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Using children for slavery and forced labour; subjecting them to child trafficking and forced recruitment for armed conflicts; using children in prostitution and pornography or in illicit activities like drug trafficking; or simply making them do work that harms their health, safety or morals, is to expose them to the worst forms of child labour.

Invisible indigenous children
Until recently, child labour among indigenous peoples received little attention from governments and international institutions as well as from indigenous peoples themselves. It therefore largely remains an invisible issue and no comprehensive data exist on the magnitude of the problem or on the conditions and types of work in which indigenous children are engaged.

However, recent studies have shown that indigenous children are at particular risk for ending up in the worst forms of child labour. In Asia, children are caught in debt-bondage, and they are victims of trafficking and prostitution, while indigenous children in Latin America are found doing agricultural wage labour on plantations. The reason indigenous children are at special risk is the fact that they often belong to the poorest, least educated and most marginalised groups.

The ILO fighting against child labour
Based on ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age, the ILO has initiated the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). The priority target groups of IPEC include bonded labourers, trafficked children and children in hazardous working conditions and occupations. Indigenous children are often found in all these groups.

Although efforts to eliminate child labour in general have increased, indigenous children are not benefiting on an equitable basis. Combating child labour among indigenous children requires specific approaches, based on the special needs and rights of these peoples. For as long as indigenous peoples are found among the world’s poorest, as long as their land is taken and their traditional livelihoods destroyed, indigenous families have to rely on the work of their children to survive. Action against child labour must therefore be based on indigenous peoples’ rights, and - furthermore, solutions must be found in close co-operation with the communities concerned, thus acknowledging their right to define their own development path and priorities.


(Based on Conventions Nos. 138 & 182)


(Based on Conventions Nos. 138 & 182)

 All forms of slavery, or practices similar to slavery, (e.g. bonded labour, sale and

trafficking of children) and forced recruitment for use in armed conflict.

 The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution.

 The use of children for illicit activities (e.g. trafficking of drugs).

 Work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of a child.

 Work that prejudices a child’s education and training.

 Light work that is not harmful to the child’s

health and development.

 Light work that does not prejudice the child’s

attendance at school, or in vocational and training programmes.

 Work within family and small-scale holdings producing for local consumption (non-commercial).

 Work done in schools for general, vocational or technical education.

Read more:

Guidelines for Combating Child Labour among indigenous and tribal peoples