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Constance Thomas

The chapter provides an historical perspective on the development of international instruments on child labour. It shows how and why the prohibition of child labour gradually spread across industries and different regions of the world, beginning with the setting of minimum age laws and culminating in the recognition of freedom from child labour as a human right. It offers conceptual clarity on what is, and what is not, considered to be child labour, according to the fundamental international labour standards. While recognising the impressive inroads that have been made in the prevention and reduction of child labor worldwide, largely through holistic multiparty action at national and community levels, it makes a case for the business community to step up its contribution to the elimination of child labour in a more effective way.

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Lee Swepston and Constance Thomas

There is an obvious connection between income generation and emergence from poverty, and the way in which this is promoted must respect human rights. Access to decent work in fair conditions and with just incomes is fundamental to the fight against poverty and social exclusion. These outcomes cannot be achieved without the intervention of adequate law. The rights related to work are developed most fully in international labour standards adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). These standards, on subjects including freedom of association, conditions of work, and protection from forced labour, child labour, and discrimination, are deeply embedded in international human rights. Measures to ensure access, respect and enforcement of these rights for all workers include access to justice, monitoring and supervision mechanisms, and vibrant workers’ organisations. Full application of labour law based on international standards is a necessary tool to ensure workers’ emergence from poverty.