DCI -ILO Convention 138 1

Defence for Children International

ILO Convention 138


The fight for the elimination of child labour is justified in terms of


—the upholding of principles commonly accepted by the international


it can also be partly justified as well in the aim of establishing “fair”

conditions for competition. However, its main foundation lies in the fact that

child labour is an obstacle for development for it forfeits the future: that of

the child worker, and that of the society in which he works as well.

It is customary to establish a link between poverty and underdevelopment

and child labour as a conscience of the former. However it is often forgotten

that child labour is also a cause of poverty and underdevelopment. Indeed, it is

one of the factors that accounts for the reproduction of existing trends in

society: illiteracy, lack of adequate training, impact on the health and further

development of the child, etc. Children who work will be disadvantaged in

relation to their capacity for development and further advancement for they will

not be able to acquire the necessary skills. In those societies that are

becoming industrialised, or that already have, most children that work today may

risk becoming the unemployed of tomorrow. When stating that child labour is both

a cause and consequence of poverty, the necessity of taking measures to break

this vicious cycle must be highlighted. Child labour is neither one of the “ills

of poverty” that will disappear along with it, nor is it a fatality. At

comparable development levels the results of the fight against child labour can

vary considerably. The elimination of child labour implies the adoption and

application of a policy that puts to work a set of means in a co-ordinated


This is the perspective followed by Convention 138 concerning minimum

age for admission to employment adopted in 1973 by the International Labour

Conference. It stresses the need to allow the child to acquire the knowledge

that will allow him to play his role in society in future and to protect his

physical, intellectual and moral development.

Which Children for What

Type of Work