Child labour

Vocational training transforms teenager from street vendor to apprentice in rural Viet Nam

With ILO support, a 14-year-old boy receives life-changing vocational training, enabling him to find a route out of child labour and envision a brighter future for himself and his family.

Bài viết | Ngày 23 tháng 3 năm 2020
Instead of working on the streets, Thanh is training to become a mechanic at a local motorbike repair shop.
AN GIANG (ILO News) – Chau Truong Thanh, 14, lives in a small rural village in Viet Nam’s southern province of An Giang with his parents, younger brother and sister. The family have been faced with a number of health problems over the years, the most serious of which affects Thanh’s father, who is terminally ill and requires regular care.

Without the financial means to cope with this misfortune, the struggling family have been unable to afford to keep Thanh and his 12-year-old brother in school. Thanh, whose favourite subject at school was Maths, had to drop out early to help his mother sell lottery tickets on the street to make ends meet. Thanh’s younger sister who is 8 and currently studying in the second grade is the only child in the family still in school.

Unfortunately, Thanh’s case is not unique. Despite significant progress over the years, child labour remains a prevalent issue not just in Viet Nam, but around the world, with an estimated 152 million children in child labour worldwide. In Viet Nam, a National Child Labour Survey undertaken in 2012 reported over 1.7 million children aged between 5-17 engaged in child labour. This is equal to around one in ten children in the country. Findings indicate that roughly one third of child labourers work over 42 hours per week, which has a significant impact on schooling. The survey found that 42 per cent of working children in Viet Nam do not attend school.

Like Thanh and his brother, most child labourers in Viet Nam work in informal, hard to reach sectors, predominantly in open air settings which exposes them to a variety of risks. In line with global trends, the majority of child labour in Viet Nam takes place in agriculture. Street trade, while less prevalent, is also widespread.

For Thanh and his family, street vending, despite its minimal short-term gains, seemed to be the only option available. However, last year, Thanh’s life changed course dramatically. His family was approached by a teacher and local official who informed them of an opportunity to undertake vocational training with support from the ILO.

Today, instead of working on the streets, Thanh is training to become a mechanic at a local motorbike repair shop a 15 minute bicycle ride from his home.

Four months into his training, Thanh is thriving. With the support of Du, the owner of the repair shop, Thanh is learning by doing. A fast learner, he started working on motorbikes after just two weeks of theory. Currently, he works on around three-four bikes a day, and his favourite part of the job is installing new parts.

Through the training, Thanh explains, he has developed a passion for motorbike repair and now has a clear vision for his future. Despite the family’s difficult circumstances, his parents fully support his training as a life-changing opportunity to establish a better life.

When he is not at the repair shop, Thanh is busy helping out with household chores, cooking for the family and taking care of his sister and father. While the training takes up a lot of his time, the aspiring mechanic is highly committed. Not only is he learning something new every day, the 14-year-old also has the opportunity to spend time with other boys his age in similar circumstances. In addition to training Thanh, Du also trains two other young apprentices supported by the ILO, which makes for a lively atmosphere at the busy motorbike repair shop.

Thanh and other children like him have been able to access vocational training through the ILO Project, Technical Support for Enhancing National Capacity to Prevent and Reduce Child Labour in Viet Nam (ENHANCE). The project is funded by the United States Department of Labor and implemented in partnership with the Department of Child Affairs under Viet Nam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Now in its final phase of implementation, the ENHANCE project has been supporting national child labour prevention efforts through awareness raising, capacity building and legislative reforms since 2015. In addition to assisting national level efforts, the project has also been implementing direct intervention models in three target localities, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and An Giang. This involves the provision of income generating activities for vulnerable families and support for children engaged in or at risk of child labour through educational support and vocational training.

In An Giang, where Thanh and his family are from, the project has been working with An Giang University and local Department of Labour Invalids and Social Affairs to profile at risk children and assess their needs for vocational training. Following a mapping of vocational training institutions and businesses in the locality, identified beneficiaries are matched with training appropriate to their needs, preferences and capabilities, in line with market demands.

When Du, the repair shop owner, was approached to collaborate with the project he was happy to be able to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children in his community. The mechanic plans to continue training all three of his young apprentices for as long as they need, with a view to eventually hire them. “I’d get bored here at the shop if they left”, he laughs.

With over 20 years of experience, Du has trained 11 students during his career who now all work as mechanics. “The demand for skilled mechanics in the community is high”, he explains “and if you’re good at the job you can do well”.

If it hadn’t been for the training, Thanh predicts that he would still be selling lottery tickets on the streets with no clear route out of poverty. Indeed, without the benefits of education it is unlikely that the 14-year-old would have been able to go on to access decent work as an adult.

In Viet Nam, which was the second country in the world and the first in Asia to ratify the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, education is a right for all children. Child labour negates this right and perpetuates cycles of poverty within families and communities, which impedes broader progress towards sustainable development.

In line with target 7 of Sustainable Development Goal 8, the Government of Viet Nam has committed to eliminating child labour by 2025 and forced labour and modern slavery by 2030. Indicative of this commitment, Viet Nam recently became a pathfinder country for Global Alliance 8.7 to accelerate progress towards this goal, and has developed a comprehensive roadmap to translate this target into concrete action. Through the ENHANCE project, the ILO has been supporting Viet Nam in its efforts to achieve this crucial target and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Sustainable solutions that yield long term results are key to this endeavour. For beneficiaries like 14-year-old Thanh and his family, the impacts of the support he is currently receiving will be felt long after the ENHANCE project ends. Today, Thanh has a clear vision for the future.

“My dream is to eventually open my own repair shop so that I can help to support my family”, says the 14-year-old with an air of quiet determinaton.