Opening address at the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour Midterm evaluation and national stakeholders workshop

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour Midterm evaluation and national stakeholders workhop, Manila, Philippines, 20 July 2012

Statement | Makati City, Philippines | 20 July 2012
  • Ms Ruth Bowen and Ms Lucy Lazo – members of the evaluation team,
  • Officials representing the national and local government, non-government organizations, employers and workers organizations,
  • ILO colleagues,
  • Partners in the fight against child labour,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!

Let me first welcome you to the National Stakeholders Validation Workshop of the IPEC Project.

Just three weeks ago, the Philippine Government with the support of the ILO and US Department of Labor, released the preliminary results of the 2011 Survey on Children: Child labour in the Philippines.

The results of the survey showed that of the 29 million Filipino children, aged 5-17 years old in 2011, there were 5.5 million working children, of which almost 3 million were in hazardous forms of child labour.

Given your hard work and your backgrounds, I know that you are aware that poverty and the lack of decent and productive work for parents are the major detriments to effectively end child labour.

In fact 62 per cent of children in hazardous work are found in agriculture. Moreover, nearly 8 million women and men are working in vulnerable forms of employment in the agriculture sector within the Philippines.

Often these parents are left with little choice but to involve their children in work, just so they can put food on the table and a roof over their heads for another night.

I had the chance to meet with child labourers working as water buffalos. These children were forced to mortgage their future and put their lives in danger, dragging and pushing logs to earn a few pesos, just so they and their families can survive another day.

In response, the DOLE with the DSWD, DTI, and national and local government agencies turned over water buffalos and school supplies, set-up training for their parents and extended support through a convergence approach to address poverty as the root cause.

The Government has identified seven sectors for economic growth, of which agriculture is at the forefront. Our own research has shown that the agriculture sector can provide not only economic growth but inclusive growth which can has a significant impact on both poverty alleviation and reduction of child labour.

Preliminary results of the child labour survey further revealed a gap on where we are at present and our goal under the Philippine Program against Child Labor to reduce by 75 per cent the worst forms of child labour by 2015.

We have already seen the release of the preliminary results, which have not just been a wakeup call, but a rallying cry reaching all corners of our society.

This is a problem we cannot solve on our own.

Over the course of the next few months we need to work closely with our partners, media and all members of society to keep the issue at the forefront.

Rather than be overwhelmed by the numbers, we need to accept the challenge and expand our network and scale up our efforts.

Given the global crisis and slow recovery, resources necessary to fight the battle are more difficult to secure. Indeed, it’s time for us to rethink how we can become more effective and efficient.

It’s also vital to strengthen collaboration with our socials partners – government, employers and workers, while reach out even more to civil society groups and to media organizations to broaden the movement to end the worst forms of child labour.

This is among the reason reasons that the IPEC Project is undergoing a midterm evaluation. This evaluation will gauge how the Project has performed.

What lessons can we draw and what can be done to improve the work in moving forward?

The evaluators will present today their initial findings. Your active involvement as our partners is very crucial in the process.

I have seen the work you have done during my visits to project sites and as such I would like to thank you for your contributions toward the project and the implementation of the convergence approach.

Convergence is the approach, which the ILO – Manila, with our partners, is promoting, in order to tackle poverty and prompt decent and productive work.

I have seen this happened in Bukidnon with the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Sugar Industry Foundation, the government and the Manobo tribe – all worked together to build a school.

Before there was no high school in the remote barangay, children were in the fields working.

With the classroom building, more than 400 students are now enrolled in high school.

In a partnership with the sugar industry, two year scholarships were also given to former child labourers, aged 15-17 years old.

While in the university they will acquire knowledge and skills associated with the sugar industry which in turn can help not only the industry but also the community to grow through increased productivity.

What I’ve seen so far are glimpses compared to the bigger and more complete picture that the evaluators have put together. These findings and recommendations will help us to identify gaps and to scale up efforts in the second half of the Project.

At the same time, these findings and recommendations are crucial, not only to meet project goals, but also to support stronger implementation of the Philippine Program against Child Labor.

Again, thank you for joining and participating in this evaluation. Let me also acknowledge Ms Bowen and Ms Lazo for undertaking this midterm review.

Thank you and Mabuhay!