Opening address at the ILO-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour Partners' Forum

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ILO-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour Partners' Forum, Pasay City, Philippines, 13 February 2012

Statement | Makati City, Philippines | 13 February 2012
  • Our implementing partners from the government and non-government sectors;
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!

The International Labour Organization’s member States, which include the Philippines, have set the target to end the worst forms of child labour by 2016. Our deadline to achieve this goal is fast approaching.

Over the years, there has been progress and a number of children have been protected through ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age, which sets the general minimum age for work at 15 years old, and Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Despite the progress, however, a lot of work remains to be done if the target is to be reached.

In 2010, an ILO Global Report on Child Labour Accelerating action against child labour. Report of the Director-General, International Labour Conference, 99th session, 2010 estimated that there were 215 million child labourers throughout the world. Many of these children work in hazardous conditions where their health and even their lives are put at risk.

In Asia and the Pacific alone the number of child labourers stands at 96 million. Data from the Philippine Labor Force Survey revealed that as of April 2010, there were 2.4 million working children in the country.

Being our frontline partners in addressing child labour, I know you are aware that child labour is a complex problem rooted in poverty. Poverty pushes families down the path of vulnerable employment and can trap generations in poverty. Most people are often forced to accept or create whatever forms of work they can find just so that they and their loved-ones can survive another day.

Three weeks ago, ILO launched the Global Employment Trends 2012 the report shows that there has been a marked slowdown in the rate of progress in reducing the number of working poor. These poor families, parents and adults without access to decent and productive employment, see little choice but to expose their children to the world of work at such an early age.

Child labourers may earn a few pesos but working at an early age cannot transform and nourish their lives the way education can. Providing education to our children still remains the best bet they have to move themselves and their families out of poverty in the long run. Forcing them to give this up now is equivalent to mortgaging their futures.

Ensuring decent work opportunities for adults and quality, free education for children are key interventions in the fight against child labour. That is why they are the cornerstones of our work with you in the provinces of Quezon, Masbate, Northern Samar and Bukidnon.

Specifically, our action programmes are aimed at:

  • delivering educational and health services to child labourers and children at risk of becoming child labourers,
  • providing services for families which include counseling of children and Parent Effectiveness Seminars,
  • supporting communities by helping them in monitoring child labour, and
  • integrating child labour targets in development plans and legislation of local government units.

Most importantly, child labour families will be supported in livelihood activities based on improving the production, processing and marketing of agricultural products. By doing this, the work that we create is not vulnerable but decent and productive work. At a starting point, they should be covered by social security and protection such as PhilHealth, Social Security System.

Value chain development processes are currently underway to determine the sub-sectors in the project. The strategy will be to improve the capacity of families to access markets and build sustainable enterprises that create decent and productive work.

These projects on its own will not bring us closer to our goals. Considering the complexity of the challenge, it is essential to work together to be more effective. Our collaboration and the integration of our actions is about maximizing resources, ensuring greater impact and sustaining initiatives beyond the IPEC Project.

This Partners’ Forum is important to enhance strategies, analyze common implementation concerns and come up with ways to ensure greater effectiveness. More importantly, this will further strengthen our bond as partners as we continue to work together to scale up our efforts and re-energize the campaign to put an end to child labour in our local areas and in the Philippines.

Let me end by thanking you for your strong support and commitment to end child labour. I wish you a productive and successful forum.

Thank you and Mabuhay!