BANGKOK (ILO News) – Child actors, schools, Governments and a number of NGOs across Southeast Asia are staging a variety of events on the 11th and 12th June to mark this year’s World Day Against Child Labour.
This year, World Day will focus on the plight of children working in the homes of others. Away from their families, often labouring long hours, with little or no pay, these children are routinely denied their right to attend school and are vulnerable to physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers.
The International Labour Organization, through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), estimates there are 246 million child labourers worldwide – some as young as five. More than half of all child labourers – 127 million children – are under the age of 14 and live here in the Asia-Pacific Region. The vast majority of child domestic workers are girls. Many have been trafficked within countries and across borders. Arriving in the homes of others, in a different country, with limited or no understanding of the local language, these children are the most vulnerable to abuse.
One of the most common problems among children working in the households of others (and all working children) is lack of access to education.
In order to impress upon the heads of households that all children working in their homes must attend school, the slogan of this year’s World Day campaign in Thailand, Cambodia and other SE Asian countries is: For Every Child: Schoolwork Before Housework. Stop the Worst Forms of Child Domestic Labour.
In Thailand, these events are being supported by the Thai Rath Foundation, Kantana Group and the International Labour Organization. Also in attendance at the Bangkok events will be officials from the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, including a Child Labour Specialist, and editor of the global report being issued on the same day, “Helping Hands or Shackled Lives: Understanding Child Domestic Labour and Responses To It”. The report will be available on the ILO Web site (embargoed until 00:01 GMT 11th June) but available for viewing (as of Noon , GMT, 9 June) at: www.ilo.org/childlabour
“For years we’ve known that child labourers have toiled behind closed doors. But the hidden abuses and extent of their suffering as well as the denial of a fundamental right to education is now being realized,” said Ms Panudda Boonpala, an ILO Child Labour Specialist and co-editor of the above report. “This report, combined with other recent research in Southeast Asia paints a depressing picture of the lives of child domestic workers, and underscores the urgent need for more action”.
Full access to education, although not the only action necessary, is a step in the right direction to empower child domestic workers and help bring an end to the worst forms of child domestic labour.
Mr. Somboon Woraphong, Director and Secretary of the Thairath Foundation added: "Every child has the right to safety and protection. They are entitled to universal education."
In Cambodia, recently published preliminary findings of an ILO-IPEC supported survey in Phnom Penh estimate there are nearly 28,000 Child Domestic Workers (CDW) in the Cambodian capital. The survey, conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning, determined only a small minority of CDWs were able to attend school, most worked very long hours, and more than half worked seven days a week (70% for girls) with almost no rest time.
However, the problems associated with child labour and trafficking are being addressed at senior governmental levels as well as by trade unions and employers groups – the ILO’s tripartite stakeholders.
In 1999, ILO Member States, (including Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Philippines, Indonesia and Viet Nam), unanimously approved Convention No.182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, agreeing to bring about an end to child labour, and to take immediate action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Last month, Thailand ratified another ILO Convention, No. 138, which lays down a minimum age for full-time employment, and specifies guidelines for the type of part-time work deemed acceptable for young people so as not to disrupt a child’s schooling, psychological, physical and emotional well-being.
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