Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 44/25 on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990. It is a comprehensive international legal instrument with the objective to protect the basic civil, political, economic, social, and humanitarian rights of the children. To date, the CRC remains the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.
Children are among the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society and this is evident from their lack of public voice. Their vulnerabilities are further exposed when encountered with businesses, although their employment and its effects are often invisible. Typical examples include children working illicitly in the supply chain, children on or around company premises, children employed as domestic workers in employee housing, and the children of migrant workers.
In terms of the interface between business and children, the following Article of the CRC specifically addresses the issue of child labour.
Article 32 of the Convention focuses on the rights of the child against child labour as it hampers the overall development of the child. Children are more vulnerable to poor living conditions such as poverty, inadequate health care, nutrition, safe water, housing, and environmental pollution. Sub-clause (1) of this Article prohibits economic exploitation of children. In other words, the development of children will not be excused in lieu of money and that the physical, mental and social wellbeing of a child remains the highest priority. The Article also prohibits the employment of children in hazardous occupations or work, which prevents the child from receiving education or activities that may hamper overall development and growth of the child. Sub-clause (2) obliges States to take appropriate measures to implement this Article at domestic level, including affixing minimum age for work, and laws regulating the working conditions such as time and conditions for work.
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
2. States Parties shall take legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to ensure the implementation of the present article. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, States Parties shall in particular:
(a) Provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admission to employment;
(b) Provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment;
(c) Provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present article.
The complete text of the CRC, its Articles and the Optional Protocols can be accessed here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx