Child labour

The Challenge

There is clear evidence that children in the Pacific Islands Counties (PICs) are susceptible to the worst forms of child labour and trafficking. ILO child labour research studies conducted through the EU-ILO TACKLE (Tackling child labour though education) programme in Fiji (2009), PNG (2010) and Kiribati (2011) found children exploited in prostitution, hazardous work (agriculture, scrap metal scavenging, construction), and illicit activities such as drug trafficking, begging and pick pocketing. Poverty, illiteracy and poor academic performance and lack of employment opportunities aggravate risk and vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

Other reports highlight children in PNG and Solomon Islands exploited through the mining and logging industry; and the custom of bride prices that has been used by parents to trade their daughters for cash or other goods from mining and logging companies. The recent U.S Trafficking in Persons (TIP-2013) Report states that in urban areas in PNG, some children from poorer families are prostituted by their parents and women are transported to logging and mining camps, fisheries and entertainment sites where they are exploited in forced prostitution or domestic servitude.

Within this context, it is evident that enhancing the knowledge base on child labour is essential to understand the nature of the problem at the national level and develop an effective response to fighting it. Such information is vital to helping decision- makers craft effective policies; service providers develop effective programmes; and labour law authorities and law enforcement agencies to be able to identify and protect victims and prosecute exploiters.

The ILO response

The ILO sees free, compulsory education up to the minimum employment age as a crucial element in each country’s efforts to tackle child labour and implement ‘education for all’ (EFA) initiatives. National time-bound programmes to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and regional programmes to combat trafficking in young women and children also make a positive contribution. ILO-IPEC, which works in more than 80 countries worldwide, seeks to integrate child labour issues into national development frameworks (including EFA initiatives). This ensures that preventing and eliminating child labour becomes a national development priority, and that education and skills training become effective ways of supporting this goal.