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Child labor: A problem ignored


SUFFER THE CHILDREN A boy carries a bundle of plastic bags at a slum area in payatas, Quezon city.. pHOTO By Miguel De Guzman
A boy carries a bundle of plastic bags at a slum area in payatas, Quezon city.. pHOTO By Miguel De Guzman

Jojo is a 14 year-old student from Taguig City in Metro Manila.

He is in Grade 8 in a public school in the city. Aside from being a student, Jojo works as a garbage collector.


He said he was forced to collect garbage for him to help his parents, for his needs in school and to have baon (pocket money) everyday.

According to Jojo, his family is extremely poor,

But, he said, he wants to finish high school, thus he is not ashamed to collect garbage in
exchange for at least P5 from each household.

Jojo is not alone for being a child laborer as many children from equally poor families encountered by this reporter beg from passengers of jeepneys going to Pasay Rotunda
from Taguig City.

Rene is 11 years old while his cousin Buboy is 12. They’re from Mindanao in southern Philippines. They said their families had decided to transfer to Metro Manila because of the peace and order problem in Mindanao.

Unfortunately, their parents could not find jobs.

Thus, the two boys were forced to beg on the streets in order to earn even small amounts of money to give to their parents so they could buy food. They said they’re happy if they could eat one meal a day.

The situations of Jojo, Rene and Buboy are not the worst compared to other child workers.

Roger is 16 years old and he was arrested by members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police in a buy-bust in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on September 9, 2015.He yielded methamphetamine hydrochloride or popularly called shabu with a street value of P700,000.00.

Lito, who is 17, was also nabbed by PDEA agents in a buy-bust inside a mall in Pasay City (Metro Manila) almost two months ago. He and Roger evidently are drug couriers.

Mary, 15 years old, was one of 16 sex workers who were rescued by the Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) in an entrapment at Bistro Emilio KTV Bar Street in Ermita, Manila, on September 10. She claimed she was relatively new in the commercial sex trade.

Mary was turned over to the Department of the Social and Welfare Development. Her suspected pimps, identified as Jerico Castillo, Noel Alvarez, Cherry Gonzalo, Ma. Erica Siazon and Eric Gonzalez, were slapped with criminal cases before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On September 15 at past 6 p.m., four minors (15-17 years old) were rescued by WCPC operatives from a Japanese tourist.

One of the four children was caught having sex with the Japanese suspect, identified as Noriaki Nakano, while inside the foreigner’s rented suite in a hotel in Manila.

Nakano’s cohorts in child sex trafficking identified as Eduardo Denosta and Angie Pancho were slapped with appropriate criminal charges at the DOJ.

The incident only showed that Filipino children are forced into the sex trade in exchange for money that their family needs.

What is child labor?
Republic Act (RA) 7610 defines child labor as “any work or economic activity performed by a child that subjects him/her to any form of exploitation or is harmful to his/her health and safety or physical, mental or psychosocial development.”

Sonny Matula, president of Federation of Free Workers, said the definition of child labor given by RA 7610 is focused on the exploitation that happens or being done to the children while working, which makes their work child labor.

Matula, a lawyer, said begging as a means of living or drug trafficking at a young age is an example of child labor.

Former Rep. Renato Magtubo, chairman of Partido Manggagawa, party-list, explained in Filipino that “the activity of the children whose ages are 18 and below can be considered as child labor if [a] the work or economic activity where the children are engaged in has no parental consent and (b) if the work disturbs the education of the children or the work has a direct effect on his or her development and growth as a child, such as hazardous work environment and long hours of work that prevent them from having social connection or integration with other children like them, and similar factors.”

Magtubo said even if the parents gave consent to their children to work, the kids are already considered child laborers because their work affects their studies and development as children and as human beings.

Child laborers, he added, are those 5 to 17 years old who are working despite getting no compensation for what they do.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) said “child labor is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”

Specifically, ILO said, child labor is all about work that “is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely and requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.”

It added that only children who do work that is hazardous and exploits them are considered child laborers.

ILO argued that “[n]ot all work done by children should be classified as child labor.”

It clarified that there are jobs that have positive effects on children such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. “These kinds of activities [actually] contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families, they provide them with skills and experience and help prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.”

“Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive,” ILO said.

Magtubo pointed out that it is completely wrong to immediately label as child laborers children engaged in an economic activity.

“The economic activities refer to activities that produce or will lead to the needs, but not limited to the production of tangible products or services that are needed by people. The participation of a child in an economic activity does not automatically mean that he or she will receive a corresponding payment on his or her contribution to or participation in the economic activity. The economic activity could be in the form of joining in his or her parents in the farm or helping his or her parents in household chores or managing their sari-sari [variety] store.”

5.5 million child wokers
The 2011 Survey on Children (SOC) disclosed that as of 2011, the country had a total of 5.5 million child laborers.

The SOC was a nationwide project jointly conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), now Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the ILO.

In 2001, NSO data showed that the country had 4 million child laborers or 16.2 percent of the 24.8 million children the country had in September of that year.

The same data showed that there was an increase of 1.5 million child laborers in the country from 2001 to 2011.

Of the 5.5 million, 3.21 million are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, according to NSO and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

According to ILO, the worst forms of child labor as stated in Article 3 of ILO Convention 182, are (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; (c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in relevant international treaties; and (d) work, which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Hazardous work
The worst forms of child labor are also those considered as “hazardous work” where, NSO said, 3.21 million children are engaged in.

ILO said hazardous work “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.”

“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,” it explained.

NSO said two-thirds of the 3.21 million child laborers are boys and one-third are girls.
ILO noted that hazardous child labor has long been existing in both industrialized and developing countries.

The Philippines is described as a developing country.

Agriculture sector
The country’s agricultural sector employs 2 million children, according to NSO, with about 30.1 percent in the services sector and 7.6 percent in the industry sector.

According to ILO, poverty is the principal reason why a big number of children are forced to work in agriculture.

Agriculture is considered as one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases, it said.

Lots of laws
The Philippines, ironically, has plenty of laws that mandate the government to protect and respect children: Presidential Decree 603 of 1974 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code as amended; Republic Act 7610 or the Child Protection Act of 1992; RA 8043 or the Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995; RA 8552 or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998; RA 8972 or the Solo Parents Act of 2000; RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act of 2003; RA 9231 or the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor Act of 2003; RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Labor Act of 2004; RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006; RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009; RA 775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009; RA 10165 or the Foster Act of 2012; and RA 10630 or Strengthening Juvenile Justice System Act of 2013 (amended RA 9344).


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