A Strong Record of Working To Eliminate Abusive Child Labor Around The World
Wednesday, July 5, 2000
Today's signing by President Clinton of the United Nations Optional Protocols prohibiting the forcible recruitment of children for use in armed conflict and protecting children from slavery, prostitution and pornography builds on the Clinton/Gore Administration's record of working to eliminate the worst forms of child labor around the world.
PRESIDENT CLINTON HAS MADE AMERICA A LEADER IN WORKING TO PREVENT ABUSIVE CHILD LABOR AROUND THE WORLD:
- In his 1998 State of the Union address, President Clinton called upon the Congress and other nations to join in the fight against "the most intolerable labor practice of all – abusive child labor."
- Building on these commitments, the President in his 1999 State of the Union address vowed: "[We] will lead the international community to conclude a treaty to ban abusive child labor everywhere in the world."
- In his 2000 State of the Union address, the President again called for the elimination of abusive child labor.
IN 1999, THE PRESIDENT SPOKE TO THE ILO IN GENEVA URGING THE ADOPTION OF CONVENTION 182 TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR:
- In June of 1999, President Clinton became the first U.S. President to travel to Geneva to address the ILO Conference. He urged members to adopt Convention 182 and pledged to seek its ratification.
- On December 2, 1999, with bipartisan support from the Senate, President Clinton signed ILO Convention Number 182 -"the Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor."
- In signing Convention 182, President Clinton noted that tens of millions of children "are still forced to work in conditions that shock the conscience and haunt the soul. If we want to slam the door shut on abusive child labor," he stated, "we must open the door wide to education and opportunity."
- Recognizing the importance of education in eliminating child labor, the convention requires ratifying nations to take steps to ensure access to basic education.
- The convention applies to all children under the age of 18, and defines the worst forms of child labor to include:
- All forms of slavery and practices similar to slavery such as forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts.
- The use of children in prostitution, pornography, drug production and drug trafficking.
- The employment of children in work likely to harm their health, safety or moral well being.
UNDER THE CLINTON/GORE ADMINISTRATION, THE UNITED STATES HAS BECOME THE WORLD'S LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR TO THE INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM FOR THE ELIMINATION OF CHILD LABOR (IPEC):
- In fiscal year 1999, President Clinton, with the encouragement and support of Senator Tom Harkin (D. Iowa), increased U.S. contributions to IPEC tenfold to $30 million - making this country the world's largest contributor. That funding level was maintained for fiscal year 2000.
- Since 1995, the U.S. has funded projects to prevent or remove some 120,500 children in Africa, Asia and Latin America from dangerous or abusive work in many industries (including commercial agriculture, mining, fishing, the production of soccer balls, carpets, garments, fireworks, and footwear), as well as prostitution and domestic service.
BUILDING ON THIS RECORD, THE CLINTON/GORE ADMINISTRATION HAS PROPOSED TO MORE THAN DOUBLE RESOURCES TO COMBAT ABUSIVE CHILD LABOR IN THE 2001 BUDGET:
- President Clinton has proposed $110 million in his FY 2001 budget – more than doubling last year's level of $45 million -- to help eliminate abusive child labor around the world. This $110 million commitment includes:
- A 50% increase in the U.S. contribution to the ILO's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) - to $45 million.
- $55 million in new funding for targeted bilateral educational assistance to promote school rather than work in countries where exploitative child labor is prevalent.
- Doubling - to $10 million - Customs Service resources to enforce the ban on the importation of goods made with forced or indentured child labor, denying such products access to the lucrative U.S. marketplace.
THE PROBLEM OF ABUSIVE CHILD LABOR
- The ILO estimates that there are at least 250 million working children between the ages of five and 14 in developing countries -- about half of them work full-time and do not attend school.
- Tens of millions of children work under very hazardous and abusive conditions. 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.
- Some children 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.
- The majority (61 percent) of the working children are found in Asia, followed by Africa (32 percent), and Latin America and the Caribbean (seven percent). While Asia, by far the most populous region, has the highest number of child workers, Africa, the poorest region, has the highest proportion of child workers, with 41 percent of its children engaged in some form of economic activity.
- Basic education improves the lives of children, their families, their countries, and the global community. Despite the benefits of education, about 20 percent--or 145 million--of the world's children six to 11 year-olds are out of school.
- Groups under-served by education are often over-represented in child labor. Among these groups are girls, rural communities, specific linguistic and ethnic groups and the poor. For example, girls are more likely to work longer hours and be engaged in "invisible" domestic service. It is estimated that two-thirds of the out-of-school population are girls.