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Struck by the results and long-term vision through that project, the Punjab and Sindh provincial governments wanted to replicate the many activities in its ambition to reach myriad goals, particularly Education for All and protecting children from the worst forms of labour.

Because the project is a work in progress, the next steps will entail:

  • Setting up the non-formal education and literacy centres (around 75 possibly) in the areas where the majority of the 2,000 target children (those younger than 14 years) either work or live and their siblings.

  • Enrolment of 2,000 children aged 14–18 in the literacy and skills training classes (in district government training institutes).

  • Linking of the families of children enrolled at the NFE centres with a microcredit facility.

  • Establishing 50 model workplaces to demonstrate risk reduction as a tool to promote the healthy employment of young and adult persons.

  • Establishment and testing of a mechanism for community-level child labour monitoring in each district.

  • Research studies, awareness campaigns, web and database development, special events and various dialogues to promote the lessons learned and to encourage their large-scale adoption.

60) Mainstreaming child labour into child protection agenda

Period of implementation: 2011 - 2013

Where: Sri Lanka

Main focus: Mainstreaming child labour into integrated social protection of children

Lead organization: District Secretariat, Ratnapura, Department of Labour and Human Resource Development

Results: the Ratnapura District built a Child Development Plan with 15 standards (and strategies and activities) for achieving a child labour-free district by 2016; on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, the district chief declared the goal of a becoming child labour-free zone by 2015, with a review and refinement of the strategy in the period 2015–2016 to ensure sustainability; the interventions are in line with the national commitment to achieve zero tolerance by 2016 and are reflected in the Government’s first step towards the same, by raising the compulsory school attendance age from 14 years to 16 years as of June 2013; in Ratnapura District, wide awareness-building already completed and competencies improved: n a two-month period, 575 village administrators were trained (made aware); 500 public health midwives (family health workers) were trained; the ILO national consultant spoke to more than 100 plantation management officials on reducing child labour; provided in-depth training to the district core team of administrative and child labour officials who will be the driving force for the 2016 goal and sustainability beyond.

Context and objective: In 2006, Sri Lanka along committed to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016. In 2010, with ILO technical and financial support, the Ministry of Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion developed Sri Lanka's Roadmap 2016 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, in consultation with the National Steering Committee on Child Labour, which is composed of stakeholder ministries, employers' organizations and workers organizations, and civil society organizations. At the Child Labour Conference at The Hague in 2010, the Government of Sri Lanka, represented by the Minister of Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion, presented the country’s own Roadmap 2016 concept and pledged that the Government would use a portion (30 per cent) of the ministry’s national budget designated for implementing the National Decent Work Policy and Action Plan to achieve the 2016 goal.

Sri Lanka’s Roadmap emphasized a “mainstreaming strategy”, recognizing (in line with ILO Conventions No. 182 and No. 138) that the responsibility for the prevention and elimination of the worst forms of child labour extended beyond the labour ministry and departments to other agencies covering child development and women's empowerment, justice and law reforms, tourism, agriculture development and agrarian services, youth, police and probation and specific authorities, such as the National Child Protection Authority. It also recognized that agencies at the provincial and district levels as well as the national level would provide critical support related to education, training and employment, social protection to families and other social services.

Methodology: Provincial and national data on working children, child labour and hazardous work were available in Sri Lanka as result of the child labour survey conducted in 2008–2009, with support of ILO/IPEC’s Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC). This special survey collected data on many aspects of children’s work, child labour and hazardous forms of child labour. The report of finding did not include district statistics, which was an obstacle for undertaking rigorous advocacy for district action as part of the district’s development work.

With no external or even adequate national funding to support a national approach to reducing child labour, the Ministry of Labour and Labour Relations decided to focus on one district with a large volume of child labourers to pilot the ILO-recommended mainstreaming strategy. A national consultant was contracted to plan and execute the approach (and eventually advise the district players). She had to first familiarize herself with the mainstreaming strategy and map out the needs for the child labour response.

To first find the district and then convince its administrative officials to agree to pilot the strategy – and even put up their own funds, the ILO contracted a statistician to take existing provincial data and break it down by districts. Several districts emerged as having a high incidence of child labour, among them Ratnapura (particularly in its tea and rubber estates). Moreover, Ratnapura also had a recent history of a successful relationship with the labour ministry and the ILO over a youth employment programme (thus dynamic rapport was in place). The data indicated there were 4,000 child labourers and that 15 per cent of the population was vulnerable to child labour exploitation – a manageable problem with tremendous positive impact. Once the development and social protection implications were highlighted, the District Secretary agreed to pioneer the strategy, with funds from the national budget earmarked for child protection responses.

