Childhood

DSC08599_MayasariGlobally comparable available information on children’s outcomes is improving but remains sparse in many areas. Even rarer and less systematic is information on what is being done to meet children’s needs. There has been next to no readily comparable information on what laws, policies, and programs countries have in place to address areas vital to children’s healthy development, from access to quality education and protection from child labor and early marriage to access to resources to meet basic family needs. In the absence of readily comparable information on countries, our ability to support national progress has been limited.

Through systematic analyses of rights, laws, and policies worldwide, the WORLD Policy Analysis Center provides data that can create a global picture of where the world stands on steps critical to children’s life chances.

Topics covered include:

Education

 Protection from Labor

  • Prohibitions of night work or overtime work*

 Protection from Marriage

 Constitutional Rights

 Access to Care

*Note: Data for starred sub-topics is forthcoming.

Education

Children’s right to education has been recognized at an international level for decades in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 (accepted by all 193 UN member states), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1966 (ratified by 160 countries) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989 (ratified by all but three UN member states).

For example, Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that, “States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all; (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need; (c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means; (d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children; (e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.”

The right to education free from discrimination has also been recognized in documents such as the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2006).

Child Labor

There are a number of international conventions which contain agreements regarding child labor, including the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989); the ILO Minimum Age Convention, C-138 (1973); the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, C-182 (1999); and the UN Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976).

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), ratified by all but three UN countries, clearly articulates boys’ and girls’ right to be free from working long hours during childhood. Article 32 of the convention affirms that “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.”

The evidence clearly supports the need to control child labor by preventing full-time work, work that conflicts with school, and hazardous work.

Child Marriage

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provides for the prohibition of child marriage in Article 16(2), stating that, “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.” The article is designed to protect all children and youth up to 18 years old from the extensively documented adverse effects on health, education, and autonomy of early marriage.

Constitutional Rights

The importance of equal rights and opportunities for all children has achieved nearly universal international consensus – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989), a powerful statement of these rights, has been ratified by 190 UN member states. Article 2 of the Convention requires that “States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.” Countries have agreed on the fundamental importance of equal rights for children and adults alike through numerous conventions, including: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979); the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981); the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992); and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).

Access to Care

In light of considerable evidence indicating the importance of mothers’ and fathers’ roles in meeting the developmental, health, and educational needs of infants and children, our data provides a much needed look at labor policies that affect parents. We investigated policies that determine the extent to which parents are available to their children to support them in their infancy, particularly via maternity/paternity leave and breastfeeding policies, as well as to provide for the health and educational needs of their children via parental leave provisions, wage replacement for leave, and wage premiums for night work. Such policies are internationally recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989), which states in Article 3 that “(ii) State parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures,” and in Article 18 that “(ii) For the purposes of guaranteeing and promoting the rights set forth in the present Convention, State Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities, and services for the care of children.”

Article 3 of the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention (WFRC) (1981) also states that “With a view to creating effective equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women workers, each Member shall make it an aim of national policy to enable persons with family responsibilities who are engaged or wish to engage in employment to exercise their right to do so without being subject to discrimination and, to the extent possible, without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities.” Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948) states “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Finally, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979) provides in Article 11 “1. (e) The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave,” and that State Parties shall take appropriate measures “2. (a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the ground of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status; (b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances; and (c) To encourage provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities,” among other protections.