Campaign On Child Labor Launched

MANILA, Philippines --- The Philippines launched on Tuesday "The Batang Malaya: Child Labor Free Philippines" which aims to end worst forms of child labor by 2016.

Through the new campaign, the National Child Labor Committee, chaired by the Department of Labor and Employment, has called for "urgent actions" on child labor.

This includes the act of institutionalizing the Survey on Children to regularly monitor progress; strengthening and rationalizing the operations of the National Child Labor Committee by giving it a legal mandate, budget and a dedicated secretariat; improving enforcement of RA 9231 to ensure that all persons found to be engaging children in the worst forms of child labor are penalized; expanding the reach and strengthen the capacity of the labor inspectorate to monitor child labor even in unregulated sectors; and finally mainstreaming child labor in local development plans and integrating it as a condition in programs to reduce poverty including conditional cash transfers.

The 2011 Survey on Children of the National Statistics Office (NSO) revealed that out of 29 million Filipino children aged 5 to 17, roughly 5.5 million working children, of which almost three million were in hazardous child labor.

"Of this number, more than 55.1 percent or 3.02 million were counted as child labor while 2.99 million are exposed to hazardous form of child labor," Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.

The survey, conducted by the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO), is the first survey that utilized the ILO framework for statistical identification of working children, or children in employment, child labor, and hazardous child labor.

Baldoz said they will use the results of the survey as a baseline for a more responsive programming against child labor in general and hazardous child labor.

According to the ILO, hazardous child labor is defined as being likely to harm children's health, safety or morals by its nature or circumstances. Children may be directly exposed to obvious work hazards such as sharp tools or poisonous chemicals. Other hazards for child laborers may be less apparent, such as the risk of abuse or problems resulting from long hours of work. Hazardous work is considered as one of the worst forms of child labor.

Boys are subject to more hazardous child labor, raking in 66.8 percent as compared to girls with 33.2 percent.

Meanwhile, regions which have the highest incidence of hazardous child labor are Central Luzon (10.6 per cent), Bicol (10.2 per cent), Western Visayas (8.5 per cent), Northern Mindanao (8.2 per cent) and Central Visayas (7.3 percent).

"We have to get to the root of child labour which is linked with poverty and lack of decent and productive work. While we strive to keep children in school and away from child labor, we need to ensure decent and productive work for parents and basic social protection for families," said Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Country Office for the Philippines.

In 2001, there were reportedly 4 million working children, of which 2.4 were in hazardous child labor while in 1995, there were 3.6 million working children, of which 2.2 were in hazardous child labor. Though numbers decreased during this time, the same cannot be said for the previous findings of the NSO.

There were revisions and improvements in capturing the overall picture of child labor in the Philippines. The 2011 Survey on Children used terms under Republic Act 9231 on the worst forms of child labor enacted in 2003 and international statistical standards adopted in 2008.

Although the survey is more comprehensive, it still cannot estimate children trafficked for work, forced and bonded child labor, commercial sexual exploitation of children and use of children for illicit activities and armed conflict.

"What is crucial now is to tackle and to monitor progress in reducing child labor on a regular basis. One of the recommendations is to conduct the survey every five years to immediately find solutions and provide interventions. Results of this survey will be used as targets for interventions both geographically and among specific groups by industry occupations. It is not just the role of the government, employers and workers organizations, but also local communities since child labor often happen in unregulated sectors," said Johnson.

Globally, there were 215 million children trapped in child labor, 115 million of them were in the worst forms of child labor in 2010. There has been progress in efforts to reduce child labor worldwide.

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