Once there was agreement to pilot the ILO mainstreaming strategy, the first step, of course, involved orienting all district administrative officials (planning officers and district administrators and committee members) and social partners to the many facets of the child labour problem, the recourse and the urgent need for it, the legal basis and what that mainstreaming strategy meant in operational terms.

Next, the District Secretary asked officials within each sector department to draft an action plan that integrated activities for reducing all forms of child labour, not just the worst forms as per the national Roadmap. What he quickly realized, however, was the duplication of efforts and the double, even triple (or more) targeting of the same types of children in need. The result was too many plans and it did not seem efficient. Further integration was needed. He then asked the sector representatives to work together to create one district plan for children that mainstreamed and harmonized their activities. At the same time, he reached out to the ILO asking for technical assistance in strengthening the Child Development Plan.

The consultant then worked with the district secretary and the many sector representatives, including civil society organizations, to go through the district’s Child Development Plan line by line and integrate the various activities for reducing child labour from the child labour-reduction plan into the existing structures and strategies for child protection. The development plan was altered and oriented around 15 “standards” rather than outputs, all pointing towards strengthened child protection efforts. Each standard was coupled with strategies and activities for achieving it. For monitoring and evaluation purposes, indicators were included under each outcome and a common monitoring and evaluation matrix was designed.

To promote advocacy from children to children, the Ratnapura project worked with the Girl Guides to strengthen messages among children. Girl Guides had a competition among members to create the child labour logo. Work towards reducing child labour was included under child protection badge work (research statistics, nature and type and write a report for their troupe, do exhibitions, talk to decision makers, etc.). Also, one of the pillars of the Girl Guides General Assembly was child labour elimination. The Ratnapura district administrators asked employers to sign a pledge not to employ child labour.

With the ILO technical help, the Planning Unit of the District Secretariat is building a database and a blueprint outlining who will do what, how to obtain the data, where to store it, synthesize it and the information systems at different levels. Unit staff are reaching out to communities to ask them what they consider are vulnerabilities in order to construct a comprehensive set of indicators to identify vulnerable children.

Lessons learned:

The greatest benefit of whole exercise is that all types of child abuse and aspects of child protection can piggy-back on the process towards reducing child labour.

Expertise required for obtaining competent data: It is not always easy to find child labourers, especially by enumerators who have not been trained on the issue. Special expertise is necessary for digging deep. In Ratnapura, the District Child Development and Women’s Affairs staff conducted a survey on vulnerable children (which included the questions on the child labour situation); because they were not trained enumerators, they could not pull out much information. To dig deep on the whereabouts of child labourers and other abused children, one needs to be extremely strategic and child sensitive and use creative ways to discover those who are hidden.

Internalizing the mainstreaming practice does not come easily. It takes much training and retraining and review to get the basic tenets internalized (What is the nature of enterprise that may use child labour? How does one target social protection in a systemic way? How does one rescue child labourers in a systemic way and rehabilitate them in an effective way?). Working collaboratively across departments and functions can be a challenge and there has to be institutional and structural support, including capacities and skills needed for such work to be effective and routine. Governance issues and inefficiencies can create bottlenecks to systemic changes. The risk they pose to change needs to be assessed and addressed in good time.

Collecting competent data to support indicators is hard. A monitoring and evaluation matrix is necessary to provide the clarity needed on knowing the why, the where, the who and the how and it has to be regularly applied. This requires much hand-holding, especially with divisional administrators who are not accustomed to this type of practice.

Customized strategies. While the principles and substance of some strategies for mainstreaming, such as awareness raising and capacity development, are general and apply across sectors with minor adjustments, others are more specific to a sector and context. Additionally, some details may need to vary from sector to sector or context to context – even for the common strategies. Within a harmonized or mainstreamed plan, specific strategies for a sector, a context or a type of vulnerable child (street child, physically challenged, etc.) will remain critical yet in support of the unified vision.

Value-added dimension. Mainstreaming is most effective when the issue is internalized in organizational values and culture so it is seen as value added to the mandate, work and achievements of each agency or organization and not merely an add-on.

