Labor to next President: Save 5.5M child workers

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Two labor federations on Sunday challenged the next administration to create a task force to implement laws against child labor.

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Allan Tanjusay, spokesman for the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and advocacy officer of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), said “the good and effective thing that the incoming administration should do in solving the problems on child labor is create a task force.”

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) show that the Philippines is an employer of 5.5 million child laborers.

The youngest child worker is about five years old and the oldest is 17.

Of the 5.5 million, there are about 3.21 million who are engaged in the worst forms of child labor such as sex trafficking and drug pushing, according to PSA and DOLE.

The statistics authority said the 3.21 million child workers employed in the worst forms of child labor are also considered as engaged in “hazardous work.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) explained that child laborers are those who have been “jeopardize[d]the[ir]physical, mental or moral well-being… either because of [the]nature [of the work that they are engaged in]or because of the conditions in which [the work]is carried out.”

“More specifically, hazardous child labor is work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions that could result in a child being killed, or injured and/or made ill as a consequence of poor safety and health standards and working arrangements. Some injuries or ill health may result in permanent disability. Often health problems caused by working as a child [laborer]may not develop or show up until the child is an adult,” the ILO said.

It added that hazardous work is the largest category of the worst forms of child labor because it can happen even in those jobs that appear to be decent such as in agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, service industries, hotels, bars, restaurants, fast-food establishments and domestic service.

The PSA said two-thirds of the 3.21 million are boys and one-third are girls.

To make the task force effective, Tanjusay said it “should be composed of government and non-governmental organizations [with]a primary focus on the current strategy of tapping the barangay [village]officials in conducting regular rounds on the identified areas where there are child laborers.”

“Also, the task force should make it sure that these children are enroled in school,” he added.

Julius Cainglet, vice president of the Federation of Free Workers, said labor groups, including FFW, have been working with the DOLE through the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC).

But, Cainglet admitted that the NCLC does not function as a regular agency but only acts as a coordinating body between DOLE and labor groups directed to implement the Philippine Program Against Child Labor.

The committee was formed in December 2011 through a memorandum of agreement among government departments, labor groups, and non-government organizations.

It has no funds of its own, Cainglet said.

According to Tanjusay, the NCLC has failed its purpose because it seldom meets on how it would consistently carry out anti-child labor programs of the government.

He disclosed to The Manila Times that the NCLC “is not working well. It rarely holds meeting.”

Tanjusay said the NCLC is “dormant” because no meeting has taken place in the last two years.

He accused the Aquino administration of intentionally neglecting the problem of child labor since 2010, pointing out that President Benigno Aquino 3rd never tackled the problem in his State-of-the-Nation Addresses.

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