Child labour: South Asia Hub

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Child labour in South Asia

An estimated 168 million children worldwide are in child labour, accounting for almost 11 per cent of the child population (5-17 years old) worldwide. Estimates from recent national surveys from seven South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) put working children at more than 29 million and those in child labour (5-17 years old) at close to 17 million – a low estimate as it excludes many children in these countries and all  children in employment.

What is child labour?

Child labour refers to work undertaken by children below the appropriate legal minimum working age, based on ILO standards on child  labour , the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), as well as child labour defined by Worst Form of Child Labour Convention, 1999, (No. 182).

 Legal framework to address child labour

South Asian countries have committed internationally, regionally and at national level to combat child labour through different legislative, policy and development measures. Many have ratified/signed international and regional treatises on child rights and against child labour. Among these are ILO Conventions, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989) and its Optional Protocols. At the Regional level, the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has promoted Conventions on Child Welfare Combating Trafficking of Women and Children for Prostitution.

ILO-South Asia partnerships on child labour

Complementary to its partnership with its tripartite constituents, the ILO DWT South Asia provides technical advisory services to relevant South Asia regional bodies. In the area of child labour, the ILO has a strategic technical and policy advocacy alliance with the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), an apex body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and with the South Asia Coordinating Group on Action against Violence against Children (SACG) – a UN/INGO interagency group. In 2012, the ILO and SAIEVAC Regional Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding on child rights/child labour. As Chair of SACG and Governing Board Member of SAIEVAC for 2013-14, the ILO plays an active role in the partnership.

 ILO action on child labour

The ILO provides support to Country Offices in South Asia in the context of their Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) and to a wider range of stakeholders on the issue of child labour. The DWT child labour portfolio’s focus consists of advisory services, support to ratifications, partnerships on child labour, programme development and support to implementation, and reinforcing the knowledge-base on child labour.