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Chapter III: Legislation and Enforcement Efforts

A.     Overview

This chapter reviews child labor laws and enforcement efforts currently in place in the 16 countries studied in this report. It also discusses recent or proposed initiatives governments are undertaking to strengthen child labor laws and enhance enforcement.

Most countries have laws prohibiting work by children under a certain age and regulating conditions of work for older children. Nevertheless, child labor laws often cover only certain sectors, exempting entire industries or occupations. The sectors most frequently excluded tend to be those with the highest numbers of working children, such as small-scale agriculture, domestic service, and small workshops.1  In some countries, the law lacks specific sanctions or imposes inadequate penalties. In some cases, child labor laws are unclear or inconsistent, making them difficult to enforce.

Inadequate enforcement of child labor laws is a common problem throughout the world. Not all labor ministries are institutionally capable of enforcing child labor laws. Labor inspectorates are often understaffed and lack resources for transportation and other vital expenses. Training is often nonexistent or, if present, of poor quality. In many cases, the low pay of inspectors makes them easy targets for corruption. When inspectors do attempt to enforce child labor laws, they may be faced with public indifference, the hostility of powerful economic interest groups, and parents' reluctance to cooperate.2  Finally, in countries where the judicial system is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, court systems may be slow and ineffective.

Both ILO Convention No. 138 and Article 32 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child call on countries to establish a minimum age for admission to employment, provide appropriate regulation of hours and employment conditions, and provide appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure that children are not economically exploited. While many countries have ratified one or both of these treaties,3  their legislation and enforcement often fall short of meeting the standards.

B.     Current Child Labor Laws

This section discusses child labor laws in the 16 countries that are the focus of this report. It examines provisions establishing a minimum age for employment and the scope and application of these laws. Since many of the countries regulate conditions of work for children once they reach the legal age for employment, these provisions are also described. Finally, the section discusses fines and penalties for violations of child labor laws.

         1.         Ages

The labor laws of the 16 countries studied set minimum employment ages for children. Appendix D identifies many of the relevant child labor provisions of these laws. As shown in Table III-1, the minimum age for employment varies from country to country.4  In some countries, there is one basic minimum age, while in others, there are several ages, depending on the sector and type of work.

  • In three of the 16 countries--Bangladesh, Peru, and Tanzania--children may begin working at age 12, but there are higher minimum age standards for specified sectors. In Bangladesh, the minimum age for work varies from 12 for children working in shops, commercial establishments, or various workshop settings (except factories), to 14 for those working in factories, to 15 for children employed in mines, railways, or ports.5  In Peru, although children as young as 12 are permitted to work in certain occupations, a minimum age of 14 applies to children working in commercial agriculture; 15 for industrial, commercial, and mining activities; and 16 for commercial fishing.6  Twelve year olds may perform most types of work in Tanzania, but the minimum work age for industry is 15 years.7 
  • Eight countries--Brazil,8  Egypt,9  Guatemala,10  India,11  Mexico,12  Nepal,13  Nicaragua,14  and Pakistan15 --specify a minimum age of 14.
  • Four countries--the Philippines,16  South Africa,17  Thailand,18  and Turkey19 --set their basic minimum age at 15.
  • In Kenya, the basic minimum age is set at 16, but only applies to certain sectors.20 

Table III-1: Minimum Ages for Work

Country Ratification of ILO Convention No. 138
Minimum Age Comments
Basic Work Hazordous Work
Bangladesh -- 12-15a 12-18a Basic and hazardous ages apply only to certain occupations.
Brazil -- 14 18-21a Basic age exempts apprentices.
Egypt -- 14 15-17a Children 12-14 can participate in seasonal agricultural work.
Guatemala April 1990 14 16 Children 12-13 can work with Ministry of Labor approval.
India -- 14 14-18a Basic and hazordous ages apply only to certain occupations.
Kenya April 1979 16 16-18a Basic age applies only to industrial undertakings.
Mexico -- 14 16-18a  
Nepal May 1997 14 16 Basic age applies only to certain enterprises.
Nicaragua November
14 18  
Pakistan -- 14 14-21a Basic and hazordous ages apply only to certain occupations.
Peru -- 12-16a 18 Basic age varies by sector.
Philippines June 1998 15 18  
South Africa -- 15 18  
Tanzania  * 12-15a 18 Basic age is 12; 15 for industry.
Thailand -- 15 18  
Turkey  * 15 18  

Sources:          See Appendix D and Child Labour: Targeting
                        the Intolerable
(Geneva: ILO, 1996) 39-46 and 52-62.

