CRS Report for Congress
Child Labor and the International Labor
Organization (ILO)
Lois McHugh
Foreign Affairs Analyst
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
With the adoption of a new child labor convention in Geneva on June 17, 1999, ILO
member states began to take a more aggressive stand against the exploitation of children
in the labor market. This convention joins the seven core labor conventions that the ILO
members have determined identify fundamental human rights. Meanwhile, a small but
rapidly growing ILO technical program that is geared toward reducing child labor around
the world has become an increasingly important part of the international effort against
child labor. This short report discusses these two aspects of ILO activity in the area of
child labor. It will be updated when the current situation changes significantly.
The International Labor Organization (ILO)1 has been interested in child labor since
its founding in 1919. Several child labor/ minimum age conventions were among the first
adopted by the ILO. Despite the efforts of many through the years, child labor continues
to be a problem in countries around the world. While much of it can be considered
apprenticeship, or family related work, there is growing concern that enslavement,
abduction, and other forced child labor is increasing. There is growing public awareness
that children are laboring in dangerous occupations, from underground mining to
smuggling and prostitution. Information that products purchased by Americans are being
made by children in such conditions has also led to increased concern in Congress.

1 The ILO is a U.N. specialized agency that focuses on labor standards and the rights of workers.
It is unique among U.N. agencies because the members include representatives of the major labor
and business organizations in each country as well as government representatives. The ILO adopts
labor standards as treaties that it encourages member countries to adopt and implement into their
laws and practice. It provides technical assistance to help governments implement the conventions.
While contributions to the ILO are assessed, or required of each member country, the technical
assistance programs are funded with voluntary contributions.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Although all estimates of child labor are of questionable accuracy, the ILO estimates
that there are 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 working in developing
countries. (ILO statistics don’t include children working in industrialized countries.)
About half work full time. As many as 50 to 60 million of the working children between
5 and 11 are engaged in hazardous work. The largest number of working children are in
Asia (61% of the total), while 32% are in Africa and 7% are in Latin America. In terms
of percent of children working, about 41% of all the children of Africa are working, while2

22% of the children of Asia and 17% in Latin America work.

International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor
The ILO has a technical assistance program to help governments eliminate child
labor. The International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) was
established in 1991 with a grant from the German government and began operating in
1992 in 6 countries. It has since developed into the largest operational technical
cooperation program in the child labor field. According to IPEC, in mid 1999, IPEC had
child labor programs in 37 countries paid for by 19 donor countries, the European
Community, and 4 other non-governmental labor organizations. An additional 30
countries, called “preparatory” countries, are working with IPEC to determine their needs
and develop child labor programs, but have not yet begun child labor programs in
cooperation with IPEC. This growth reflects both growing demand for help in addressing
child labor and increased financial support from international donors. IPEC is considered
one of the most successful ILO technical assistance programs and it is being used as an
example for developing ILO technical assistance programs in other areas.
Of the 37 countries currently participating in IPEC programs to reduce child labor,
15 are in Latin America, 10 are in Asia, 10 are in Africa, and 2 (Turkey and Albania) in
How IPEC Works
IPEC is a technical assistance program that is requested by a government and carried
out with the support of the government. With a workforce still under 100 persons, IPEC
is an advisory, rather than an operational agency. During the 1998-99 biennium, IPEC had
20 officials at headquarters in Geneva and 60 in the field. When governments decide to
address child labor problems, IPEC helps them to gather together government and labor
representatives, indigenous voluntary agencies, and other relevant organizations. IPEC
funding supports the gathering of statistical information to determine the child labor
situation in the country and assists concerned parties within the country to devise policies
that become part of a national plan to address the specific child labor problems of that
country. The government and the ILO generally sign a Memorandum of Understanding
to indicate a government commitment to implementing the policies adopted by the national
committees and to cooperate in taking steps to eliminate child labor. IPEC also evaluates
the country programs, both internally and in cooperation with the donor and recipient
government staff. Countries are encouraged to ratify and enforce both ILO Convention

