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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Child Labor Report & Grant Roll-Out
Washington, DC,
Monday, October 3, 2011

Thank you, Sandra for that warm introduction and for all that you do here at the department.

Colleagues, distinguished guests, good afternoon — buenas tardes — and welcome to the Department of Labor. It's an honor to have you here as we release our annual reports on child forced labor around the world.

For some of us, eradicating child labor has been the work of our lifetimes.

As the daughter of immigrants from Central America and Mexico, and one of seven siblings, I experienced first-hand what it meant to be given the opportunity, despite the hardship my parents faced, to pursue my dreams. That's an opportunity I believe all children deserve. That is our common belief.

We believe that every child has the right to an education and a childhood free from exploitation. We believe that God-given potential is present in every child born into this world — no matter how poor, and no matter his or her race, class, or geographical origin.

Every child has potential. And it is our common responsibility to ensure that every child — everywhere in the world — be given the opportunity to tap it.

The release of our reports today is an important step in making that happen.

The first report is our tenth edition of the Department's "Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor," mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000. The report focuses on the "worst forms" — because these activities are egregiously harmful to children, and because the international community has agreed that no child should perform them.

These "worst forms" include acts like prostitution and child soldiering. They also include hazardous work, such as work under ground or under water, and work that involves dangerous machinery or toxic substances.

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are more than 215 million children in child labor. More than half of these children — 115 million — are in hazardous work.

Today we are releasing research that spotlights where the problems are. This research can and should be translated into action.

In the "Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor," reportwe analyze the efforts of 144 foreign governments to address worst forms of child labor, and we highlight areas where governments need to do more. This can include legislation, enforcement, policies and social programs.

Our second report today is an updated "List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor." It includes 11 new goods from 8 countries. Since 2009, we have placed 130 goods from 71 countries on this List.

The List is also a tool to generate action. It is meant to help foreign governments, industry groups, companies, unions, workers and consumers make informed decisions about the goods they produce and consume.

Lastly, we are publishing an update of the "List of Products Requiring Federal Contractor Certification as to Forced or Indentured Child Labor."

Required by Executive Order13126 of 1999, thislist is a tool to for federal agencies to enforce laws relating to forced or indentured child labor in the procurement process. Today we are proposing some additions to this list, and inviting public comments for the next 60 days.

The Department of Labor has been collecting data on international child and forced labor for nearly 20 years. This research has helped to spur international action. For instance, since 1993 we have been reporting on the large number of children who labor as child domestics — and who are often isolated and abused.

This year, the International Labor Organization adopted a new convention on the rights of domestic workers — something that's been a long time coming and that we were very proud to see happen.

Now, I want you to know about one more important effort we're putting forward today.

Since 1995, we have funded over 250 projects to remove children from exploitive labor and to provide them with education and other services in 85 countries, with funding of over $740 million. And currently, we oversee 45 active projects in 58 countries.

Today, I am pleased to announce the award of $32.5 million for three new projects to combat child labor. The first is a $15 million award to "World Vision" to provide services to children working in hazardous labor in sugarcane production in the Philippines.

The second project is $15 million for a "Global Action Program" to be implemented by the International Labor Organization to assist countries in improving their legislation, enforcement and policies. The project will support efforts to protect children working as domestics in private homes. It will also build the capacity of national governments to develop laws and policies to eliminate child and forced labor.

Finally, we will fund a $2.5 million dollar project — implemented by the ILO — to expand our efforts to monitor and evaluate the impact of our global child labor projects. This kind of rigorous impact evaluation and accountability is top priority for President Obama and his administration. Before the end of 2011, we will provide an additional $27 million for other programs to address exploitive child labor around the world.

We are, of course, very proud to join you in combating child labor across the globe. But we are doing a lot to protect children right here at home. Since day one, I have made enforcement of our laws, including child labor laws, a top priority.

On September 2, we published a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" requesting public comment on proposals to strengthen safety requirements for young workers employed in agriculture and related fields.

The provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act that bar young workers from certain agricultural tasks have not been updated since they were promulgated in 1970 — we believe it is time to do so. We are seeking public comments through November 1st.

No one has the right to threaten the health, education, and well-being of children by involving them in inappropriate work. No family should have to depend on the labor of its children to put food on the table. And no person should be forced to work.

Thank you all again for being here this afternoon. Thank you for your support. And thank you for all your work on behalf of children here and across the globe.