Notes:             a  Varies by sector or activity.
                       b  Based on ILO Registered Ratification dates.
                       *  Country ratified Convention No. 138. However,
                           the official instrument of ratification has not been
                           registered with the ILO.
                       --  Country has not ratified.

As shown in Table III-1, all 16 countries studied have set a minimum age for hazardous employment.21  Some countries, however, specify a range of minimum ages for hazardous work, which vary by sector or type of employment:

  • In one country--Bangladesh--the minimum age for hazardous work varies from 12 to 18 depending on the occupation. The Employment of Children Act permits children as young as 12 to be employed in workshops involving tanning, and producing carpets, cement, matches, fireworks, and explosives, among other items.22 
  • In two countries--India, and Pakistan--the minimum age for hazardous employment is as young as 14, but varies up to 18 and 21, respectively, depending on the occupation.23 
  • In four countries--Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal, and Mexico--the minimum age for hazardous employment is 16.24  In Mexico, however, the minimum age for hazardous employment ranges up to 18 for certain types of work.25 
  • Finally, eight countries--Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, and Turkey--set their minimum age for hazardous employment at 18.26  In Brazil, the minimum age for hazardous employment ranges up to 21.27 

Some countries have a general or blanket prohibition on the hazardous employment of children but provide little specification of the types of work they consider hazardous. Others provide considerable detail in defining hazardous occupations. Common examples of hazardous occupations include working in places where alcohol is produced or sold, in mines, tunnels, confined spaces, tanneries, garbage dumps, and nightclubs, and in construction, maritime, underground, or underwater activities. Laws also frequently prohibit employing children in work that involves specific agents or products such as asbestos, cement, chemicals, explosives, fumes, dust, gases, mercury, paints, solvents, glue, enamels, tobacco, and radioactive substances.

         2.         Coverage

The child labor laws of many countries are limited by their narrow scope, lack of clarity, and loopholes. Often, laws apply only to specific economic sectors, excluding those activities where the highest numbers of working children are found, such as small-scale agriculture, domestic service, and small workshops.28 

  • In Bangladesh, for example, there is no uniform minimum age for employment; several laws specify different minimum ages according to type of establishment and sector. Work performed by children in agriculture, domestic work, and the informal sector are not covered by Bangladeshi child labor laws.29 

  • In India, the Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, bars the employment of children under 14 years old in seven occupations and 18 processes. However, the law does not prohibit child labor in other sectors or occupations.30 
  • Similarly, in Pakistan, the Employment of Children Act, 1991, prohibits the employment of children under age 14 only in certain specified occupations and processes.31
  • In the Philippines, children under the basic minimum work age of 15 are permitted to work under the sole responsibility of a parent or guardian, provided that only members of the employer's family are employed.32 
  • In Egypt, Child Law No. 12 sets the minimum age of employment at 14. However, children 12 to 14 years of age are permitted to be employed in seasonal work that does not threaten their health, growth, or school attendance. A special decree by the governor and approval by the Minister of Education is required before a child is permitted to participate in such work.33 
  • Kenya's Employment Act (Cap 226) and the Regulation of Wages and Conditions of Employment Act (Cap 229) prohibit employing children under 16 in "industrial undertakings," which include mines, quarries, factories, construction sites, and transport. The Act excludes other sectors such as agriculture, where the majority of children are reported to work.34 
  • In Nepal, the minimum age for employment is 14, according to the Labour Act of 1992, but some enterprises, such as plantations and brick kilns, are excluded.35 

Exceptions in child labor legislation are sometimes made for apprenticeships or educational work. In Brazil, for instance, the Federal Constitution of 1988 forbids children under age 14 to work, except as apprentices.36  However, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Labor, this exception, which allows children between the ages of 12 and 14 to engage in educational activities in apprenticeship programs, is abused by many employers to gain a source of cheap and compliant labor.37 

Some countries limit the scope of their legislation by allowing underage children who have an economic need to work. In Peru, for example, a provision recently added to the Children and Adolescents Code implicitly legitimizes work by children under 12 years old by stating that children (defined as any individual from conception to 12 years of age) who work "out of economic or material necessity" have the "right to participate in programs aimed at ensuring their educational process and their physical and mental development."38 

While the laws in most countries are silent on the issue of domestic workers, legislation in the Philippines and Peru makes a specific reference to their working conditions.

