Today, many countries around the world celebrate Labour Day, in recognition of the contributions and achievements of the working class. The working class has come a long way since the start of the industrial revolution of the mid-18 Century.
For instance, at first children were subjected to harmful work. Now, national laws and international treaties have been put in place to protect children from work which interferes with their growth. One such treaty is Convention n° 138 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) concerning the minimum age for admission to employment of June 26, 1973. It was approved by the Government of Rwanda in 1980.
Article 1 of the Convention says that each country in which the convention is put in place ought to take actions to gradually raise the minimum age of admission to employment. Work done by a child must be aligned with his/her level of development and physical capability.
If the nature of a job is likely to interfere with the health, safety or morals of young persons, article 3 of the abovementioned convention says that the minimum age of admission employment must be set at 18 years.
Children from ages 13 to 15 may be employed for light work. However, article 7 of Convention n° 138 of ILO concerning the minimum age for admission to employment says that such work must not be harmful to health or development. It must also not interfere with school attendance or any legally mandated or approved training programme.
N° 66/2018 of 30/08/2018 law regulating labour in Rwanda is aligned with the ILO convention on the minimum age for admission to employment. Article 5 of the law regulating labour in Rwanda sets the minimum age of admission to employment at 16 years. From ages 13 to 15, a child is only allowed to do light work related to apprenticeship.
Article 6 of the law regulating labour in Rwanda spells out the forms of work which are prohibited for children. These include; physically harmful work; underground work; underwater work and work done at dangerous heights or in cramped spaces. A child below the age of 18 is also not to be subjected to working with heavy machinery or the kind which involves heavy loads. It is also illegal to employ a child to work in harmful temperatures, noise levels or vibrations. A child is also not to work for long hours or at night.
Other prohibited forms of labour for children are stated in Convention of the International Labour Organization n° 182 of 17 June 1999 on Prohibition and Immediate Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour which was approved in Rwanda by Presidential Order n° 39 bis/01 of September 30 1999.
Article 3 of the Convention on Prohibition and Immediate Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour defines the worst forms of labour as below;
(a) All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
(b) The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances.
(c) The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties.
(d) Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
Punishment for exposure of children to harmful work is high, going up to life imprisonment.