Treaties Committee reports on the minimum age convention

THE Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has recommended the Australian Government ratifies the International Labour Organization Convention No. 138: Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (the Convention).

Committee Chair, Josh Wilson MP said, “The purpose of the convention is to effectively abolish child labour by ensuring that the right of children to attend school will be protected; that types of economic activity that may be undertaken by children will be regulated; and that children’s health, safety and morals will be protected."

The convention contains three key obligations: a requirement to specify the age of completion of compulsory schooling as the minimum age for admission to employment or work (in any case not less than 15 years); a requirement to establish 18 years as the minimum age for hazardous work (or 16 years if certain protections are in place); and a requirement to specify the conditions where children no younger than 13 years may undertake light work.

The flexible framework provided by the convention means members with varied legal systems can ensure their compliance with its obligations. While there is not a single prohibition against child labour in Australia, the committee agreed that in effect it is prevented through the combination of education, employment, and workplace health and safety legislation.

Children across jurisdictions in Australia will continue to be permitted to undertake light work where the available evidence suggests such work is undertaken in beneficial circumstances without impact on their health and wellbeing.

“Ratification would add to Australia’s existing strong framework for the education and safe employment of young people," Mr Wilson said.

“One way it would achieve this is through reporting requirements to the International Labour Organization (ILO). One year after the convention enters into force, Australia would submit a report on its compliance. Every three years, Australia would then report to an ILO committee of experts for an impartial and technical evaluation. In essence, we would be held to the commitments we have signed up to.

“By becoming party to this convention, we would join a large part of the international community. Importantly, it would lend credibility to Australia in promoting strong measures to eliminate child labour in the Asia-Pacific," Mr Wilson said.

The committee expressed that it looked forward to receiving a copy of Australia’s first report on compliance with the convention.

The report can be found on the Committee website, along with further information on the inquiry.



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