  • According to Peru's Children and Adolescents Code, domestic workers and nonremunerated family workers have the right to 12 hours of uninterrupted rest every day. In addition, employers, parents, or relatives must guarantee their regular school attendance. Specialized judges dealing with children's issues are to oversee the enforcement of all issues relating to domestic workers.39 
  • The Philippine Labor Code mandates that employers of children under 18 years of age in domestic work give them an opportunity for at least an elementary education, the cost of which is to be considered as part of the workers' compensation.40 

Some countries have legislation specifically relating to child prostitution and the trafficking of minors or bonded child labor:

  • In Thailand, for example, the Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act of 1996 widens the definition of "brothel" and increases penalties for brothel owners and procurers and traffickers of children. It also institutes penalties for officials who fail to enforce the law and for parents who sell their children into prostitution.41  A more recent law, the Measure in Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act of 1997, focuses on the need to protect and provide food, shelter, and repatriation to victims of trafficking.42 
  • In the Philippines, the Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act imposes a sentence of up to life imprisonment for persons found guilty of trafficking in children.43 
  • Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan all have laws prohibiting bonded child labor or the pledging of a child's labor in exchange for a loan or other services.44 

         3.         Regulation of Working Minors

In some countries, child labor laws regulate conditions of work for minors who have reached the basic minimum age for employment and are permitted to work legally.

  • For example, in Peru, children between the ages of 12 and 14 are not permitted to work more than four hours a day or 24 hours a week.45  Six hours of work per day is the maximum allowed for children below a certain age in Egypt, Guatemala, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Peru.46 
  • Mexican law requires that 14- and 15-year-olds be provided with a one-hour break after every three hours of work and prohibits their employment in overtime work.47 
  • In Thailand, adolescents from 15 to 18 years of age must be given one hour of rest after every four hours of work.48 
  • The laws of many countries--including Brazil, Egypt, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, and the Philippines--prohibit youths below a certain age from working at night.49 

Several countries also have provisions requiring minors or the employers of minors to obtain employment authorization from labor officials. In many instances, work authorizations are contingent on factors such as limiting the number of hours of work, proof of age, parental permission, proof of school enrollment, a medical certificate, and proof that the work will not interfere with studies and will not negatively impact the child's health or well-being.

  • In Guatemala, the labor code gives the Ministry of Labor authority to grant work permits to children ages 12 and 13. The Ministry's child protection unit, which processes these requests, bases approval on the economic status of the family, whether the job is an apprenticeship, and assurances that employment will not interfere with school.50 
  • In Kenya, the Ministry of Labor requires that an employer receive written permission from an authorized labor officer prior to hiring a child under the age of sixteen years. All such permits must be renewed annually.51 
  • In Mexico, 14- and 15-year-olds must receive authorization to work from their parents or legal guardians as well as the labor authorities. They are also required to provide employers with a medical certificate certifying that they are physically able to work.52  Work authorization is conditional on completion of compulsory education, unless labor authorities find that the work is compatible with school.
  • In Peru, the Ministry of Labor authorizes the work of adolescents working for third parties or in dependent situations. District or provincial municipalities are charged with authorizing the work of street children and domestic servants within their jurisdiction. Authorizing entities must keep a registry listing names, names of parents, birth date, address, nature of work, pay, work schedule, school attended, and class schedule, and must give the adolescent a notebook authorizing work. The authorization expires on the date the minor comes of age.53  In order to receive authorization, the work must not interfere with regular school attendance, and the adolescent must have a medical certificate--provided free of charge by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Labor also requires proof of identity and proof that the child is enrolled in school.54 

         4.         Fines

Laws in a number of countries specify fines or other penalties for violations of their child labor provisions. The level of these sanctions, and their effectiveness, varies from country to country.

