assistance and rehabilitation. An Inter-Ministerial Joint Conference System for Anti-Trafficking in Women and Children was set up, headed by the Ministry of Public Security with 31 departments and agencies as member units, like Central Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the NPC, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, to name just a few. In 2009, these departments and agencies jointly issued Rules for Implementation of National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children (2008—2012), which provides a forceful momentum for combating trafficking.

China has also strengthened its international cooperation programme on combating trafficking. China is participating in the Cooperation Programme against Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, working with neighbour countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Lao PDR and UN agencies, setting up annual police anti-trafficking meeting and ministerial meeting mechanisms, and engaging in closer cooperation among the parties concerning information exchanges of crimes, repatriation of victims, and handover of criminal suspects.

In 2003, the Chinese Government promulgated and started to implement Measures for Administration of Relief of Destitute Vagrants and Beggars in Cities. Local governments in all areas set up relief and protection agencies, and resort to various measures to identify and rescue vagrant children in a timely manner. In 2011, the Chinese Government adopted Strengthening and Improving the Work for Relief and Protection of Minor Vagrants, which provides further concrete policy measures of relief and protection for street children. The formulation and implementation of these instruments have effectively guaranteed the legitimate rights, personal safety and healthy development of vagrant minors, helped them integrate into society and prevented them from becoming victims of child labour.

Honorable guests, friends:
Despite the progress that the Chinese Government and social partners have achieved with regard to elimination of child labour, we have to acknowledge that China is still the largest developing country with a rather low development level overall and significant uneven development among regions, it is therefore inevitable that child labour phenomenon occurs in a few places. In order to make further progress in child labour elimination, at present and for the years to come, the Chinese Government will continue to make strenuous efforts to implement National Programme of Action for Child Development (2011-2020) and put into practice other laws and regulations, and particular attention will be directed to the following work:

1. More legislation and legal knowledge promotion campaign on protection of children’s rights.
We need to further improve the auxiliary laws, regulations, rules and policies on protection of children and elimination of child labour. We need to enhance our campaign in legal knowledge dissemination, constantly raise the awareness of the employers, children and their parents and guardians, and create a legal environment where all people care about and are ready to protect children for their healthy development.

2. Better protection of the children and minors to their rights.
We need to further expand the size of labour and social security inspectorates, scale-up nationwide the twin networks management of labour inspection, reinforce its preventive function, and raise law enforcement efficiency. We need to strengthen cooperation and coordination with departments and organizations of public security, education, industrial and commercial administration, trade unions, women’s federation, and youth league, engage actively in the activities to prevent and address violations of children’s rights, and send powerful signals to deter illegal use of child labour. Meanwhile, we need to further guarantee children and adolescents their right to education among other rights, and ensure their healthy development.

3. Closer international cooperation.
We need to get inspiration from international good practices of child labour elimination, and underscore the importance of communicating and experience sharing with developing countries on child labour issue. We need to further enhance our cooperation with the ILO on elimination of child labour, and better fulfill our obligations associated with the ratified international conventions.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Elimination of child labour is an important component of the fundamental human rights that all countries are committed to protect, and will remain a hard work for us in the long run. It is my hope that all participants engage in extensive and in-depth discussions at this conference. Let us exchange experiences, share views, come to consensus, and make our contribution to the ultimate goal of a world free of child labour.

Finally, I wish the conference a complete success.
I thank you.