World Day Against Child Labor: No to Child Labor in Domestic Work

Each year since 2002, the international community has come together on June 12 to mark World Day Against Child Labor. According to estimates of the International Labor Organization (ILO), over 215 million children worldwide are engaged in child labor. This year, we call particular attention to the plight of those children – mostly girls – who are engaged in domestic work.

Globally, domestic workers comprise a significant part of the modern service economy, and all indications are that the number of domestic workers is increasing steadily in both developed and developing countries. Most domestic workers work for private households, usually without contracts or clear terms of employment. Because most domestic work is by informal arrangement, behind closed doors, and with no contracts or clear terms of employment, these workers are often invisible. This hidden crisis requires multiple strategies and forms of engagement.

The United States remains steadfast in our support of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. On the subject of children in particular, Convention 189 requires that children above the minimum age for employment must be given special protection when employed in domestic work. The Convention calls for a minimum age for entry into domestic work and provides that children between the ages of 15 and 18 should not be deprived of compulsory education or opportunities for vocational training because they work.

To fully eradicate the worst forms of child labor, in particular in domestic work, we must deal with the root causes of this devastating problem. Among these are inequality, inadequate access to education, and a lack of decent work for parents. We can help families to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty by providing them with meaningful alternatives to sending their child to work. National governments have a critical role to play in this endeavor through the laws they pass and the job and education programs they create. Engagement at the grassroots level by NGOs and civil society groups is also essential. On this June 12, World Day Against Child Labor, and every day, we join our partners in the international community in standing up for children and declaring “no to child labor in domestic work.”

About the Author: Barbara Shailor serves as Special Representative for International Labor Affairs.

Cross posted from DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Labor.

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