Child Labor, International Law, and Multinational Enterprises

  • Gurchathen SangheraEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the International Human Rights book series (IHR)


This chapter explores the complex relationship between international law on child labor, child labor practices, and multinational enterprises. In particular, it examines the gap between the theory of international human rights and labor law on protecting child laborers and the realities of child labor and raises questions on whether key drivers of neoliberal globalization, such as multinational enterprises, ought to observe international labor and human rights law, including children’s rights. Informed by a social constructionist perspective of human rights and power, the case is made that the realities of child labor in countries such as India, along with neoliberal globalization, make it too complex for international children’s rights and labor law to address adequately.

This chapter begins with a discussion of the complexities of child labor. It then examines the key child labor instruments of the International Labour Organization’s Conventions No. 138 (Minimum Age 1973) and No.182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour 1999) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Article 32. Finally, the chapter explores the relationship between multinational enterprises, which at times use child labor, and international human rights law. In theory, multinational enterprises are not subjects of international law. They have no legal personality; rather, they are objects, which therefore do not have to observe international human rights law. The case for and against multinational enterprises being made to adhere to international human rights law is a deeply contentious one, and, perhaps more importantly, this debate must not distract from the responsibilities of the state.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St. AndrewsScotlandUK

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