Recognition that child labour is child abuse: In an overworked environment with many agendas and clients to serve, putting child labour on the agenda and giving it serious treatment has not been easy, even with the national Roadmap and commitment leading the way. Many officials and officers did not recognize child labour as abuse. This was largely overcome through the training and steadfast advocacy, with examples of the insidiousness and the negative impacts and using case studies from labour ministry’s investigations of complaints.

Resource problem: When no donor funding became available to implement the national Roadmap, the Ministry of Labour and Labour Relations and ILO decided to start with one district and encourage them to use its existing budget to cover a heavily revised Child Development Plan. These resources, however, will not be adequate to provide the level of support needed within the next five years to take the strategy district-wide and to other districts. There are also specific services that children and their families will need to sustain the impact beyond the initial intervention of mainstreaming. Among these are special tuitions and psychosocial support to keep these children in school; support for training and employment links for those at the legal working age, which can be expensive income-enhancement measures for families; support to employers for work improvement programmes; support and training for more rigorous enforcement.

Keeping the interest alive: It is necessary to remind all players involved that eliminating child labour and reducing child abuse is not a needle-in-the-haystack exercise – that it is doable and that a steady stream of good ideas as well as sustained pressure and continuous monitoring are needed. Such motivation and support to keep everyone focused on the goal is important particularly at times when bureaucratic processes can become frustrating.

Next Steps: The Sri Lanka Roadmap for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 is treated as an integral part of the Government's National Development Strategy, which gives it more of a “mandate”. The lead by the Ministry of Labour and the National Steering Committee on Child Labour and with their robust action on the integration of child labour into existing and already-funded development programmes could leverage a large part of the resources with agency budgets to successfully reach the 2016 target. This will enable child labour issues and concerns to be identified and addressed together with the other development issues (poverty reduction, education, social welfare, decent work, youth employment, public service media) through various processes. This integrated approach will assure sustainable action and impact.

Continued ILO support will assist with reaching some of the hard-to-reach children and families and assist with setting up strategies and services that will help children cross the bridge into the formal systems. ILO support helps to make concrete, through the pilot interventions, links to the decent work issues and programme, for sustainable impact and for ensuring that child labour prevention and elimination are part of the employment cycle because child labour seldom leads to a skilled workforce or decent adult work.

61) Provincial law-making takes tough stance on hazardous child labour

Period of implementation: Since 2012

Where: Pakistan

Main focus: National legislation on child labour

Lead organization: Provincial Child Labour Unit–Punjab, Labour and Human Resource Department

Government of the Punjab Website:

Results: Draft of the law that is pending passage in the Provincial Assembly, before it is published as an act and takes effect; the drafting process for the child labour law influenced the provincial authorities to look at reforming other labour protection and welfare laws.

Context and objective: In 2011, the Pakistan Government adopted the 18th Amendment to the country’s Constitution, delegating the enactment and enforcement of labour laws to the provincial level. In addition to the freedom to enact new legislation, the new conditions require that each provincial government adopt the federal labour laws it chose to keep and revise or replace those it did not want. This ushered in a golden opportunity to amend the Employment of Children Act, 1991, in compliance with ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment and Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The Employment of Children’s Act lacked sufficient penal provisions to adequately regulate. It did not prohibit the employment of children younger than 14 except in a few occupations. It allowed children older than 14 to work in hazardous jobs. There were issues with hours of work minimum age. Furthermore it did not provide a clear definition of hazardous child labour. Among other reforms taking place at the same time, the federal Government also amended the Constitution to make education compulsory up to age 16, beholding the State to cover tuition.
Methodology: Once the provincial governments had the mandate to establish protection through labour law, the ILO kick-started the momentum on reforming the child labour law with a consultation for representatives of each provincial government and employers’ and workers’ organizations in February 2012 (under the second phase of the Combatting Abusive Child Labour Project, with funding from the European Union). Each province then moved forward, but at a different pace (and is at different stages currently); in Punjab:

  • The Provincial Child Labour Unit–Punjab engaged a national consultant familiar with the issues to draft a law.

  • Next, it organized one consultation dedicated to child labour law and then integrated discussion on it within several other consultations regarding children’s issues to debate the draft versions.

  • Debates took place within departments on the specific limits and definitions and the sphere of enforcement; few items were “difficult”, perhaps with the exception of child domestic work, which is still being debated in terms of enforcement issues.

