2011 Oct 04
October 4, 2011

Asian countries top child labour list

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04/10/2011 – A new US report shows that several Asian countries top the list of countries using children in hazardous labour.

According to a new United States report on child labour, Asian countries are top of the list when it comes to child labour. India, Bangladesh and the Philippines are now the world leaders in the number of products made by working children. Often, the nature of the work these products entail is dangerous to the health or best interests of the children.

Not only do child labourers often receive little or no wages, but the opportunity cost of their work is their education. In this case, the trade-off is simply not worth it, as higher levels of education allow children to participate in higher-paying jobs that help to break inter-generational cycles of poverty.

“Every child should be given the right to fulfil their dreams,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. “Every child has potential. And it is our common responsibility to ensure that every child — everywhere in the world — be given the opportunity to tap it,” she added.

Yesterday, Ms. Solis hosted a panel on the issue. Panel participants included Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa; Filipino Ambassador, Jose L. Cuisia Jr.; Constance Thomas, Director of the International Labour Organization International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC); and Daphne Culanag, Project Director of World Vision–Philippines.

This is the tenth time that the yearly report, entitled, Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, has been published. The report is authorized by the Trade and Development Act.  The report, focusing on hazardous labour, relies in large part on data from more than 140  countries compiled by the ILO.

Published along with the report is the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, mandated under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The list has been expanded by two products to 130 products produces in 71 countries.

Estimates by the ILO put the number of child labourers at 215 million, globally. An estimated 113 million of these children live in the Asia-Pacific region, 44 million in South Asia. A growing number of the children engaged in hazardous labour are adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17.

While the ILO has defined the worst forms of child labour under its Convention 182, one-third of countries have yet to set out types of hazardous work prohibited for the safety and well-being of children. There are also still countries that have not yet legislated a minimum age for hazardous work. Even more lack the mechanisms to monitor and enforce child labour laws.

Poverty is among the major factors behind child labour. As the world continues to suffer the consequences of the 2008 global financial crisis, child labour rates are expected to increase. Many households remain below the poverty line, forcing parents to send their children to work to help make ends meet.

“India is one of the two largest countries in the world, and so the larger the country, if there is significant poverty, you would expect to see more” said the departmental Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, Sandra Polaski, to the AFP today.

India, home to about a fifth of all the world’s children, was at the top of the list. Indeed, it is India’s large population (currently in excess of one billion), that  is underlying its place at the top of the list, and not a particular neglect for this important children’s rights issues, said Ms. Polaski.

Children manufacture 20 different types of products in India. Six types of products, including carpets and textiles, are made by forced labour or indentured labour – among the last modern forms of slavery.

“Children in India also work in dangerous conditions, quarrying sandstone and other materials, breaking stones and polishing gems as well as in manufacturing,” said the report.

Children produce similar goods in Bangladesh, while children in the Philippines produce agricultural products such as bananas, coconut, corn, sugar cane, tobacco and rice among other products. Children in the Philippines have also been subject to child pornography.

To help curb the global child labour epidemic, the Department of Labor will donate $15 million to the child charity World Vision. This grant will help the Philippines “address the worst forms of child labor in sugar cane production.”

New Delhi has also made progress by mandating that elementary schooling is compulsory – one good way of keeping children inside the classrooms and out of the factories and workshops. India’s wider anti-child labour programme is based on a “convergence model.” This is a strategy integrating existing social protection programmes to help families and encourage children to withdraw from unsafe or illegal labour practices. The scheme also aims to prevent children from entering into hazardous labour in the first place.

Earlier today, 53 children were rescued from garment factories in north-east New Delhi. Most of the children were child trafficking victims from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. All of the children were under 14 years old, with the youngest aged seven.