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ILO debates child labour, maternity protection

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3 June, 1999Debate will take place on revision of two ILO Conventions.

GENEVA: The ILO's 87th International Labour Conference got underway on June 1 and will continue until June 17. There will be debate on revision of the Convention on maternity protection, and it is expected that delegates will adopt the text of a new Convention designed to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. This would cover such practices as child slavery, the use of children in activities which are physically and emotionally damaging to their well-being, forced labour, debt bondage, serfdom, trafficking, prostitution and pornography. According to ILO estimates, about 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in developing countries alone. Some 120 million, or about half, work full time, and as many as 68% are engaged in hazardous work. The new ILO Director-General, Juan Somavia, stated that "the capacity to eradicate the worst forms of child labour is a moral test facing all societies." In his first report to the Conference, he wrote that "the primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity."