Cindy Nguyen


This research essay examines the exploitation of child labour in agriculture, industry and the service sector in Mainland China. Child productivity in China has historically been essential to the survival of the family. However, the globalized environment has drawn emphasis to the reality that children are exploited and subject to dangerous work conditions. The aim of this research is to analyse the international legal framework and human rights conventions safeguarding the rights of the child. This involved the primary analysis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Minimum Age Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. The Procedure of the Conclusion of Treaties, Minors Protection Law, Provisions on the Prohibition of Using Child Labour, Regulations Banning Child Labour and Compulsory Education Law were critiqued to determine the effectiveness of China’s domestic legislation. The results demonstrated that child labour is currently not prohibited under China’s domestic law, a consequence of ineffective implementation of international treaties. To support this legal analysis, it evaluated academic research exploring the economic and cultural circumstances of China. It was found that globalization, rapid economic growth, a lack of education and social and cultural constructions of ‘child’ and ‘childhood’ further contributed to the existence of child labour. The significance of these findings is that it highlights the difficulty involved in changing legislation when the economic and cultural forces strongly dictate against it. Children are ultimately unable to access justice as effectively as their adult counterparts do within China’s legal framework


child labour; children’s rights; international treaties; China; globalisation; filial piety

Full Text:



Axford, Nick, ‘Exploring the Influence of International Governmental Organisations on Domestic Child Welfare Policy and Practice’ (2013) 37 Adoption & Fostering 57

Brookshaw, Sharon, ‘The Material Culture of Children and Childhood’ (2009) 14 Journal of Material Culture 365

Ch, Muhammad Akram et al, ‘Globalisation and its Impact on the World Economic Development’ (2011) 2 International Journal of Business and Social Science 291

Cheng, Joseph Yu-shek, King-lun Ngok and Yan Huang, ‘Multinational Corporations, Global Civil Society and Chinese Labour: Workers’ Solidarity in China in the Era of Globalisation’ (2011) 33 Economic and Industrial Democracy 379

Chung, Sunwook, ‘Explaining Compliance: A Multi-Actor Framework for Understanding Labour Law Compliance in China’ (2014) 68 Human Relations 237

Dunford, Michael et al, ‘Globalisation, Cost Competitiveness and International Trade: The Evolution of the Italian Textile and Clothing Industries and the Growth of Trade with China’ (2016) 23 European Urban and Regional Studies 111

Grugel, Jean, ‘Children’s Rights and Children’s Welfare After the Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (2012) 13 Progress in Development Studies 19

Hu, Yang and Jacqueline Scott, ‘Family and Gender Values in China: Generational, Geographic and Gender Differences’ (2014) 37 Journal of Family Issues 1267

Huang, Philip C. C., ‘Morality and Law in China, Past and Present’ (2015) 41 Modern China 3

Huang, Zhongjing, Ting Wang and Xiaojun Li, ‘The Political Dynamics of Educational Changes in China’ (2016) 14 Policy Futures in Education 24

Hurst, Peter, ‘Health and Child Labour in Agriculture’ (2007) 28 Food and Nutrition Bulletin 364

Ibhawoh, Bonny, ‘Human Rights for Some: Universal Human Rights, Sexual Minorities and the Exclusionary Impulse’ (2014) 69 International Journal 612

Kahn-Nisser, Sara, ‘External Governance, Convention Ratification and Monitoring: The EU, the ILO and Labour Standards in EU Accession Countries’ (2014) 20 European Journal of Industrial Relations 383

Liao, Minli and Jun Sung Hong, ‘Child Labour in the People’s Republic of China: An Ecological Systems Analysis’ (2010) 54 International Social Work 565

Liu, Fengshu, ‘Negotiating the Filial Self’ (2008) 16 Nordic Journal of Youth Research 409

Naftali, Orna, ‘Recovering Childhood: Play, Pedagogy, and the Rise of Psychological Knowledge in Contemporary Urban China’ (2010) 36 Modern China 589

Polakoff, Erica G, ‘Globalisation and Child Labour’ (2007) 23 Journal of Developing Societies 259

Sheng, Xuewen and Barbara H. Settles, ‘Intergenerational Relationships and Elderly Care in China’ (2006) 54 Current Sociology 293

Shi, Wuhong, ‘The Application of Treaties in China: Practice, Problems and Prospects’ (2012) 1 Journal of International Law 114

Thomas, Nigel, ‘Children’s Rights: Policy into Practice’ (2011) 4 Centre for Children and Young People: Background Briefing Series 1

Xue, Hanqin and Qian Jin, ‘International Treaties in the Chinese Domestic Legal System’ (2009) 8 Chinese Journal of International Law 299

Yeh, Kuang-Hui et al, ‘Filial Piety in Contemporary Chinese Societies: A Comparative Study of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China’ (2013) 28 International Sociology 277

Fassa, Anaclaudia G., David L. Parker and Thomas J. Scanlon, Child Labour: A Public Health Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Compulsory Education Law (The People’s Republic of China) National People’s Congress, Order No 38, 12 April 1986 [Constitution of the People’s Republic of China]

Minors Protection Law (The People’s Republic of China) National People’s Congress, 1 June 2007

Procedure of the Conclusion of Treaties (The People’s Republic of China) National People’s Congress, Order No 37, 28 December 1990 (‘The Treaty Procedure Law’)

Provisions on the Prohibition of Using Child Labour (The People’s Republic of China) National People’s Congress, Decree No. 364, 1 October 2002

Regulations Banning Child Labour (The People’s Republic of China) National People’s Congress, 2002

Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force 2 September 1990)

Minimum Age Convention, opened for signature 26 June 1973, C No 138 (entered into force 19 June 1976)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GA Res 217A (III), UN GAOR, 3rd sess, 183rd plen mtg, UN Doc A/810 (10 December 1948)

Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, opened for signature 17 June 1999, C No 182 (entered into force 19 November 2000)

International Labour Organisation, Child Labour in Agriculture

International Labour Organisation, Child Labour in China and Mongolia

International Labour Organisation, What is Child Labour

Roggero, Paola et al, The Health Impact of Child Labour in Developing Countries: Evidence from Cross-Country Data (2007) National Center for Biotechnology Information

Samonova, Elena, ‘Socioeconomic Impacts of Child Labour’ (Paper presented at The 2nd Global Virtue Conference, Free University Berlin, 2014)

Tesfay, Nardos Kebreab, Child Labour and Economic Growth (Graduate Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 2003)

UNICEF Global Databases, Child Labour: Current Status and Progress (2016)



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.