PRESIDENT CLINTON: URGING U.S. RATIFICATION OF THE ILO
CONVENTION ON ELIMINATION OF
THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR
August 6, 1999
Last night, President Clinton transmitted to the Senate for advice and
consent to ratification International Labor Organization (ILO)
Convention Number 182 - "the Convention Concerning the Prohibition and
Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor."
In June, President Clinton was the first U.S. President to travel to
Geneva to address the ILO. There he urged the Conference to adopt
Convention 182 and pledged to seek its ratification.
The action last night continues the President's efforts to make the
United States a leader in the worldwide campaign to abolish the worst
forms of child labor.
In his 1999 State of the Union address, President Clinton pledged:
"[W]e will lead the international community to conclude a treaty to ban
abusive child labor everywhere in the world."
The Department of Labor led the effort to develop a unified
negotiating position among the business, labor, and government U.S.
delegates to the convention and ensure that the result was a convention
that could be easily ratified by the U.S. and widely ratified around the
On June 17, 1999, the International Labor Conference (the ILO's
annual meeting) adopted Convention 182 unanimously. The ILO is a
tripartite body made up of government, labor, and business
representatives from 174 countries around the world.
Convention 182 applies to all persons under the age of 18 and
requires ratifying States to take immediate and effective measures to
secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child
labor, as a matter of urgency.
For the purposes of the Convention, the worst forms of child labor
are defined as: all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery,
such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom and
forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment
of children for use in armed conflict; use, procuring, or offering of a
child for prostitution, production of pornography or pornographic
performances; use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit
activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs;
and work which is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of
The Convention also requires countries to take steps to help
children removed from the worst forms of child labor, such as ensuring
access to free basic education.
President Clinton spoke to the International Labor Conference on
the eve of its vote to adopt Convention 182. There, on June 16, 1999,
he said: "We must wipe from the earth the most vicious forms of abusive
child labor. Every single day tens of millions of children work in
conditions that shock the conscience. The time has come to build on the
growing world consensus to ban the most abusive forms of child labor, to
join together and to say there are some things we cannot and will not
The Tripartite Advisory Panel on International Labor Standards of
the President's Committee on the ILO (TAPILS) unanimously concluded that
ratification of Convention 182 would not require any change in existing
United States law and practice. In addition to government agencies,
TAPILS also includes legal experts from the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Council
for International Business, respectively the U.S. labor and business
representatives to the ILO.
Other U.S. Efforts to Save Children from Abusive Child Labor
The United States is the world's largest donor to the ILO's
International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). Last
year, President Clinton sought and won a ten-fold increase in the U.S.
contribution to IPEC to $30 million a year. Through IPEC, the U.S. is
funding dozens of projects including ones to:
Phase thousands of children out of garment factories in Bangladesh
and the soccer ball industry in Pakistan, providing them with
educational opportunities and monitoring factory compliance.
Prevent children from beginning to work, and withdraw children who
are working, making fireworks in dangerous conditions in Guatemala.
Eliminate forced child prostitution in Thailand and prevent
trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in
A recent Department of Labor study concluded that universal primary
education is one of the most effective ways to combat child labor.
President Clinton's FY 2000 balanced budget includes $10 million (in
addition to $30 million in IPEC funds) for an innovative program at the
U.S. Agency for International Development called "School Works!" which
will help developing countries improve educational alternatives to child
In addition, at the inspiration of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin,
President Clinton signed an executive order in June directing federal
agencies to ban procurement of goods made by forced or indentured child
The Problem of Child Labor
The ILO estimates that at least 250 million children between the
ages of five and fourteen are working in developing countries, almost
half of them full time, and tens of millions work under exploitative and
Around the world, young children in their formative years are
exposed to hazardous conditions, including toxic and carcinogenic
substances in manufacturing, dangerous conditions in mines and on sea
fishing platforms, and backbreaking physical labor.
Other child labor in bondage, are sold into prostitution, or are
indentured to manufacturers, working against debts for wages so low that
they will never be repaid.
Since 1994, the Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor
Affairs has issued an annual report series: "By the Sweat and Toil of
Children, Volumes I-V." These reports detail evidence of the extent of
the international child labor problem. Copies of the reports are
available at http://www.dol.gov/dol/ilab/public/programs/iclp/.
The Administration looks forward to working with the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee and the Senate Leadership to advance the convention
The Administration is grateful for the leadership of Senator Tom
Harkin in fighting abusive child labor and first bringing the issue to
the attention of the President.