Opening address at the Inter-regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting on Child Labour and Working Conditions in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining

By Mr Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Inter-regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting on Child Labour and Working Conditions in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining, Manila, Philippines, 28 March 2019

Statement | Quezon City, Philippines | 28 May 2019
  • Acting Secretary Renato Ebarle and officials of the Department of Labor and Employment
  • Assistant Secretary Nonita Caguioa and officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
  • His Excellency Sung Yong Kim, US Ambassador to the Philippines;
  • Distinguished representatives from government agencies, workers’ and employers’ organizations;
  • Delegates representing countries in Asia, Africa and South America;
  • Colleagues from the ILO – Mr Dennis Zulu, Country Director of ILO Abuja, and Mr Francesco D’ Ovidio, Head of Solutions and Innovations of the ILO FUNDAMENTALS
  • Partners and representatives from the diplomatic community and civil society organizations,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
It is an honour to be with you in this important and first ever Inter-Regional Meeting on Child Labour and Working Conditions in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mines.

To our international delegates and colleagues – a warm welcome to Manila, which serves as my home from the last 3 years. I hope that you will have a wonderful stay in this beautiful country with the warmth of the Filipino hospitality.

More importantly, I hope that you will also look into the good practices, lessons learned and remaining challenges in the sector. This is an opportunity to work together, to address child labour and to improve working conditions in the artisanal and small-scale gold mines.

The International Labour Organization marks its Centenary this year. The ILO has 100 years of experience and expertise in advancing social justice and promoting decent work. It brings together governments, employers and workers and gives them an equal voice in improving the conditions in the world of work, which is unique to the United Nations system.

The Philippines has reaffirmed its full support to and cooperation with the ILO’s mandate of international peace and social justice. In fact, The President of the Philippines has declared 2019 as the ILO Centenary.

Ladies and gentlemen,

New forces are transforming the world of work – technological changes, climate changes, and demographic shifts.

These new changes could exacerbate existing or continuing challenges – unemployment, working poverty, wages failing to reflect productivity growth, societies becoming unequal, excessive hours, and work-related accidents or diseases. All these remain hurdle in advancing social justice and promoting decent work.

This is pivotal moment. The existing global social contract – related institutions – need to be reinvigorated. We need to seize the opportunity for change to deliver economic security, equal opportunity and social justice for all.

The future of work and the future of societies depend on how we deal with these challenges and opportunities. The Global Commission on the Future of Work proposed a human-centred agenda for the future of work. A human-centred agenda that places women and men, and the work that they do at the centre of economic and social policies. It is about investing in people’s capabilities, in institutions of work, and in decent and sustainable work.

Major changes and challenges in the artisanal and small-scale gold mines will have an impact on the creation and destruction of jobs. Globally, the sector employs an estimated 10 to 15 million miners and supports about 100 million dependents worldwide. The sector also accounts for 15 to 20 per cent of annual global gold production. It remains a major source of income and livelihood for many communities in the developing countries.

As you know, the human-centred agenda is about leaving no one behind and building an inclusive future. In most countries, however, including the Philippines, small scale miners remain in the informal economy. Most operations in the sector happen without permits and are not covered by government regulations.

Jobs in artisanal and small-scale gold mines are often linked to poor working conditions, with limited rights and access to social protection, without a voice and freedom to form unions, and without stable income.

The sector operates without full compliance with occupational safety and health standards and technically-sound environmental practices. Of great concern are miners and workers in this sector who risk their health or even their lives but still unable to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we talk about the future of work, we look at our children and youth as our future. Global estimates, however revealed that 18 million children work in mining and quarrying.  In the Philippines, 19,000 children work in 45 artisanal and small-scale gold mines. Children can be found inside the tunnels or on the surface collecting gold and hauling sacks of ore or smelting gold.

In the face of all these, ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and other relevant ILO standards, particularly those related to occupational safety and health and transition to formal economy, need to be heavily promoted.

The ILO is grateful to the US Department of Labor for its strong support and continued partnership to implement the CARING Gold Mining Project in Ghana and the Philippines.

Through the project, different actors come together to address the issues of child labour and poor working conditions in small scale gold mines.

ILO and its project partners work to enhance small scale mining laws and policies; provide mining communities access to livelihood and social protection services; and set up and implement monitoring mechanisms at all levels of the gold supply chain to address child labour and working conditions issues.

This inter-regional meeting serves as a platform to strengthen individual and collective capacities to end child labour and to improve working conditions in the sector.

Decent work in this sector is crucial to develop the economy, to protect the environment, to fight poverty and inequality, to guarantee rights at work, to extend social protection, to ensure occupational safety and health, to promote social dialogue, and to end child labour.

This human-centred agenda contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Target 8.7. This inter-regional meeting is an opportunity to build on agreements and to work together towards a sustainable and inclusive future.

A human-centred agenda supports decent work, formalization, an end to working poverty, boosts labour productivity, supports investment in the real economy and encourages innovation.

More than knowledge sharing, this meeting is a real opportunity to shape a future that works for all. A future that advances social justice and promotes decent work. A future without child labour and leaves no one behind.

Thank you and my best wishes for a successful inter-regional meeting and knowledge sharing!