Reassessing Minimum Age Standards for Children's Work

This article calls for re-thinking the ‘‘minimum-age’’ approach to problems of child labour, exemplified in the ILO Convention Concerning Minimum-Age for Admission to Employment (No. 138 of 1973), known as the Minimum-Age Convention, and similar national regulations in many countries. The purpose of this paper is to call for re-thinking of the universal minimum-age approach to problems of child labour. Design/methodology/approach – The authors point out that there has been no serious policy analysis on universal minimum-age approaches, and question common assumptions concerning such policies by reviewing available knowledge on the impact of work on children. Findings – Available research does not support a presumption that blanket minimum-age laws are beneficial. In some cases, it is clear that they are injurious to children, underlining the need for systematic policy analysis. Practical implications – The promotion of universalized minimum-age policies should cease until their effect on children has been reliably assessed. In the meantime, more energy and investment should be devoted to alternative, proven ways of combating forms and conditions of work that are genuinely likely to cause harm, and to promoting access to education. Originality/value – This paper contributes towards introducing more appropriate policy on children’s work. Keywords Children (age groups), Labour, Labour law, Education, Human rights Paper type Viewpoint

B. White and W. Myers
International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy