Hazardous Child Labour

What is meant by “hazardous child labour”?

Not all forms of work that children do are considered “child labour. ILO Convention No 182 describes the worst forms of child labour (WFCL), which include work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

This includes work that interferes with schooling, is excessively difficult or performed over long hours, or takes place in a hazardous environment. Hazardous child labour is work that is performed by children in dangerous and unhealthy conditions that can lead to a child being killed, injured or made ill as a result of poor safety and health standards or employment conditions. This is referred to as hazardous child labour.

Where does hazardous child labour occur?

Hazardous child labour represents the largest category of children working in the WFCL, and occurs in sectors as diverse as agriculture, fisheries, mining, construction, manufacturing, the service industries and domestic service.
The hazardous child labour problem off engaging children aged 15-17 years in hazardous tasks or their working under hazardous conditions is an issue for both marine shrimp farmers and shrimp and seafood processing factories. Often this is due to lack of adequate measures to address the occupational health and safety requirements for all workers in general and to provide specific measures to protect young workers.

Both Thai and migrant workers are at risk of hazardous child labour in the industry. However, as it is not uncommon among migrant children and youth to overstate their age (either to be aged above 15 years or to be above 18 years) in order to be allowed to work, this puts migrant children and youth in particular at risk and may result into work in conditions fit/suited only for adults including working overtime or nightshifts. This type of situation may occur at both primary processing and processing/packing factory levels small or large. Adequate human resource systems and age verification are needed to make sure that when hiring the age of the workers is appropriately checked.

Children have a greater risk of ending in hazardous child labour in informal and small size establishments of shrimp and seafood processing due to them being less regulated generally and there being lack of proper awareness of labour protection to be provided to children of legal working age.

The results of the most recent baseline (representative sample) surveys of children in the project’s selected four provinces of Thailand suggest that nearly half of the working children aged 5-17 years work in seafood-related work, while the rest are engaged in other industries.

Children in hazardous work in all occupation groups amounted to 9.9 per cent of all child labourers aged 5–17 years. The hazardous work was attributed to unhealthy conditions and long hours. According to the survey findings, the most common of the unhealthy working conditions were, in descending order of reporting: work with fire, heat or strong sunlight; damp, smelly and dirty workplaces; often working more than eight hours a day; dusty workplace; hazardous working tools; too hot or too cold environment; and working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Only one child reported being forced to work.

Migrant children aged 5–17 years were found engaging mostly in shrimp processing jobs while children found in the fisheries-related industry were dominated by Thai children. For the migrant children, the lack of access to education left them little choice but to work. Most of the migrant children interviewed and their parents were not aware of their right to an education in Thailand.