Safe work for youth

An estimated 85 million children under 18 years old are doing work which poses a physical, psychosocial or moral danger to them. Of these – about 48 million – are young people whose work could be considered legal if there was minimal risk or if they were well-trained and well-protected from the hazards. But how can risks to young people be reduced to acceptable levels? What do employers, parents, policy-makers, and the young people themselves need to know so that they can work safely?

Safe Work for Youth is an ILO initiative to promote the safety of young people under age 18 who are engaged in legal employment. Even though these young people are over the minimum age (usually 14 or 15) they are still considered “child labour” under ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 if the work they do is hazardous. This is because young people are still in a stage of rapid growth and development they are less experienced and more vulnerable to exploitation, and are therefore more likely to be hurt or made ill from their job than are adult workers.

For school-age children – i.e. under the minimum age for work – the response is clear: they need to be taken away from the hazard and out of work as quickly as possible. For older children – i.e. youth over the minimum age – there are two approaches: removing them or removing the risk. But as risks cannot always be totally removed, we usually speak of “risk reduction” or “protection” of young workers.

Young people between 14 and 18 are of common interest to both youth employment and child labour efforts. It is an important age group as it encompasses the transition from school-to-work, or from school-based education to vocational training. It is during these years that the foundation is laid for achieving decent work later in life. Doing hazardous work in adolescence can create huge barriers – educational, physical, psychological, social – that impede a young person from competing successfully for good jobs in the future, and is one of the main ways in which child labour and youth employment are linked.


Safe Work for Youth Community of Practice – This web-based group seeks to enhance, share and put into action our knowledge on the link between hazardous child labour and safe work for the young worker:

  • the growing body of research on the relationship between child labour and the risks it may pose to young workers according to occupational sector,
  • an OSH curriculum for primary and secondary schools
  • extracts from the ILO Conventions and Recommendations relevant to the health of working children and youth;
  • results of a global consultation, "Reducing child labour through protection of young workers" that put project managers who are designing programmes to protect youth in touch with OSH researchers
  • a list of specialists who have experience with different aspects of the youth-hazards issue.

To have access to Safe Work for Youth Community of Practice, please email: and provide your full name, e-mail, organization and project/programme description.