Since many of the objects we consume are produced by countries outside the EU, how can we know and guarantee that they are not produced by children?

78. Sinclair ZX Spectrum, personal home computer, Grundig. 1965-1997. Teófilo Rego Archive, Casa da Imagem – Manuel Leão Foundation, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.


Children grow into working adults. Does playing with colleagues still have benefits for the worker and the work they do?

79. Playroom, Refinaria Angola RAR and Imperial chocolates. 1973-1997. Teófilo Rego Archive, Casa da Imagem – Manuel Leão Foundation, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes that every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

Children have, therefore, not only the right to education but also a right to recreation, to play and participate in the cultural and artistic life of their communities. Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly prohibits the worst forms of child labour, the right to play is a reinforcement of the protection sphere that children shall be guaranteed.

The understanding that children shall be protected from hardship and not be forced to work is a relatively recent reality in some countries of the world (until the 1980s it was common that children were engaged in agricultural work to support their families as well as in some domestic/family industries, for example sewing shoes in southern Europe). Child labour still persists in others countries too, namely in specific industry sectors (handmade sewing, placing of tiny electronic components or other pieces, among others) highlighting the importance of protection frameworks as those that can be found through international law, regional instruments (as those found in the EU) and the national constitutions and criminal legislation of the different countries.

Child labour has, indeed, a strong connection with the industry sector and its historical evolution – from the Industrial Revolution to today. Some of the reasons why children were part of the labour force in the 19th century remain the same: children could (can) be paid less, and their physical characteristics would prove ideal to the performance of specific scrupulous tasks. Children’s right to play, their health and development were (and are) jeopardised by the negative impacts of child labour.

The EU has been putting a lot of emphasis and efforts on promoting respect for the rights of the child and fighting child labour through its external policies (i.e. banning imports of goods which result from child labour), namely by including human rights obligations (including the protection of the rights of children) in its trade and cooperation agreements, under ILO instruments – including those relevant to child labour.