1. Child Labor in Cambodia
In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 24.1 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Cambodia were working.361 The 1999 Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey estimated that 313,811 children between the ages of 5 and 14 worked within or outside households in the production of goods and services.362 Rates of participation increase with the child’s age. In 1999, an estimated 4.5 percent (71,601) of children between the ages of 5 and 9 and 14.9 percent (242,210) of children between ages 10 and 14 were economically active.363 Beginning at around the age of 12, the percentage of economically active girls begins to outnumber that of boys. Whereas approximately one-half of all girls between the ages of 14 and 17 work, only one-third of boys in the same age group work.364 The Cambodia Human Development Report (CHDR)365 found that the incidence of working children between the ages 10 and 13 declined between 1997 and 1999. The CHDR speculates that this may relate to improved access to primary education, particularly in rural areas.366
Many children work long hours and do not attend school. In 1999, approximately 65,000 children aged 5 to 13 years worked over 25 hours a week and did not attend school.367 The Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey (CSES) found that in 1999 the average working child between the ages 5 and 9 worked almost 33 hours per week. Working children between the ages of 10 and 13 worked an average of 37 hours, while working children between the ages of 14 and 17 worked an average of 47 hours per week.368
The rural labor force participation rates for children are much higher than those of urban children, in large part because of the greater access to education and higher standards of living in urban areas.369 In rural areas, approximately 277,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 worked in 1999, while in urban areas, almost 31,000 worked.370
The vast majority of working children in Cambodia are found in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. Ninety-two percent of working children aged 10 to 13 and 86 percent of children ages 14 to 17 work in these sectors. Of working children ages 10 to 13 and ages 14 to 17, 7.4 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively, work in the trade and manufacturing sector (including brick making and salt production), and services and construction industries comprise 0.7 percent of workers ages 10 to 13 and 2.9 percent of working children ages 14 to 17.371 Children have been found working in hazardous conditions, including construction, domestic servitude, plantation work, salt production, stone cutting and fish processing, and as porters or street vendors.372 There have also been reports of children working in brick and plywood factories, in salt production, in sawmills and small family enterprises, and on rubber plantations.373
In the formal sector, children working on rubber plantations in Kampong Cham, in central Cambodia, assist their families by collecting latex, preparing trees for production, and performing other light tasks. They are exposed to diseases, including malaria, and may incur minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises.374
Children work in the salt fields in the southern province of Kampot. They carry heavy loads in hot weather for long hours and suffer foot injuries from walking on the salt.375 Children in Sihanoukville, in southern Cambodia, work in the shrimping industry, as fisherman, and as shrimp processors.376 There are also reports that children work in shoe factories in Sihanoukville.377
In the informal sector, children work as garbage pickers, prostitutes, domestic servants and porters. The director of the Vulnerable Children Assistance Organization (VCAO) asserts that more than 100 children per day search for recyclable material at the municipal dump in Stung Meanchey.378 The CHDR 2000 reports that about 1,000 street children, either living alone or with their families, engage in begging, shoe polishing and other income generating activities, and are particularly at risk of drug use or prostitution.379 The CHDR 2000 conservatively estimates that at least 6,500 children work as domestic workers in Phnom Penh alone.380 Most of these children are girls between the ages of 12 and 15 and are from remote provinces. Many have never attended school.381
Children are used as porters to haul goods back and forth across the border with Thailand. It is estimated that every day over 300 Cambodian children cross the border illegally, carrying goods in order to help traders avoid import taxes. They haul heavy loads of up to 60 kilos—often more than their own body weight—and face immediate punishment from border guards if they are caught.382
Many children reportedly are also involved in prostitution. A 1997 government report found that of approximately 15,000 prostitutes working in brothels nationwide, 15.5 percent were children below the age of 18.383 An estimated 30 percent (5,000) of sex workers in Phnom Penh are girls under the age of 18.384 Overall, the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) estimates that approximately one-third of Cambodia’s 55,000 prostitutes are children.385 There are reports that children are held in debt bondage as commercial sex workers until they work off the loans provided to their parents. Some parents report that they are tricked into sending their daughters to the cities.386
Cambodia is reported to be a country of origin, transit and destination for trafficking in persons for the purposes of prostitution, work and begging.387 In 2000 alone, the International Office of Migration assisted in the repatriation of 247 Cambodian children under the age of 18 from Thailand.388 The majority of Cambodian children who are trafficked to Thailand to work as beggars are young boys.389 According to the international nongovernmental organization (NGO), Redd Barna, at least 40 children, who were sold by traffickers, are turned over to Cambodian authorities by the Thai police every day.390
