An inclusive policy for the elimination of child labour is crucial for realizing decent work and ensuring social progress occurs with economic development

Inaugural address by Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi, at the "Stakeholder consultation for child labour policy in India".

Statement | New Delhi | 03 August 2022
Representatives from Employers’ and Workers Organisations, members of SDG target 8.7 Platform, other stakeholders and colleagues from ILO

Namaskar and good morning!

It is indeed an important initiative as we have come together today to deliberate on the policy environment to effectively eliminate child labour in India.

In 1998, the ILO Member States expressed their shared commitment to upholding basic human rights at work by adopting the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW). Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining, Elimination of all forms of Forced or Compulsory Labour, Effective Abolition of Child Labour, and the Elimination of Discrimination in respect of Employment and Occupation are the four categories of labour standards that need to be considered necessary because they protect workers' basic rights. The International Labour Conference in June this year (2022) added occupational safety and health as the fifth fundamental principle.

The adoption of the revised Declaration underlines the international community's commitment to respect and promote these principles and rights, whether or not they have ratified the related ILO Conventions.

With the legislation on Child Labour in 1986, the Indian Government has undertaken various efforts toward prohibiting and regulating child labour up to the age of 14. Subsequently, following the amendment to the Act in 2016, India ratified ILO Convention 182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour) and Convention 138 (Minimum Age of Employment), thus taking up the challenge towards effectively eliminating child labour as a core principle that provides the foundation to build an equitable and just society.

In 2016, the ILO provided global leadership in forming Alliance 8.7, an inclusive global partnership committed to taking immediate and effective measures in accordance with target 8.7 of the SDGs that calls for the elimination of child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery.

Aligning with the Alliance, ILO in India convenes the SDG Target 8.7 Platform that brings together constituents, stakeholders and partners to contribute towards achieving the SDG target on ending child labour in all its forms by 2025.

In 2020, Central Trade Unions (CTU) and Employers Organizations in India were invited to join the platform. Since then, SEWA, HMS and INTUC, as well as AIOE and SCOPE, have been regularly participating in meetings. Their representation has been the source of great encouragement and enriching deliberations.

This engagement through the Platform is particularly crucial as it enables cross-learning and sharing experiences with the opportunity for focused collaboration and coordination. In this context, a sub-group was formed to review and propose revisions to the Child Labour Policy.

As we know, 2021 was declared the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour to inspire legislative and practical actions to eliminate child labour. The recently held Fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour concluded with the Durban Call to Action, which noted with grave concern the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, that threaten to reverse years of progress against child labour and the need to accelerate the pace of progress.

Thus, to construct the path to a world free from child labour, realizing decent work, and ensuring that social progress, goes hand in hand with economic progress and development. The need for an inclusive policy becomes crucial.

It is indeed an opportune moment to come together, deliberate and connect various aspects for a comprehensive child labour policy in India, keeping in mind the existing and emerging issues. I congratulate the Platform Members for their efforts to bring this issue to the forefront and wish you every success in taking this ahead.

I am sure that together we can bridge the gaps, complement each other and work towards a nation free of child labour. I wish the Platform the very best in all future endeavours.

Thank You for your kind attention.