Combating child labour

Let parents earn and children learn!

Many of the products we use, such as clothing and palm oil, are made by children. According to the ILO, 160 million children worldwide are victims of child labour. Trade unions play an important role in combating child labour. By increasing union membership and union capacity to conduct social dialogue, unions can effectively stand up for decent work for adults, thus eliminating the need for child labour.


Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe (2019/2020):

  • Education unions have been successful in developing and sustaining child labour free zones while developing informal and formal social dialogue mechanisms;
  • A total number of 686 children (374 boys, 312 girls) former working children were brought back to school during the project period 2019 / 2020, most of them in 2019 since school activities were largely disrupted in 2020 due the COVID 19 pandemic;
  • In addition, 4.031 pupils (2.272 boys, 1.759 girls) who had dropped out after the long school closure due to the pandemic and had started to work were brought back to schools in Malawi and Mali.

Bangladesh (2021)
The government of Bangladesh has designated the Keraniganj neighbourhood in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka as an area of priority for the eradication of child labour.

Strategic ambitions

  1. Mondiaal FNV, together with its partners, fights child labour by strengthening trade unions, and by working together with education unions organisations which strive for quality education for all children.
  2. Mondiaal FNV contributes to the creation and strengthening of child labour free zones, which also raises awareness about the need to educate children instead of making them work.

Consequences Covid-19

Child labour has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, partly because there is no safety net if parents lose their income. The closure of schools and increases in child marriages and teenage pregnancies have also resulted in more children going back to work.

Let parents earn and children learn

Every child has the right to education, the right to play and the right to be a child. Child labour perpetuates poverty; children do the work that would otherwise be done by adults, and children are often paid less for it. The result? Children in low-paying jobs instead of school, and parents unable to find decent work and support their families.

Together with our partners, we are committed to combating child labour and to achieving decent work for adults. We strive to strengthen unions so they can improve working conditions for adults and fight for effective bans on child labour. In addition, we work with education unions to strengthen school provisions and teachers’ skills to eradicate child labour through education and to build trust for a better social dialogue.


Child Labour Free Zones 

Mondiaal FNV fights child labour in India, Bangladesh, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe. An important part of that fight is the development of child labour free zones. These are zones, villages or communities, where children no longer work but receive proper education. All those involved in a community, such as teachers, parents, trade unions, NGOs, local associations, local authorities, religious leaders and employers, work together to eliminate child labour and to get children (re)admitted into official schools. The aim is to make the entire population aware that children's right to education must not be compromised in any way.

The contributions of trade unions

  • A union and its members can denounce the exploitation of children, and persuade parents to send their children to school;
  • Unions can fight for decent work for adults, so they can support their families and the need for child labour disappears. The fight against child labour actually helps the effort for decent work, because taking away the option of cheap child labour strengthens the bargaining position of unions;
  • Decent work includes social security, which helps to prevent the exploitation of children, because children are no longer required to step in if the family ends up in financial difficulty.

Example project:

Powerful lobby against child labour paves the way to a safe future.

Read more & watch the video
Boy working in sweatshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Powerful lobby against child labour paves the way to a safe future.

Read more & watch the video

Out of work and into school


Classroom of children of mobile bridge school in brick kilns.

classroom in school in Mali Ghana

Trade union GAWU builds child labour free zones together with local communities.

Master Diarra Mali

Inspired master Diarra brings children back to school. Watch the video (Stop Child Labour Coalition)

banner SDG 8

Key Sustainable Development Goal


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Several international treaties name and protect the rights of children

  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 138 (minimum age of 14 before being permitted to work) and 182 (prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour). Mondiaal FNV has campaigned hard to get this convention adopted. The 'Elimination of Child Labour' is one of the ILO core labour standards, to which all ILO member countries are bound.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • UN Principles for Human Rights and Business and the OECD Guidelines require companies to investigate whether they are involved in human rights violations in their production chain and counteract them. 


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