World Day Against Child Labour

Themed “Generation Safe and Healthy”, this year’s commemoration is in line with ILO’s aim to secure safe working environments for all workers by 2030 and end all forms of child labour by 2025.

Jun 01, 2018

This year, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has also decided to have a joint campaign for World Day for Safety and Health at Work with the World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) to help improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour. Themed “Generation Safe and Healthy”, this year’s commemoration is in line with ILO’s aim to secure safe working environments for all workers by 2030 and end all forms of child labour by 2025.

Today, throughout the world, around 218 million children work, many fulltime. They do not go to school and have little or no time to play. Many do not receive proper nutrition or care. They are denied the chance to be children. More than half of them are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities including drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.

Guided by the principles enshrined in ILO's Minimum Age Convention No. 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182, the ILO Programme on Child Labour (IPEC) works to achieve the effective abolition of child labour.

What is meant by child labour?
Child labour is work carried out to the detriment and endangerment of a child, in violation of international law and national legislation. It either deprives children of schooling or requires them to assume the dual burden of schooling and work. Child labour to be eliminated is a subset of children in employment. It includes:

All “unconditional” worst forms of child labour, such as slavery or practices similar to slavery, the use of a child for prostitution or for illicit activities; Work done by children under the minimum legal age for that type of work, as defined by national legislation in accordance with international standards.

Labour Standards One of the major aims set for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at its founding in 1919 was the abolition of child labour. Historically, the ILO’s principal tool in pursuing the goal of effective abolition of child labour has been the adoption and supervision of labour standards that embody the concept of a minimum age for admission to employment or work. Furthermore, from 1919 onwards the principle that minimum age standards should be linked to schooling has been part of the ILO’s tradition in standard setting in this area. Convention No. 138 provides that the minimum age for admission to employment shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling.

The ILO’s adoption of Convention No. 182 in 1999 consolidated the global consensus on child labour elimination. It provided much-needed focus without abandoning the overarching goal, expressed in Convention No. 138, of the effective abolition of child labour. Moreover, the concept of the worst forms helps set priorities and can be used as an entry point in tackling the mainstream child labour problem. The concept also helps to direct attention to the impact of work on children, as well as the work they perform.

Child labour that is proscribed under international law falls into three categories:

The unconditional worst forms of child labour, which are internationally defined as slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities.

-- Labour performed by a child who is under the minimum age specified for that kind of work (as defined by national legislation, in accordance with accepted international standards), and that is thus likely to impede the child’s education and full development.

-- Labour that jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, known as “hazardous work”.

Some alarming facts and figures

-- Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.

-- Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.

-- In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.

-- In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6 per cent) are in child labour, whilst prevalence in other regions is between 3 per cent and 7 per cent: 2.9 per cent in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1 per cent in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3 per cent in the Americas (1 in 19) and 7.4 per cent in Asia and the Pacific region (1 in 14). 

-- Almost half of all 152 million child victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years. 42 million (28 per cent) are 12-14 years old; and 37 million (24 per cent) are 15-17 years old. 

-- Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Nevertheless up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old. 

-- Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls. 

-- 58 per cent of all children in child labour and 62 per cent of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour. 

-- Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71 per cent), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17 per cent in Services; and 12 per cent in the Industrial sector, including mining.

The situation in Malaysia
Most of the child labourers in Malaysia are illegal foreign migrants, or children born to illegals or refugees in this country. They do not have valid ID documents, and are therefore unable to attend normal schools. They are compelled to engage in menial jobs for survival.

Outside the city, foreign child workers can be spotted in every economic field, some sold here by human traffickers while others are stateless children born to foreign workers or refugees here.

Child labourers not only work in the oil palm industry, they also work in large numbers in other plantation sectors such as rubber estates, vegetable farms and orchards, as well as in the manufacturing and electronic industries.

While the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 has clearly stipulated the number of working hours, job types and other forms of protection for minor workers, Malaysia still lacks a comprehensive set of supervisory mechanisms and efficient enforcement, indirectly condoning the oppressive acts of some irresponsible employers.

Local employers are more inclined to hire foreign workers without valid permits, including child labourers, because these people can be easily exploited due to their lack of valid documents. To make things worse, some employers not only refuse to pay their workers but have, instead, reported them to the enforcement units.

From a Tenaganita survey on stateless children in Sabah, at least 350,000 illegal workers or human trafficking victims from Indonesia and the Philippines have been deported for working without permits in the state, while their children are left behind (estimated at 10,000) to become stateless children.

Glorene Dass from Tenaganita said these children carried no valid documents and could not attend a school.

“They most probably end up in plantation estates doing menial jobs to earn very meager wages.”

She went on to say that the child labour problem in Sabah was way more serious than in West Malaysia.

“As if that is not enough, we also have plenty of Rohingya refugees, some having lived here for more than 30 years. Their children do not have any identification and cannot attend normal schools. They can only work illegally in plantation estates.

“It is a vicious cycle. These stateless children, illegals and refugees, will have their offspring here, and the same child labour issue will go on and on for generations.”

Dass felt that the only solution to this problem was for the government to recognise their existence, grant them legal identifications so that the children could go to school, as education is the key to end poverty and transform an entire community’s destiny.

Source: Sin Chew Daily

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