ILO Newsroom – April 29, 2013

This story was produced by the ILO Newsroom

Economic Vulnerability

ILO report shows why social protection is crucial  to tackle child labour

Measures such as cash transfers or health insurance programmes can sometimes determine whether a child spends the day studying and playing, or working and being deprived of a fair chance at a decent future.  

Press release | 29 April 2013

GENEVA – A report by the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), says that social protection policies can play a key role in the fight against child labour, which currently affects some 215 million children worldwide.

The World Report on Child Labour: Economic vulnerability, social protection and the fight against child labour, is a new ILO study which reviews relevant research on how different types of social protection measures can help combat child labour. These include cash transfer schemes, social health protection and income security in old age.

For example, Brazil’s Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme – which pays families a certain amount per month provided their children go to school – has played a key role in the reduction of child labour both in rural and urban areas.   In Cambodia, child labour was down by ten per cent following the introduction of the Education Sector Support Project scholarship programme – which also involves cash transfers.

The report, which is the first in a series, cites a study in Guatemala showing that children from households where at least one member is covered by health insurance are about 4.5 per cent less likely to work.

Income in old age was also analysed by the authors: In Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, for instance, 50-60 per cent of orphans live with their grandparents. In such households, the degree of income security in old age plays a significant role in limiting child labour.

Child labour: Facts and figures

215 million children are involved in child labour. These figures are from
the latest Global Report (2010). New figures are expected to come out
in September 2013:

  • 115 million children involved in the worst forms of child labour – which
    includes practices akin to slavery, debt bondage, offering a child for
    prostitution, using a child for illicit activities and work that is harmful
    to health, safety or morals of children.
  • 15.5 million children are involved in domestic work.
  • Most child labourers continue to work in agriculture (60 per cent).
    Only one in five working children is in paid employment. The
    overwhelming majority are unpaid family workers.

“This report contributes to a better understanding of the underlying economic and social vulnerabilities that generate child labour,” said Constance Thomas, IPEC Director.

“It clearly shows that investing in social protection through nationally-defined social protection floors is a crucial part of the response in the fight against child labour, which also includes access to decent jobs for adults and education for children.”

According to ILO estimates, more than 5 billion people – about 75 per cent of the global population – do not have effective access to comprehensive social protection.

The report says that extending social protection in line with the ILO Recommendation on social protection floors, adopted less than a year ago, should be a key part of national strategies to tackle child labour. National social protection floors should include at least a basic level of income security throughout the life cycle, as well as access to essential health care.

The authors also recommend introducing child labour-specific measures in social security systems, strengthening national legal frameworks and capacity, as well as reaching out to vulnerable groups of children such as those living with HIV, migrant children, children from marginalised ethnic minorities, indigenous and other economically and socially excluded groups.

The 2010 Hague Global Child Labour Conference adopted a Roadmap for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016.

The Roadmap called for a series of World Reports which are intended to address important thematic issues for policy makers to consider, in developing strategies to tackle child labour.

This new report is the first in a series of studies leading up to 2016. It is being launched just six months before the follow-up International Conference on Child labour, which will be held in Brazil in October 2013.


For more information or to request interviews, please contact the ILO Communication and Public Information Department on +4122/799-7912, or Patrick Quinn at

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