DESPITE significant progress in eliminating the worse forms of child labor in the country, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has admitted that the problem remains alarming and far from over as there are still more than 2 million child laborers in the Philippine workforce.
Ahmma Charisma Satumba, DOLE Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns director, on Monday disclosed that 90 percent of child workers or around 1.8 million children were toiling under hazardous conditions.
“Majority of them are working in the agriculture sector followed by the service sector, while at the bottom rung are those in the mining industry, representing 0.7 percent of the total number of child laborers around the country,” Satumba said at the weekly Kapihan sa Aristocrat media forum in Malate, Manila.
DOLE records show that there are 2,096,672 children, ages 5 to 17, who remain victims of child labor.
Majority of these children, with ages ranging from 15 to 17 years old, are in rural areas.
Of the more than 2 million child workers, 1.4 million are boys.
In the same forum, Intenational Labor Organization (ILO) coordinator Cesar Giovanni Soledad said child labor is a serious problem that should be looked into by the Duterte government.
“This is a growing concern for us because despite the downward trend in statistics, the causes of prevalence of child labor should be addressed by the government and this is where it appears the Duterte administration has not really look into,” Soledad added.
Alex Apit, Kamalayan Development Foundation chairman, said the problem on child labor is symptomatic a much bigger one that cannot be solved alone by the government.
“This is where the government needs the cooperation and support of non-government organizations (NGOs), the barangay villages] and the whole community. There should be a strong commitment to education to cleanse every barangay of child laborers,” Apit pointed out.
The DOLE Bureau of Working Conditions earlier came up with a checklist of indicators that would help public school officials and teachers determine if a student is at risk or already a child laborer.
Among the indicators are tired and unhealthy appearance; symptoms of illness; cuts, wounds, bruises, burns or skin diseases; malnourished or undernourished; and untidy or dirty clothes.
The behavioral indicators are absence of four days per month; habitual tardiness; tendency to sleep in the class; limited inter-action with classmates, teachers or school officials; limited participation in school activities; poor academic performance; and tendency to drop out of school.
Other indicators in determining if a student is a victim of child labor are direct admission by the child that he/she is a child laborer and information from classmates, other students or members of the community.
Child labor refers to the employment of children below 18 years of age. The practice deprives victims of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school and is also mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.
In 2013, the US Labor Department reported that the Philippine government has made a significant advancement in eliminating child labor through implantation of programs and enactment of laws against child labor.