Implicit in article 32 is the belief that boys and girls need to be protected only from work that is harmful, and that this harmful work has a number of components, including harm to health, development and education. Distinguishing between different forms of work requires the full participation of working girls and boys. To understand what helps or harms working girls and boys we need to listen to their experiences and their views.
We avoid the term ’child labour’
The term ’child labour’ means different things to different people. It is often associated with child abuse. Save the Children has found that thinking about the work of children in terms of ’child labour’ often creates more confusion than clarity. For this reason we avoid the term ’child labour’ and use the term ’child work’.
This is also the term used in the UNCRC which states that children must be protected from economic exploitation and work that can be harmful to them. The Convention does not define ’economic exploitation’ however. It can be noted that the Convention places emphasis on preventing harm in work rather than work as such.
Paid or unpaid, part time or full-time
In its definition of children’s work, Save the Children includes time spent on home-maintenance chores, as well as on income generating activities inside or outside the home. Thus, the unpaid agricultural work of many girls and boys on family-run farms, and the domestic tasks done by many children in their own homes, are included in this definition. Work can be full or part-time.
Save the Children’s definition of work does not exclude criminal or illicit work activities. While some believe that describing activities such as the commercial sexual exploitation of children as work can be seen to legitimise these activities, Save the Children believes that including these activities in our definition of work has two main advantages. Firstly, defining some work activities of children as ‘crimes’ can lead to the exploited and abused children being treated like criminals, rather than holding the exploiters and abusers of children responsible. Secondly, while we recognise the exploitative nature of these activities, the causes and some of the effects that they have are similar to other forms of work.
How children define work
Consultations with girls and boys around the world have revealed that work means many things. For some working children, unpaid activities are not considered work, for others it is important to include these activities to ensure that the housework of girls is recognised. Some working children argue that work is something that is ‘dignified’ and contributes to their own or their family’s survival. Others see work as harmful or exploitative.
Source: Save the Children Position Paper on Working Children