Frequently Asked Questions
- What is child labor and forced labor, and why is it regarded as such a serious social problem?
- What is our government doing to keep goods made with child labor and forced labor out of our country?
- What is ILAB doing to combat child labor internationally?
- What is the United States Government and ILAB, in particular, doing to combat human trafficking?
- What more needs to be done to combat human trafficking?
- How can I find out about grant opportunities relating to international child labor?
- What role does ILAB play in U.S. trade policy with respect to labor issues?
- What is the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC)?
- Does ILAB participate in the work of international organizations such as the United Nations?
- What role does ILAB play in supporting workers' rights internationally?
- ILAB Reports on International Child Labor and Forced Labor FAQ's
- Trade and Development Act (TDA) FAQ's
- Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) FAQ's
- Executive Order 13126 FAQ's
- "Child labor" under international standards means all work performed by a person below the age of 15. It also includes all work performed by a person below the age of 18 in the following practices:
(A) All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale or trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, or forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
(B) The use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic purposes;
(C) The use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs; and
(D) Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children.
The work referred to in subparagraph (D) is determined by the laws, regulations, or competent authority of the country involved, after consultation with the organizations of employers and workers concerned, and taking into consideration relevant international standards. This definition will not apply to work specifically authorized by national laws, including work done by children in schools for general, vocational or technical education or in other training institutions, where such work is carried out in accordance with international standards under conditions prescribed by the competent authority, and does not prejudice children's attendance in school or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received.
- "Forced labor" under international standards means all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty for its nonperformance and for which the worker does not offer himself voluntarily, and includes indentured labor. "Forced labor" includes work provided or obtained by force, fraud, or coercion, including:
(A) By threats of serious harm to, or physical restraint against any person;
(B) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if the person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or
(C) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process.
- Several U.S. laws address the issue of the importation of goods made with forced labor and child labor. For instance, Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits the importation of merchandise produced in whole or in part with prison labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanction, including forced or indentured labor by children. The Tariff Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- The U.S. Department of Labor also carries out Congressionally-mandated activities to reduce the likelihood of goods made with forced labor or child labor being imported into the U.S. First, DOL carries out the mandates of Executive Order 13126 on the "Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor," signed on June 12, 1999. The Executive Order is designed to prevent federal agencies from buying products that have been made with forced or indentured child labor.
In addition, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005, signed by President Bush in January 2006, mandates that DOL's Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) "carry out additional activities to monitor and combat forced labor and child labor in foreign countries." These activities include the development and dissemination of a list of goods from countries that ILAB has reason to believe are produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international standards.
- Currently, ILAB has a portfolio some 55 active child labor projects in over 50 countries worth more than $200 million. These projects seek to remove children from the exploitative work situations and provide them with rehabilitation services and educational opportunities. Projects also seek to raise public awareness about the problem and to prevent child labor from occurring in the first place.
- Since 1995, ILAB, through funding for the International Labor Organization's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor and over 40 other organizations, has provided approximately $600 million to support efforts in over 80 countries around the globe to withdraw children from exploitative work.
- In FY 2008, ILAB obligated over $58 million to 6 organizations to support efforts to combat exploitive child labor around the world. Together, these grants will withdraw and prevent more than 100,000 children from entering exploitive labor through the provision of education and other services, support the collection of reliable data, and strengthen the capacity of governments to address the problem in 20 countries. In FY 2009, ILAB will obligate approximately $60 million to such efforts.
- For more information on these efforts, see the International Technical Cooperation page of the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking.
- In addition to technical cooperation programming, ILAB is a leader in research and reporting on international child labor issues. ILAB publishes an annual report, The U.S. Department of Labor's Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which includes information on exploitive child labor and government efforts in 141 countries and territories benefiting from preferential trade programs with the United States. ILAB's child labor publications are available on the publications page of the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking.
- The U.S. government's strategy for ending tyranny, spreading freedom, and championing human dignity includes a commitment to ending human trafficking. The U.S. government believes that promoting democracy and human rights is the most effective long-term strategy for ensuring international stability.
- U.S. government funding goes to governments and non-governmental and international organizations to support a range of efforts, including to:
- create specialized law enforcement units;
- train prosecutors and judges;
- strengthen anti-trafficking laws;
- provide emergency shelter and care for victims;
- offer voluntary repatriation assistance;
- make available long-term rehabilitation assistance and vocational training for victims;
- provide legal advocacy;
- offer psychological and medical assistance for victims; and
- launch information campaigns.
- As for ILAB, we carry out reporting and technical assistance internationally to track and combat trafficking in persons and forced labor.
- Since 1995, ILAB has dedicated over $274 million to support programs that provide victims of trafficking and forced labor with rehabilitation and reintegration services, as well as services to prevent high risk individuals from being trafficked in the first place.
- In fiscal year 2008 alone, ILAB provided over $42 million to fund trafficking-related projects, including funding for 9 new technical assistance projects in 11 countries. These projects target bonded labor, forced recruitment of child soldiers, human trafficking, slave labor in isolated areas, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- To ensure a coordinated policy message on anti-trafficking issues, the Department of Labor actively participates in the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF), the Senior Policy Operating Group (SPOG), and the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force.
- Human trafficking is present in some form on all continents and in nearly every country, so clearly much more needs to be done.
- The hidden nature of human trafficking is fundamental to its continued existence, so more research is required to understand it and greater efforts are needed to raise awareness globally. The ILO Global Report is extremely helpful in this regard, as it has given the world the first global estimates on forced labor and its relation to human trafficking, and raised awareness through its simultaneous release.
- Law enforcement is a clear priority. Countries must adopt strong laws and policies that clearly define and outlaw the different forms of exploitation, protect the victims, and allow appropriate punishment of the perpetrators.
- Because of the global nature of trafficking, greater cooperation is necessary between nations to learn from each other's good practices and to share information on criminal networks.
- The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) provides grants for technical assistance purposes related to child labor elimination efforts and basic education initiatives for child laborers and children at risk of entering work. Please note that announcements of such grant opportunities are published on http://www.grants.gov/.
- ILAB represents the Department of Labor in the interagency committees chaired by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in the negotiation and implementation of the labor chapters of Free Trade Agreements. These chapters define and promote internationally recognized core labor standards. ILAB also participates in the interagency deliberations of USTR chaired committees related to the implementation of U.S. trade preference legislation, such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). These programs extend duty-free access for certain countries to developing countries. Countries who participate in these programs are required to take steps to provide internationally recognized labor rights and standards. Using the leverage provided by these programs, the United States has been successful in securing significant improvements in laws and practices regarding labor rights in a number of countries.
- It is an agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada intended to provide a mechanism for responding to labor issues of mutual concern. It is referred to as the supplemental agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
- ILAB's Office of International Relations (OIR) represents the Department of Labor (DOL) before a number of international organizations. The most significant of these is the International Labor Organization (ILO), which is a UN entity. The ILO defines and establishes international labor standards through the development and implementation of conventions and follows up by monitoring compliance by member countries with their obligations under those conventions.
- OIR leads DOL participation in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), particularly the work of the Employment, Labor and Social Affairs Committee.
- OIR also oversees DOL participation in the G20 through the annual meetings of the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers, and in the Organization of American States (OAS), through the biannual meetings of the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) as well as conferences and seminars conducted under that program.
- OIR oversees participation by DOL in the Human Resources Development Working Group of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which groups Pacific Rim countries together.
- OIR also participates in the United States-European Union Working Group on Employment and Labor-Related Issues, a forum established to share experiences and best practices, and in the work of some of the other United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organization.
- The United States considers that strengthening respect for worker rights around the world is essential to the U.S. foreign policy goals of promoting democracy, human rights, free trade, and international development.
- Besides its participation in trade policy outlined in question #7 ILAB works closely with the Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in several key areas.
- ILAB's Office of International Relations (OIR) works with the Department of State in the implementation of that agency's labor diplomacy program. Under this program labor officers and labor reporting officers in U.S. Embassies throughout the world monitor labor issues and report back to Washington. Much of this reporting focuses on labor rights and standards. ILAB provides specialized training on labor issues to these officers, and conducts outreach activities to keep them informed on U.S. and international labor developments. OIR Area Advisers monitor labor developments in their areas of responsibility and maintain contact with Embassy labor officers so as to remain abreast of labor developments and provide technical and policy advice to senior USG officials.
- Working together with the Department of State, OIR coordinates ILAB input into the labor section of that department's Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, a major reference document for persons and institutions who follow human rights issues.
- OIR leads U.S. Government participation in the work of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO defines and sets international labor standards and monitors their implementation by member countries.