2. Children’s Participation in School
Articles 65 and 68 of Cambodia’s Constitution provide for 9 years of free schooling to all citizens, but there are no compulsory education laws.391 Educational opportunities are limited. Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Cambodia, but it is reported that over 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11 are not in school.392 While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect a child’s participation in school.393 According to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS), enrollment in primary school has stayed relatively steady at roughly 85 percent from 1996 to 1999. Enrollment in grades 6 to 9, however, has declined from 23 percent in 1996 to 14.4 percent in 1999.394 In 1996, 49 percent of children enrolled in primary school reached grade five.395
Only one-half of Cambodia’s primary schools provide a full six years of instruction.396 Moreover, a 1999 Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS) report noted that 28 districts are without a lower secondary school, and many children, especially girls, do not have access to secondary schools.397 The lack of dormitories in towns with schools makes it impossible for children of both genders from outlying areas to attend those schools.398
Girls are under-represented at all levels of education. Only 45 percent of girls are enrolled at the primary level and 40 percent at the lower secondary school level. Dropout rates for females are twice those of males.399 Forty-two percent of girls over age 15 have never attended school, compared with 21 percent of boys. Among the factors frequently cited are long distances to school facilities and resulting safety concerns, lack of sanitary facilities, and the societal expectation for girls to take care of siblings while their parents work.400 Education is often inaccessible to minority groups, as classes are conducted only in Khmer, and promotion rates to the second grade for children in minority regions are significantly lower than the national average.401
3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement
Cambodia’s Labor Law contains various provisions related to child labor. The minimum work age is 15, though children between the ages of 12 and 15 may do light work that is not hazardous and that does not affect regular school attendance or participation in other training programs. Lists of working children below the age of 18 must be kept by employers and submitted to the labor inspector. These children must have their guardian’s consent in order to work. Employers who violate these laws may be fined 31 to 60 days of the base daily wage.402 In many cases, however, the precise age of young workers is difficult to determine because registering births in Cambodia is not a widespread practice.403 Underage workers are known to secure employment by providing false identification papers or offering bribes to recruiters.404
The Labor Law prohibits hazardous work for people under the age of 18, but the law does not define what constitutes hazardous work.405 The Cambodian Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) is tasked with officially determining hazardous work for minors, but has yet to provide a list.406
Prostitution and trafficking in persons are prohibited by Article 46 of Cambodia’s Constitution.407 Under the 1996 Law on the Suppression of Kidnapping and Sale of Human Beings, penalties of 10 to 20 years imprisonment are imposed on individuals who prostitute others or brothel owners and operators. The law stipulates penalties of 10 to 15 years imprisonment for traffickers and their accomplices.408 Penalties increase under Cambodian law if the trafficking victim is a child below the age of 15. Customers of child prostitutes under age 15 face penalties of 10 to 20 years imprisonment.409 Police crackdowns on prostitution, however, are reportedly sporadic.410
The Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSALVY) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with child labor laws. The Ministry’s Child Labor Unit (CLU) receives complaints and forwards them to the Minister, who designates responsibility for the investigation and application of relevant laws. The CLU’s operations to date have been limited and coverage is weak in the provinces.411
Because the majority of Cambodia’s workers are in the informal sector, the labor law effectively covers only a small fraction of the country’s workers. Informal employment, such as illegal activities and work in the commercial sex industry, and family-based production such as agriculture are unregulated. Even in the formal sector, the law is inadequately enforced. Labor inspectors conduct routine inspections in some industries (such as garment manufacturing), but in many industries where child labor is prevalent (such as brick making), investigations occur only after complaints have been received.412
The Anti-Trafficking Office under the Ministry of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs, established in September 2000, focuses on trafficking and sexual exploitation to raise awareness among government officials. It seeks to ensure that victims are protected and to study whether laws are adequately applied.413
Cambodia ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on August 23, 1999.414
4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling
a. Child Labor Initiatives
Cambodia became a member of ILO-IPEC in 1996 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ILO in May 1997. A national subcommittee under the Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC) was created in 1997 and National Program of Action for Children in Cambodia has been developed.415
The CNCC’s Five-Year Plan Against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children, 2000-2004, was adopted by the government in March 2000. It establishes specific roles for various government ministries and NGOs in several main areas: prevention through awareness raising at various levels, and protection through strengthening the legal system and through provision of services to victims, recovery, and reintegration.416