  • In Egypt, provincial governors may rescind the license of a workshop that hires children under 14 years of age. Parents and employers can be sent to prison for up to one month or fined from 200 to 500 Egyptian pounds (US$ 59 to US$ 147) for not allowing children to go to school.55 
  • In 1996, India's Supreme Court established a penalty of 20,000 rupees (US$ 470) for persons employing children in hazardous industries.56 
  • In Kenya, Legal Notice No. 155 limits the amount of employer sanctions for violations of child labor laws to 4,000 shillings (US$ 70).57 
  • Violators of Mexico's Federal Labor Law provisions with respect to the employment of children may be sanctioned with fines ranging from three to 155 times the daily general minimum wage in force at the place and time at which the violation was committed.58  This could result in a fine as low as US$ 10. Fines for violations of newly enacted health and safety regulations on work by youths in hazardous occupations range from 15 to 315 times the daily minimum wage.59 
  • Nicaragua's Labor Code establishes fines of 500 to 5,000 córdobas (US$ 47 to US$ 470) for violations of the labor rights of children and adolescents.60 
  • In the Philippines, violators of child labor laws are penalized with fines of 1,000 to 10,000 pesos (US$ 25 to US$ 253) or imprisonment of three months to three years, or both. In the case of repeated violations, the offender's operating license may be revoked.61 
  • South Africa's Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) of 1997 provides for a maximum penalty of three years in jail for those who illegally employ children. It is also an offense to assist an employer who contravenes the BCEA or to discriminate against a person who refuses to allow a child to be employed.62 
  • In Thailand, government officials who fail to enforce prostitution and trafficking laws relating to children or who perpetrate the sexual exploitation of children can be punished with imprisonment of 15 to 20 years and a fine of 300,000 to 400,000 baht (US$ 8,000 to US$ 11,000).63 

Some countries have state-level laws addressing child labor.

  • In the Philippines, ordinances that address child labor concerns have been issued at the provincial and municipal levels, especially with regard to employing children in entertainment centers and the production of pyrotechnics.64 
  • In Brazil, state governments have recently enacted laws to regulate child labor and prevent the exploitation of children and adolescents. In 1997, the São Paulo State Assembly enacted a procurement law barring all companies that use child labor from bidding on public contracts with the state and making the legal representative of the company responsible for any infraction of the law.65 

C.     Current Enforcement of Child Labor Laws

Even the most comprehensive laws can be ineffective without adequate enforcement. This section describes current child labor law enforcement strategies in the countries studied for this report. It also discusses some of the obstacles faced by labor inspectors in effectively enforcing the laws, including lack of resources, inadequate training, cultural attitudes towards child labor, and corruption.

         1.         Enforcement Strategies

Most countries studied have mechanisms in place to enforce their child labor laws. In many countries, labor inspectors visit work places to ensure that no underage children are working and to check that adolescents of working age have the necessary documentation and are working under the proper conditions. Inspectors use different strategies for dealing with violations of child labor laws, including working with employers, parents, and children to correct the situation, removing children from the work place, imposing fines and other penalties on those who do not comply, and/or pursuing the case in the judicial system, as appropriate.

In the Philippines, for example, the Department of Labor and Employment conducts routine and complaint-driven inspections to follow up on allegations of illegal child labor. Depending on the nature of the violation, an inspector or quick-action response team (with a police escort) is dispatched to deal with the problem. Violations are then reported to the court system for future action.66 

Other countries focus their child labor enforcement efforts on moving children out of hazardous work or specific sectors or industries.

  • In Turkey, the labor authorities' approach to child labor enforcement has changed over time, according to labor officials. Initially, the law was followed quite rigidly--if child labor was uncovered, children were removed from the work place; often the work place was closed down. Due to the belief that elimination of child labor is not a realistic short-term goal, a different approach was taken three years ago. Inspectors now focus on improving working conditions and moving children to less hazardous work situations.67 
  • In Brazil, the government has targeted its efforts on the elimination of the most intolerable forms of child labor--such as work in sisal and sugar cane plantations, charcoal ovens, factories, stone quarries, salt rock mining, and other activities that are dangerous for children.68  The Brazilian Ministry of Labor conducted a diagnostic study of child labor in the country and is currently using the findings to carry out targeted inspections.
  • In Nepal, the Ministry of Labor focuses on eradicating child labor in the formal sector, in particular in the carpet industry.69 

While a number of countries have enforcement strategies and mechanisms in place, often they are not effectively implemented. For instance, even though in some countries the enforcement strategies include both routine and complaint-driven inspections, in reality, inspectors generally investigate only those cases for which they have received complaints. In Thailand, for example, inspectors generally only respond to specific public complaints or newspaper reports.70 

         2.         Obstacles to Effective Enforcement

Labor inspectorates are often understaffed and underfunded and lack resources for transportation outside urban centers. Training of inspectors is often nonexistent or of poor quality.

