Campaign for hazard-free, child labour-free agriculture in Thailand

Thai government officials, employers, workers, non-governmental organizations, private sector representatives, teachers, students and the International Labour Organization (ILO) join forces today to work towards a hazard-free, child-labour-free agriculture in Thailand. 

Press release | BANGKOK | 12 June 2007

(ILO, Bangkok ) Thai government officials, employers, workers, non-governmental organizations, private sector representatives, teachers, students and the International Labour Organization (ILO) join forces today to work towards a hazard-free, child-labour-free agriculture in Thailand . 

The event on 12 June marks World Day against Child Labour,  a day when people around the world get together to renew efforts in fighting against child labour.  The focus this year is child workers in agriculture.  The aim is to end the worst forms of child labour by 2016. 

Thailandmarks the event with a Pong Lang musical performance by children from Buriram Province , and mime and drama on the life of a child labourer in agriculture.   Child workers engaged in agricultural work from Chachoengsao, Sakaew, Srisaket and Udon Thani share their experiences, the problems they face and ideas for solutions.  A panel discussion on:  “Hazard-free, child labour-free agriculture” is held by government officials, a researcher, and representatives of workers, employers, non-governmental organizations and a school.  Some 300 students from schools which teach agriculture as an integral part of basic education and other schools in Bangkok take part in the event.  There are exhibition stalls and educational booths on alternate, hazardous-free and child-labour-free agriculture on display. 

The event is jointly organized by the Ministry of Labour, National Council for Child and Youth Development, Foundation for Child Development, International Rescue Committee, Central Pattana Public Company, Limited and the ILO, and is held at CentralWorld, Rajdamri.

Worldwide, agriculture is the sector where by far the largest number of working children can be found – an estimated 70 per cent, of whom 132 million are girls and boys aged 5-14. Instead of being in schools, many of these children perform work that is hazardous or under unacceptable working conditions to produce the food and beverages we consume, such as cereals, cocoa, coffee, fruit, sugar, palm oil, rice, tea, tobacco and vegetables. They also work in livestock raising and herding, and in the production of other agricultural materials such as cotton and cottonseed.

Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors and is especially perilous for children. Exposed to the same hazards as adults in agriculture, the risks to children are even greater because their bodies and minds are still developing. In some cases, work begins for children as young as five, and children under 10 years of age account for 20 per cent of child labour in some rural areas, according to estimates by the ILO-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).

In Thailand , considerable progress has been made to reduce child labour.  But the problem persists, not just in agriculture, but in various hazardous occupations.  While Thai children stay in school longer and are less exposed to abusive workplaces, evidence suggests that migrant children from neighbouring countries are taking their place.  In agriculture migrant children are found working in farms producing vegetable, flowers, fruits etc. Some are as young as 10 years old.

Thailand in 2001 ratified ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182) which aims to end within the shortest time frame the most  abusive conditions such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, prostitution, pornography, drugs production and dangerous and heavy work unfit for children under 18 years old.

In 2004, Thailand also ratified the ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) which resulted in changes in legislation to prevent children under 15 years of age from entering into the workforce. 

The Ministry of Labour in 2005 reported some 300,000 children aged 15-17 years legally employed in registered establishments (60 per cent male, 40 per cent female).  Seventy-six per cent worked outside agriculture, while 24 per cent (80,000) worked in the agricultural sector.  However, this does not include the unknown number of children under 15  and migrant child workers.

The Minister of Labour, Mr. Apai Chanthanajulaka reaffirms Thailand ’s commitment to fight against child labour.  “ Thailand has taken various actions to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, such as extending protection to the informal sector, increase compulsory education to 9 years, change laws to suppress and prevent the use of children in prostitution and draft an anti-trafficking legislation.”  “A National Committee to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour has been set up and is revising a Draft National Plan of Action to Prevent and Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour,” he added.   

Mr. Guy Thijs, Deputy Regional Director,  ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific states that:  “I truly believe that this event today will help all of us to contribute to efforts aimed at preventing child labour in hazardous work, so that ‘hazard-free and child-labour-free agriculture’ becomes a reality in Thailand and around the world.  It should be done, it can be done and it will be done, if we all put our efforts and weight behind it.”

The ILO is implementing a three year programme in Thailand which will support the Government’s National Plan of Action on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.  It will also assist provincial interventions in six provinces: Chiang Rai, Tak, Udon Thani, Samut Sakhon, Pattani and Songkhla.  The project will focus on preventing and eliminating the worst forms of child labour in these provinces, within the framework of provincial development strategies on education, poverty reduction and human resources development.  This will be done through awareness-raising, education, vocational training and family livelihood.  The project aims to develop models of good practices which can be replicated in other provinces in the future.

For more information:

Ms. Suvajee Good
Chief Technical Adviser for Thailand Programme,
International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), ILO
Tel. 02 288 1767 

Ms. Krisdaporn Singhaseni
Information Officer, ILO
Tel. 02 288 1664