Definition of child labour?

10) How does ProNATs define and evaluate "child labour"?

We distance ourselves from the prevailing view that the work of children below an arbitrary age is harmful per se. Whether work benefits or harms children depends rather on the individual conditions under which children work. These can range from exploitative and degrading to supportive and self-determined. We focus on all activities of children which are important for securing their lives and satisfying their needs.

The term "child labour" is a judgmental and emotionally charged social construction which makes it difficult to deal with the issue appropriately. Since its emergence in the era of early European capitalism, it has been used to pursue certain political and ideological intentions and to convey assumptions about children and their relationship to work. Today, "child labour" is almost exclusively perceived in negative ("harmful") terms. The associations it triggers do not allow the various possible meanings and aspects of "child labour" to come into play.

We therefore prefer to speak of the "work of children", look at it in a differentiated way according to type and conditions and take the self-perception and judgements of working children in their respective life situations seriously. We trust children to define for themselves whether they are encouraged, harmed or exploited by work. They are capable of this. The question is rather whether adults listen to them, give them the necessary space to express themselves and whether they respond to their demands.

We also agree with the children's movements when they describe areas such as forced labour, prostitution or enslavement in factories or quarries as "criminal activities" and by no means as "work". These would then be easy to combat with laws that primarily have nothing to do with "child labour".

Updated: 14.12.2020