  • In Egypt, for example, lack of appropriate transportation to work sites and dim promotion prospects for inspectors, as well as lax conditions in the bureaucracy, have been mentioned as obstacles to the effective enforcement of the 1996 Child Law.71 
  • In India, state-level labor ministries, which have primary responsibility for enforcing the country's statutory prohibitions on various forms of child labor, are invariably underfunded and understaffed. Inspectors have manifold functions and duties, including inspecting safety and health, wage payments, and overtime. Child labor is not their exclusive focus, and many have little sensitivity for the issue. In Tamil Nadu, a state with a population of over 60 million, the Department of Labor has 29 inspectors.72 
  • Officials in the Kenyan Ministry of Labor have expressed concern about the insufficient number of labor inspectors covering the entire country. Currently, Kenya has only 200 labor inspectors.73 
  • According to Mexican federal labor officials, state labor inspectors do not receive the same level of training as federal inspectors and are not always sufficiently vigilant in applying child labor laws.74  Some state labor officials, in turn, complain of a lack of resources and training, and emphasize the difficulty of enforcing child labor laws in agriculture, particularly in areas where parents complain that their children should work because they are so poor. Lack of adequate transportation to travel from the cities to inspect farms was also cited as an obstacle to effective enforcement.75 

In some cases, corruption is a further obstacle to effective enforcement:

  • In Guatemala, for instance, the salaries of labor inspectors are significantly less than the average salary paid to police and to teachers. The low pay of inspectors--all of whom must hold a law degree--not only makes them easy targets for corruption but also makes it difficult for the Labor Inspection Office to retain high quality staff. In 1998, the Ministry of Labor dismissed five Guatemala City-based inspectors for taking bribes.76 
  • In India, it is widely alleged that inspectors receive bribes or other considerations from enterprise owners. A child laborer told a visiting U.S. Department of Labor official that when inspectors came to the textile factory where she worked, all working children were sent to a storage room until the inspector had departed.77  Others tell of advance notification by inspectors or of inspectors who never go beyond the management offices.

Inspectors sometimes choose not to remove children from work or impose fines, even when they find violations.

  • In Brazil, according to a coordinator of a regional child labor unit, some inspectors still believe that it is better for children to be working than to be on the streets. Thus, inspectors tend to ignore many of the more "tolerable" forms of child labor.78 
  • During farm inspections in Baja California, Mexico, in 1996 and 1997, state labor authorities found hundreds of underage workers. However, fines were not assessed for fear of the negative economic impact on migrant families, many of whom choose to have their children work to contribute to family income.79 
  • In Egypt, inspectors sometimes have not fined violators because "they are aware that all of the illegal working children had dropped out of school, education was a luxury, their families needed their income for survival, and many of their fathers were unemployed."80 
  • In Thailand, inspectors tend to negotiate promises of better future behavior by violators of child labor laws rather than seeking prosecution and punishment.81 

Enforcement information regarding child labor laws is often anecdotal. Few countries evaluate the implementation of their laws, and consequently, there is little accountability. In some countries, however, independent bodies document and report human rights violations, including child labor.

  • In India, for instance, when it conducted surveys of human rights issues, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an autonomous government agency empowered to investigate human rights violations, found that little had been done to comply with the 1986 Child Labor Elimination Act.82  Specifically, the NHRC found that labor inspectors were conducting poor quality inspections and prosecutions were faulty; medical officers charged with determining the ages of working children frequently falsified reports at the behest of employers; and the efforts of employers and employers' associations to address the problems were proving unsuccessful. It also found that only seven of India's 25 states had their own human rights commissions and that efforts by the states generally were marked by a low level of commitment and a high degree of bureaucratic squabbling.83 

D.     Efforts to Strengthen Laws and Enforcement

This section describes efforts by the countries studied to strengthen and more effectively enforce child labor laws. A number of countries have recently made or are considering changes to their child labor legislation, including increases in the minimum age for employment, adoption of uniform standards, and expanding coverage of child labor laws. Other countries are taking steps to increase the number and improve the training of labor inspectors or introduce new enforcement strategies. A few countries are targeting their enforcement efforts on sectors where child labor is particularly exploitative and hazardous.

         1.         Legislation

In the area of legislation, efforts underway focus on raising the minimum age for work or adopting a uniform minimum age.