2 Much of the information in this paper comes from the International Labor Office. International
Program on the Elimination of Child Labor. IPEC action against child labor. Geneva. October

1999. []

138 (on minimum age for employment) and 182 (on eliminating the worst forms of child
labor). The IPEC programs create a model for child labor programs customized to the
country for children in particular work situations.
IPEC’s premise is that child labor can only be eliminated in a country locally, through
locally generated activities and domestic political will. In the long term, it is important to
have national policies and programs of action against child labor. IPEC’s goal is to
strengthen the capacities of governments and local indigenous organizations to continue
to address these problems throughout the country after the multi-year IPEC program ends.
IPEC also realizes the child labor is more than a labor problem. It must be addressed on
the socio-economic, educational, developmental and cultural fronts simultaneously by
many participants. Children work for many reasons. Among them are a lack of available
schooling, a lack of adequate employment for adults, and a lack of local law enforcement
of child labor, kidnaping, and other relevant statutes. IPEC works as a catalyst or leader
to unite the natural allies opposing child labor, pulling together the expertise and funding
of U.N. organizations, local and national government agencies, labor unions and
organizations, private voluntary organizations, and child welfare groups. IPEC works with
the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization,
UNESCO, UNICEF, the U.N. Committee on Human Rights Working Group on
Contemporary Forms of Slavery, and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Through representation of labor and business organizations in the ILO, IPEC is also able
to gain cooperation with employer and worker organizations at the international, regional
and local levels.
Because funds are limited and the child labor problems so great, IPEC programs
focus on the most abusive and exploitive forms of child labor, enslaved or bonded child
laborers, very young working children, children in dangerous occupations, and especially
girls in these conditions. As of the end of 1997, 36% of IPEC programs targeted children
working in hazardous conditions, 37% doing hazardous work and 15% in forced labor
situations. IPEC estimates that during 1998/99, 130,000 children in 5,000 families
benefitted directly from IPEC programs. Of these,
nearly 30% were withdrawn from work, prevented
IPEC Expenditures byfrom being trafficked, or provided with a safer work
Budget Periodenvironment. Twenty percent were placed in
regular schools. The remaining children benefitted

1992-1993$6,175,620from other services, such as work based schooling,

1994-1995$13,056185vocational training and health services.

1996-1997 $19,184,000Funding
1998-1999$22,000,000 a As an ILO technical assistance program, IPEC
2000-2001$43,000,000programs are funded almost entirely by voluntary
b contributions from donors. IPEC programs are
multi-year programs. The early donors provided
a Estimate. Actual expenditures ascontributions for data collection and program
of 11/99–$19,500,000.b planning as well as specific programs. Some
Planning figure dependent on con-governments still provide funds for these core
tributionsexpenditures. In recent years, however, many
governments have chosen to contribute to particular
Source: ILO/IPECprograms in specific countries. This is the way the