  • The draft has been cleared first by the labour department, followed by the legal department and is awaiting resumption of the Provincial Assembly for passage in the coming months. With the political will rather strong towards educating children and protecting them from abusive employment, the law is not expected to encounter any hurdle.

To facilitate prospects for implementation of the law, consultants have been engaged in all the four provinces to draft the rules for the proposed law and to redraft each provincial list of hazardous occupations (with assistance from the CACL-II Project).

Lessons learned:

The biggest lesson in this process has been the importance of interprovincial coordination – by bringing representatives together from all the provinces broadened the depth of experiences and ideas to consider when shaping the draft; ultimately it made for a better draft law. For example, when some of the inspectors and directors from the other three provinces talked of their own experiences on enforcement, they pointed out a weakness in having no minimum bar on fines (in the federal law), which resulted in the punishment clause not taken seriously. This insight prompted the inclusion of both a minimum and maximum bar on fines and imprisonment.

Interprovincial coordination also enabled consistency in laws across the provinces.

The people affected by the law must be included in the consultation process, especially for a law that involves penalties. Otherwise, those impacted might agitate against it. In Pakistan, employers and workers were included in the process and invited to contribute their concerns.


With a crowded development agenda, the biggest challenge was starting the debate. The ILO became the catalyst with the opening interprovincial and tripartite consultation that was then followed up by each government organizing discussions within their jurisdiction.

Next Steps: Enforcement will be the primary issue for sustaining the strength of the law. Because it is a provincial law, the province is much more invested and is more likely to more agressively enforce the law and organize concurrent campaigns to supporting it. Additionally, because it was “homespun” in conjunction with education and other departments, they are also invested in following through.

The new Constitutional amendment on compulsory education up to age 16 will help enforce the law law provisions. If that campaign succeeds, it will address child labour. Parallel action by the education, skills training and health departments are needed.

62) Codes of conduct: Employers bringing order to child labour elimination in informal sector

Period of implementation: 2010 – 2012

Where: Pakistan

Main focus: Private sector engagement

Lead organization: Employers’ Federation of Pakistan website:

Results: 15 employers’ associations at the district level in Punjab and Sindh provinces in nine sectors committed to end the use of child labour in the informal sector; the associations signed a code of conducted, which they developed, the compliance of which the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan, the district government and the Provincial Child Labour Units are monitoring; a worker now may report a case or the public can make a complaint. The codes of conduct give the district government a mechanism to use to hold employers accountable. Media publicizing of the codes helped bring in the general public as a monitor; the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan prints and distributes the codes of conduct to employers in other districts, aiming for distribution in all 104 districts of the country. Other district governments and employers’ associations are now using them.

Context and objective: Children working in Pakistan’s informal sectors, including agriculture, are typically treated harshly, often subjected to hazardous work and made to toil in poor to appalling conditions while deprived of education and training opportunities. It is a common way, and in many respects, an accepted way of life. In a country like Pakistan, in which a large portion of employers in the informal sectors have low literacy, there is likely little awareness of the laws to protect children. In such an environment as well, many employers believe their employment of children is a form of protection – that it keeps them from starving and that they are actually helping them. It was this way of thinking as well as the situation for working children that the ILO Combating Abusive Child Labour (CACL-II) Project (with funding from the European Union from 2008 to 2013) targeted a district in Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh Provinces. As just one strand in the braid of interventions to tackle the problem (ranging from establishing Provincial Child Labour Units to non-formal education centres to district-level rapid assessments), the project set out to work with employers’ groups and change employers’ mindsets.
Methodology: Working in Sahiwal District of Punjab Province and Sukkur District of Sindh Province, the CACL-II Project relied on the insight provided through recently conducted rapid assessments in those districts to point to the informal sectors where child labour was prominent, such as motor repair workshops, brick kilns and even farms.

  • The project staff and Federation representatives arranged cluster-level orientation meetings with the informal sector employers. These were casual encounters with around 30–50 members at a time, in their respective business hubs

  • “Key employers” were identified for their ability to influence other employers after attending the training workshops that were organized next.

  • A representative of the association was asked to sign a memorandum of understanding stating the employers would comply with ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182 and not employ any child younger than 14 in any work and younger than 18 in hazardous work. It was considered the first stepping stone to collaboration. Nine MOUs were signed between a particular association and the Federation, with a representative of the district government and the ILO signing as witnesses (and thus serving as a kind of process and accountability observer).

  • The key employers whose associations signed the MOU were then included in a series of half-day formal workshops, again scheduled in the evenings over dinner (5–10 p.m.), for the concentrated technical talk on the labour laws, the ILO Conventions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and how to improve their workplace occupational safety and health (OSH) conditions, particular hazards, psychological stresses and the long-term impact on children for their health and well-being. The workshops involved 40–50 key employers at a time. District government officers also attended.

  • A total of 30 employers, including a cotton-farming village, offered to turn their workplace into a model workplace, to demonstrate to other employers how to comply with the laws and how to better treat children (the process is ongoing, with only 15 completed so far). The workshop employers were provided with a user-friendly brochure that they could distribute to other employers.

  • Each employer covered the expenses for renovating his workplace. OSH specialists from the Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (CIWCE) inspected the 30 workplaces and suggested the necessary infrastructural improvements, such as fixing the electrical wiring or drainage, adding ventilation or windows and more lighting, cleaning or whitewashing the walls. The workers were provided with protective gear and safety equipment, and diagrammatically explaining posters were pasted on the walls for quick reference. In the model cotton-farming village, the entire community, including women and children, were oriented to use safe farming methods in their regular farming activities. During the post-intervention training, various participatory rapid appraisal techniques, including role play, were used to educate the illiterate farming communities on specific technical aspects, such as dealing with fertilizer, pesticides and modern protective ware.

  • The final workshop focused on developing a code of conduct for each of the nine sectors singled out due to the preponderance of child labour. During the workshops, it was detailed the content while the group commented and provided their inputs for amendments. Nine consultations were conducted with the employers’ representatives from each cluster to finalize the draft and adapt it to their sector. The final codes were then signed by the respective employers’ association along with the EFP, with the district government authorities and the ILO representatives as witnesses

  • Each code contains basic facts and terminology, a brief explanation of each relevant law and definitions of child labour in Pakistan and then a description of the hazards for children and young workers in that particular sector.

  • A matrix then neatly lists a description of each task typically carried out at the worksite in a particular sector, the main hazards involved and guidelines for the employment of children and young workers relative to that task.

  • The code ends with an action checklist to asses if a workplace is in compliance with the legal requirements and if it is youth friendly. Employers are encouraged to allow the young workers to complete the checklist.

  • Individual compliance is checked by each association. The Employers’ Federation of Pakistan monitors that compliance. The district government is aware of the commitments and acts as a monitor as well. If an individual employer violates the code, each association has its own system of penalizing.

Lessons learned: It is very difficult to mobilize informal sector employers in a country with a literacy rate that is less than 50 per cent. Most informal sector employers have no awareness of labour laws and international commitments. Mobilizing them requires resources – time and money.

Most, if not all, informal sector employers need to work every day. To reach them with a project or training requires flexibility and willingness to conduct activities when it is most convenient for them, which may be in the evenings.

Relying on influential and literate employers helps reach other employers in a more efficient and expedient manner.

A responsive public is critical because it is individuals who will ignite a flame by reporting violations. If there is a responsive public, systems will be created and used. There are a variety of systems existing but they lack a responsive public and, thus, essentially gather dust.

Challenges: The initial plan for the codes of conduct included a penalizing system within the association. The associations, however, were reluctant to agree to this approach. A shift was made and each association could decide how to handle violations. Some chose to rely on a warning system and then remove an employer’s membership after three violations. Some opted for a cash punishment, which would be used towards the association’s welfare activities.

The general public and informal sector employers were largely unfamiliar with the country’s labour laws. It was challenging to make them aware of their legal obligations. Targeting key employers who would then reach out to other employers and the general public and arranging casual get-togethers initially in the evenings (around employers’ schedules) helped overcome this challenge and brought the employers closer to the project and changed attitudes.

Next Steps: Success depends on the commitment of the local employers’ associations and their understanding of corporate social responsibility principles. During the preparation of the codes of conduct, it made a difference involving all the partners, mainly the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan and the district government authorities. They are now aware of the commitments each association has made and have become the backbone of a social watchdog system. As well, the public has to be informed through involvement of the media. When communities are aware of commitments to change, they will exert pressure on the compliance and thus they join that social watchdog system.

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