World Day Against Child Labour

Myanmar signs up to key international convention on minimum working age ahead of the World Day Against Child Labour

Amid COVID-19 crisis, ILO and UNICEF call to ‘Protect Children, Now More than Ever’

Press release | 12 June 2020
Credit: Hlwan Moe/ Min Htet Aung
Yangon (ILO News) – Myanmar confirmed its commitment to addressing child labour by ratifying the International Labour Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention on 8 June, just ahead of the World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June.  The development has been heralded as a positive development, particularly in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, which threatens the rights, safety and development of the estimated 1.13 million children in child labour across the country.

The Minimum Age Convention 138 requires countries to set a minimum age aligned with the end of compulsory education and under which no one shall be admitted to work in any occupation except light work and artistic performances.  It also prohibits hazardous activities for anyone under 18 years old.  In Myanmar, the minimum working age is 14 years old, as per the new Child Rights Law and existing Labour Law.  The Convention also requires countries to establish national policies for the elimination of child labour.

Myanmar is the 178th country to ratify the convention and has an estimated 9.3% of the child population aged 5 to 17 in child labour, including more than 600,000 working in hazardous work environments.

According to a new report by the ILO and UNICEF, the 153 million children trapped in child labour around the world are at risk of entering hidden and more dangerous forms of work or working longer hours due to COVID-19.

Loss of livelihood, an illness or death in the family, displacement, and the raft of upheavals which are driving children out of school, orphaned or in financial troubles, are some of the COVID-19 related factors that are pushing millions of vulnerable children – even those at a very young age – to work in hazardous conditions.  As of May 2020, more than 60,000 people have already lost their jobs in Myanmar; and as the crisis continues, deeper cuts in workers’ salaries and more employment terminations are expected.  

The ILO, UNICEF and partners are using the World Day Against Child Labour to draw attention to the importance of vigilance and a coordinated response to protect vulnerable children from the pandemic’s far-reaching economic and social impact.

Donglin Li, ILO Liaison Officer, called for continuous action and support to ongoing national efforts in combating child labour. “There is significant momentum towards preventing and eliminating child labour in Myanmar as it has implemented the National Action Plan on Child Labour and ratified the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age on June 8,” Li said. “We must overcome the current COVID-19 crisis and work together to continue and reinforce the momentum to achieve Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals on elimination of child labour by 2025.”

“As we fight the impacts of COVID-19 together, we must provide additional protection for children so they are not put in a situation where they are forced into the most dangerous forms of labour, that push them to miss school and impair their health and well-being,” Alessandra Dentice, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Myanmar, added. “We need integrated approaches that strengthen child protection systems and simultaneously address poverty and inequity, improve access to and quality of education and inform and mobilize the public to respect children’s rights.”

As part of the World Day Against Child Labour campaign in Myanmar, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MoLIP), in collaboration with the ILO, and in partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland, are organizing a series of events throughout Myanmar through until September 30.  Photo exhibitions in the Central Railway Station, Dala Ferries and Junction City will open on June 15, while online campaigns and awareness raising activities across various states and regions will take place over the coming months.

Tim Enderlin, Ambassador of Switzerland to Myanmar, explained his support for the campaign: “Children simply should not work. Switzerland welcomes Myanmar’s ratification of the Minimum Age Convention. We consider this an important step forward. However, a lot remains to be done and COVID-19 has not made the challenges any smaller. The Swiss Embassy is proud to support this year’s campaign of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population in collaboration with ILO on the World Day Against Child Labour.”
The World Day Against Child Labour is celebrated worldwide annually on 12 June to call attention to the global child labour challenges and to drive collective action to end all forms of child labour by 2025.

In Myanmar, ILO’s work to combat child labour is conducted through the Myanmar Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (My-PEC), funded by the US Department of Labour.

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