United States contributes. Governments make multi-year pledges but provide the funding
only as that program develops. IPEC’s funding estimate for the years 2000/2001 indicates
that contributions to specific programs will be more than twice as large as contributions
to core expenditures such as the development of new programs. Additionally, the money
needed for each program varies from year to year, and thus the expenditures of IPEC, even
with all programs proceeding, may also vary from year to year. IPEC figure indicate that
donors have contributed $96,291,943 since 1992, but much of this funding has arrived
very recently and has not yet been committed to IPEC activities. The total amount pledged
for IPEC programs from 1992 through 2002 is $158,778,700. The table shows IPEC
expenditures for each of the two year budget periods since the program began.
The central management or administrative costs, coordination, and some of the
regional activities are paid out of the regular budget of the ILO. This amounted to $8.2
million for 1998-9 and is expected to rise to $13.1 million for 2000-1.
IPEC currently has 19 government donors and 4 other organizational donors: The
government donors are: Germany, Belgium, Australia, France, Norway, Spain, the United
States, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Japan, Poland, Switzerland,
the United Kingdom, Austria, Finland, and Sweden. In addition, the European
Commission, Italian Social Partners Initiative, the Sailkot Chamber of Commerce and
Industry of Pakistan, the Communidad of Madrid, and the Japanese National Trade Union
have contributed to the program.
U.S. Contributions
Appropriations forThe United States began contributing to IPEC in
IPECFY1995 as part of the Labor Department appropriation
legislation. The appropriations for each year are shown on
FY95$2.1 millionthe right. Congress played an important role in providing
U.S. funding for IPEC through earmarks and increased
FY961.5 millionappropriations. In FY1999, the Administration began a 5-
FY971.5 millionyear initiative to fight child labor, both in the United States
and in other countries. The Congress supported the
FY983.0 millionPresident in his request to increase U.S. contributions to
FY9930.0 millionIPEC child labor programs tenfold. FY2000 was the secondyear of this effort. Only a small part of the $30 million is
FY0030.0 millionretained by the Department of Labor for oversight of IPEC
The United States provided funds for IPEC programs
in 18 countries or regions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, according to
a December 22, 1999 press release from the Department of Labor.3 These programs total
$21.6 million of the $30 million appropriated in FY1999. Additional requests for program
funds are being processed that will bring U.S. contributions to the full $30 million,
according to the press release. These contributions are provided as grants over several
years to specific IPEC programs. Thirteen percent of each grant covers the core expenses
or overhead of the project. U.S. grants focused on three areas: programs that address

3 U.S. Department of Labor. Office of Public Affairs. USDL 99-372. December 22, 1999.

abusive child labor in a specific industry in a country or region, statistical programs that
provide data to determine the extent of abusive child labor in a country or region, and
projects that help a country begin the IPEC process.
Child Labor Convention
ILO Convention 182, the most recent child labor convention, was adopted by the ILO
on June 17, 1999, after several years of discussion and debate. It focuses on the
elimination of the “worst forms” of child labor. These include slavery, sale and trafficking
of children, forced labor, bondage, child prostitution and pornography, use of children in
illegal activities such as drug production and trafficking, and work that is likely to
jeopardize the health, safety, or morals of children. Countries ratifying the convention
agree to take immediate and effective steps to end these child labor abuses, provide
rehabilitation, education, and in other ways address the needs of children at risk of abuse
under the convention. It was adopted unanimously by the ILO members and will go into
force in November 2000. (ILO conventions enter into force one year after ratification by
two member countries. Malawi and Seychelles had ratified the convention by November

1999). Convention 182 will join the other seven core ILO conventions as a focus for ILO4

efforts to improve working conditions in the emerging global economy. The ILO has also
begun a global campaign to encourage ratification of Convention 182. This includes
activities by IPEC.
Congressional Action
After the Convention was adopted by the ILO, the U.S. ratification procedure moved
quickly. By the end of July, the Tripartite Advisory Committee on International Labor
Standards (TAPILS) and the President’ Committee on the ILO had approved the treaty
and the relevant government agencies has finished their review and clearance. These
reviews ensured that there were no legal problems to approving it and that the treaty was
acceptable to business and labor. The President sent the treaty to the Senate for advice
and consent on August 5. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the
treaty on October 21 and reported it favorably to the Senate on November 3. The Senate
approved it unanimously on November 5 and President Clinton signed the convention for
the United States on December 2, 1999. The United States was the third country to ratify
the convention. Convention 182 was the second of the eight ILO core labor conventions
to be ratified by the United States.
Related activities
P.L. 106-58, which appropriates funds for FY2000 for Treasury, U.S. Postal Service,
Executive Office of the President and other agencies, includes, in Section 621, language

4 In 1998, the ILO membership agreed on 7 core Conventions that identify fundamental human
rights and will be monitored in all member countries, whether the conventions have been ratified
or not. These core conventions deal with freedom of association, right to organize and bargain
collectively, equal pay and benefits for men and women for work of equal value, nondiscrimination
in employment on the grounds of race, sex, religion, political opinion, or national origin, freedom
from forced labor, and minimum age for employment.

prohibiting the use of funds by the U.S. Customs Service to allow the importation of
goods manufactured by forced or indentured child labor.