Various anti-child-labor activities are under way in Cambodia. MOSALVY works with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to return trafficked Cambodian children to their homes and repatriate trafficked foreign children to their home countries.417 World Vision operates a joint project with the Ministry of Interior (MOI), UNICEF, IOM, and Redd Barna to develop training materials and procedures for ongoing MOI police training to combat sexual exploitation.418 Several NGOs conduct awareness raising activities on trafficking and prostitution and provide services to victims, such as providing vocational training, legal services and medical assistance, and maintaining emergency shelters.419 An ILO-IPEC project in Kandal province aims to remove children engaged in child labor in the brick-making sector.420
The Cambodian Government, with support from ILO-IPEC, conducts training on child labor for labor inspectors and awareness-raising programs through radio broadcasts. Various ministries have conducted training seminars to help victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.421 The number of labor inspectors, however, is limited, with no more than four labor inspectors per province.422
In 2001, the ILO also started a first of its kind project to monitor working conditions in Cambodia’s dominant garment industry. To date, the project has monitored 64 factories and uncovered only one minor instance of child labor.423
b. Educational Alternatives
In 1999, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MOEYS) set a goal for 75 percent of all primary schools to have a complete range of classes through grade six by 2004. Currently less than one-half (48 percent) of schools meet this standard.424 MOEYS outlined four main education policies in 1999: to make 9 years of basic education available country-wide and to promote literacy; to improve the quality of education; to make education relevant to society and the labor market; and to develop education subsectors such as nonformal education.425 A Nonformal Education Department within MOEYS focuses on delivering tailored education services to meet the needs of people of all ages.426 MOEYS also began a Priority Action Program in 10 provincial towns, whereby no fees are charged in school and books are provided on loan, but students must still provide other materials such as paper and pens.427
The government works with various donors and NGOs on education issues, focusing on improving the quality of education and access to primary school. ILO-IPEC is currently working with the government to create a non-formal education program for former child workers.428 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has funded a Basic Education Textbook project that designed and printed new primary school textbooks.429 The ADB also supports the Education Sector Development Program to assist MOEYS in developing a basic education plan that is responsive to the needs of the poor.430 Additionally, the World Bank’s International Development Association is supporting the Cambodia Education Quality Improvement Project to facilitate MOEYS’ development of a participatory approach to improving school quality and performance through the effective management of available resources, and The Second Social Fund Project for the construction of schools in rural areas in 1999.431
Despite these efforts to improve the education system, public expenditures on education declined, from 11.8 percent of the national budget in 1996 to only 7.7 percent of the budget in 1999.432
5. Selected Data on Government Expenditures
The following bar chart presents selected government expenditures expressed as a percentage of gross national product (GNP). The chart considers government expenditures on education, the military, health care, and debt service. Where figures are available, the portion of government spending on education that is specifically dedicated to primary education is also shown.433
While it is difficult to draw conclusions or discern clear correlations between areas of government expenditure as a percentage of GNP and the incidence of child labor in a country, this chart and the related tables presented in Appendix B (Tables 14 through 19) offer the reader a basis for considering the relative emphasis placed on each spending area by the governments in each of the 33 countries profiled in the report.
365 The report was compiled by using data from the Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey conducted in 1999. Due to the methodology (a two-round survey with only 3,000 households per round) and the general scope of the survey, it does not provide adequate information on some forms of child labor, particularly worst forms such as prostitution, and hidden sectors such as domestic work, and may therefore underestimate the magnitude of child labor in the country. See comments on the reliability of the data in Rapid Assessment Report: Child Labor on Rubber Plantations in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia (Phnom Penh: ILO-IPEC, January 2000), 8 [hereinafter Rapid Assessment Report ].
366 Cambodia Human Development Report 2000 at 35-36. Other experts dispute this finding, claiming that there are still an insufficient number of teachers to meet educational needs. Interview with Mar Sophea, national program manager, ILO-IPEC Cambodia, by U.S. Department of Labor official, October 17, 2000 [hereinafter Sophea interview, 10/17/00]. See also interview with Mom Thany, CRC Senior Advisor for Redd Barna Cambodia, by U.S. Department of Labor official, October 19, 2000.
371 Cambodia Human Development Report 2000 at 33-34. Despite a high-profile allegation of child labor in a garment factory in October 2000, sources generally agree that there are few children in the Phnom Penh garment factories below the legal working age of 15. For example, see Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, February 2001), