Child Labour

“Child Labour” is specified as work that deprives children of their childhood, their capability and their dignity which is detrimental to physical and mental progress. So, if a child is engaged in an activity that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and interferes with her/his education, Child Labour is occurring.

Working children are officially defined based on two factors in various states:

1) The type of work

2) The minimum age for such work. The appropriate age for any job is determined based on the potential impacts and effects of that work on the child’s health and development. Accordingly, the Minimum Age Convention (C138) adopted in 1973, was developed to regulate Child Labour by setting a minimum age for admission to employment. If a child is under this age and engaged in such occupation, that child could be considered as working child. These ages are set out as follows:

  • 18 years: For dangerous work which is defined as any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons;
  • 13-15 years: For light work which is defined as:

(a) not likely to be harmful to their health or development; and

(b) not such as to prejudice their attendance at school, their participation in vocational orientation or training programs approved by the competent authority or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received.)

  • 12 to 14 years: This range of age may be acceptable under certain conditions in developing countries.

In Iran jurisdiction, according to Article 79 of the Labour Code ratified on 20.11.1990, it is forbidden to employ children under the age of 15.

In addition, the Code has provided special terms and conditions for the employment of children between the age of 15-18 years old as adolescent workers in Articles 79-84.

For instance:

  • Mandatory medical tests at the beginning of employment by the Social Security Organization which must be repeated at least once a year;
  • A doctor’s confirmation of the appropriateness of the type of work with the worker’s ability i.e. the work is medically suitable for the worker;
  • The employer’s obligation to change worker’s job in case of being disproportionate to his/her ability based on doctor’s diagnosis;
  • Less working hours compared to adults (30 minutes less);
  • Prohibition of referring any additional work or hard, harmful and dangerous work, working at night, carrying heavy things by hand and without mechanical tools.

Furthermore, according to the Labour Code, the employer’s breach of above- mentioned terms will result in his or her being sentenced to pay a fine and in case of repetition, this fine would be increased or imprisonment for 91 to 180 days would apply in accordance with Articles 175 and 176.

In international aspect, considering the importance of creating the necessary platform for children to have full physical and mental development and with the aim of increasing the minimum age for entering into employment as an effective measure in the gradual abolition of Child Labour, Parliament of Islamic Republic of Iran also with the proposal of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour, and Social Welfare by adoption of a single article on 30.12.2020 has acceded to the Minimum Age Convention.

To fulfil the international human rights obligations of states, 187 states have acceded to the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (C182) in 1999 which is considered to be the first historical step to provide maximum support for children’s work.

By ratification the above-mentioned Convention, states undertake to refrain from the worst forms of Child Labour such as slavery, sexual exploitation, and harassment, employing children in armed conflicts, and other illegal activities according to the definitions set out in the Convention.

It is noteworthy that the 2020 Global Estimates of Child Labour issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that in the world, 160 million children are engaged in child labour which means almost 1 out of 10 of all children worldwide.

According to the above-mentioned ILO’s study, most of working children are working in the sectors of agriculture, industry and factories, domestic work and street vending while these are the examples of the most common form of Child Labour from the past till now.

Furthermore, it should be noted that Iran has also taken an important measure for the purpose of preventing child victimization and reducing harm and offense to children at risk by ratifying the Code on Protection of Children and Adolescents in 2020. The relevant Code protects all persons under the age of 18 while in several articles has specifically targeted the issue of Child Labour and its prevention. People who commit financial abuse from children and adolescents, in addition to the punishments prescribed in the Labour Code as set out above, they will be subject to imprisonment for more than 6 months to 2 years.

Hope more serious and effective steps will be taken in this respect in the near future to come.

Submitted by: Dr. Mahnaz Mehrinfar and Ms. Mina Kheirkhah