Historically, child labour in Europe was abolished through minimum age laws linked to the provision of compulsory education. Child labour is explicitly banned in the European Union under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 2000 (Article 32 – ‘Prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work’):
The employment of children is prohibited. The minimum age of admission to employment may not be lower than the minimum school leaving age, without prejudice to such rules as may be more favourable to young people and except for limited derogations.
Young people admitted to work must have working conditions appropriate to their age and be protected against economic exploitation and any work likely to harm their safety, health or physical, mental, moral or social development or to interfere with their education.
Council Directive 94/33/EC of 22 June 1994 on the protection of young people at work applies to young workers classified in three categories: young people under the age of 18, children under the ages of 15 or still in full-time compulsory education, and adolescents between the age of 15 and 18 who are no longer in full-time compulsory education. The main objective is to ban the employment of children, although some exceptions are allowed. The Directive contains detailed provisions regulating the working time of young workers, and places a number of general obligations on employers of young workers to protect their health and safety. It refers particularly to types of employment that young people should not engage in, for instance, work that exceeds their mental or physical capacities.
The ILO also has two Conventions that aim to curb child labour: ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour (1999); and ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment and work (1973).