Labour Standards

Australia ratifies Convention No. 190 on Violence and Harassment at work and Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age

Australia has now ratified ten of the eleven fundamental instruments

News | 14 June 2023
On 9 June 2023, Australia deposited the instrument of ratification of the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190). On 13 June 2023, it deposited the instrument of ratification of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) with the Director-General of the ILO. The country has now ratified ten of the eleven fundamental instruments. It is the 28th country in the world, and second country in the Pacific, to ratify Convention No. 190 and the 176th country in the world to ratify Convention No. 138.

Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190)

Convention No.190 is a landmark instrument. It is the first international labour standard to address violence and harassment in the world of work. Together with Recommendation No. 206, it provides a common framework for action and a unique opportunity to shape a future of work based on dignity and respect. These instruments will be key to achieve the objectives set by the ILO Centenary Declaration on the Future of Work, adopted in 2019, that clearly commits to a world of work free from violence and harassment, and more recently, and by the ILO’s Global call to action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient.

The Convention affirms that everyone has the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment. It also provides for the first internationally agreed definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including of gender-based violence, understood as “a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices” that “aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm”. This definition protects everyone in the world of work, including interns or apprentices, and persons who exercise the duties or authority of an employer, and covers the public and private sectors, the formal and informal economies, as well as urban and rural areas.

The Convention and its accompanying Recommendation are tangible evidence of the enduring value and strength of social dialogue and tripartism, which have shaped them and will be essential in implementing them at national level.

The Honourable Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training, stated: “After actively taking part in the formulation of the Violence and Harassment Convention, Australia is proud to lodge its ratification. Australia takes a zero tolerance approach to violence and harassment in the workplace. This ratification signals Australia’s commitment to safe and respectful workplaces for all. Australia urges all ILO Member States to join us in ratifying this convention and collectively working towards the elimination of all forms of workplace violence and harassment.”

Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

The ratification of Convention No. 138 by Australia represents a significant step towards the protection of children’s rights. Convention No. 138 requires Member States to take measures to ensure the progressive elimination of child labour and set a minimum age under which no one shall be admitted to employment or work in any occupation, except for light work and artistic performances. It also requires Member States to establish and enforce laws and regulations to ensure that children do not perform hazardous or harmful work.

Despite the widespread ratifications of Convention No. 138 and the universal ratification of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) - which Australia ratified in 2006 - the 2020 Child Labour Global Estimates show that there are still 160 million children in child labour and approximately 85 million children worldwide engaged in hazardous work, including 33.9 million in Asia and the Pacific.

With the deadline of 2025 established by Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals looming, and the adoption of the Durban Call to Action in 2022, which emphasizes the need for urgent action because “the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and food, humanitarian and environmental crises threaten to reverse years of progress against child labour”, the ratification of Convention No. 138 by Australia comes at a critical time. In so doing, Australia reinforces its strong legal framework on the protection of children and reaffirms its commitment towards the full respect of fundamental principles and rights at work.

In depositing the instrument of ratification of Convention No. 138 at the ceremony held at the ILO in Geneva, Mr O’Connor, declared: “Today, as Australia ratifies the Minimum Age Convention, we reaffirm our dedication to the protection of the rights of children, including the right to a quality education. Work should always be safe and never interfere with a child’s education. Ratification reflects Australia’s robust standards on safe and suitable employment for children. Australia remains steadfast in its commitment to strong international standards on child labour, and we will continue to collaborate with the International Labour Organization to ensure children everywhere are granted the protection they deserve.”

Upon receipt of the instruments of ratification, Mr Gilbert Houngbo, Director-General of the ILO, declared: “The ILO welcomes Australia’s ratification of Conventions No. 138 and No. 190, which demonstrates the country’s strong support for social justice and ILO values generally. Both instruments are also of paramount importance to the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 8.7 on the eradication of child labour. I am confident that the ratification by Australia of these landmark ILO instruments will contribute to the achievement of decent work for all.”

With these two ratifications, Australia has now ratified 60 Conventions and 2 Protocols (of which 42 are in force). For further information, see NORMLEX.