  • The Government of Bangladesh has drafted a new labor code, setting a uniform minimum age of 14 years for admission to all forms of work. The new labor code is currently awaiting approval by Parliament.84 
  • In Brazil, a constitutional amendment has been introduced in the National Congress to eliminate the possibility of children working before the age of 14, without exceptions for apprentices.85 
  • In Thailand, a new labor law passed in 1998 raises the minimum age for employment from 13 to 15 years of age. It also requires employers to inform labor inspection offices within 15 days of their employment of any minors below age 18. The new law requires that minors from 15 to 18 years of age be given at least one hour of rest after every four hours of work, and prohibits employers from demanding or receiving money in return for employing children.86  Finally, the law prohibits employers, supervisors, or inspectors from sexually abusing young employees and increases the maximum penalty for such abuse from a sentence of six months imprisonment or a fine of 2,000 baht (US$ 55) to a fine of up to 20,000 baht (US$ 550).87 

Additional legislative initiatives in a number of countries include the following:

  • In the Philippines, several bills seeking to fill gaps in existing legislation on the protection of children--primarily focusing on employment of children in hazardous occupations, child abuse, and prostitution--have been introduced recently in the Philippine Congress. In addition, a bill introduced in 1997 asked for an investigation of the apparent "alarming increase" in the incidence of child labor in the Philippines.88 
  • South Africa's Child Labor Inter-Sectoral Group, made up of representatives from government, NGOs, academia, and international organizations, has proposed a legislative initiative requiring that civil fines levied against employers using child labor be used to fund poverty alleviation programs for the families of affected children.89 
  • India's Ministry of Labor recently issued a notice of its intention to broaden the scope of the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act to include additional areas where children under 14 are prohibited from working. This proposal, if implemented, will broaden the list of prohibited occupations to include "handling of explosives and toxic and flammable substances" (bringing the total to eight) and expand the list of prohibited work processes by an additional 36 processes (bringing the total to 54). The proposed modifications have not yet gone into effect.90 

         2.         Implementation and Enforcement

Some countries are taking action to address enforcement issues by increasing the number of inspectors, providing and improving training, and targeting inspections in certain sectors. Other countries are improving coordination of enforcement efforts.

  • Kenya's Ministry of Labor has established a child labor unit and is in the process of expanding its child labor inspection team.91 
  • In the Philippines92  and Turkey,93  labor authorities have broadened the focus of their inspector training from strictly regulatory to one that examines the hazards children face and develops inspectors' communications skills so they can work more effectively with employers, supervisors, parents, and children.
  • In Mexico, the federal Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare has signed Coordination Agreements with 24 state labor authorities (eight more are pending signature) to facilitate standardized training of local labor inspectors and establish a system for exchanging information on labor inspections between state and federal officials.94 
  • The Brazilian Ministry of Labor has established a mobile inspection group responsible for eliminating all forms of degrading work, particularly that carried out by children.95  Working in close cooperation with other federal agencies and local NGOs, ministry inspectors in the state of Pernambuco helped to stop or prevent children from harvesting sugar cane in the Zona de Mata.96  Similarly, the Public Ministry of Labor, an independent agency under the Public Ministry, has also assisted in the enforcement of child labor laws by investigating allegations of child labor and by prosecuting violators in the Labor Court.97 
  • In conjunction with ILO/IPEC, inspectors in the Child Labor Unit (CLU) of Turkey's Ministry of Labor and Social Security are working with employers of children in the leather and footwear industries in Istanbul to improve health and safety conditions, including increasing ventilation and reducing the use of dangerous chemicals. CLU inspectors have met with the employers to encourage them to shorten working hours and hire older workers.98  CLU inspectors have also undertaken an initiative to increase employer awareness of the dangers posed by the solvents and adhesives used in the leather and footwear industries.99  Finally, labor inspectors have met with adhesives producers who supply the bulk of leather and footwear plants in Istanbul in an effort to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals. Consequently, levels of the chemical hexane in the adhesives have been reduced significantly.100 
  • In Nicaragua, the Minister of Labor is increasing the number of child labor inspections and systematizing labor inspection records.101 
  • With support from ILO/IPEC, the Tanzanian Ministry of Labor and Youth Development has been training labor inspectors on child labor so that they can better integrate child labor inspections into their regular work. Inspectors are also implementing plans of action on hazardous child labor in selected worksites.102 

This section has described a number of initiatives underway to strengthen child labor laws and improve enforcement strategies. While these initial efforts are commendable, the fact that large numbers of children still work under exploitative or hazardous conditions indicates that additional efforts are urgently needed. Child labor laws that are comprehensive in their scope and coverage have not yet been enacted in many countries. Current enforcement efforts are often poor at best. The following chapter discusses another strategy for eliminating child labor--universal primary education--that, combined with effective child labor law and enforcement, could have a significant impact on eliminating the exploitation of children.

This report was produced by the staff of the International Child Labor Program and is published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs.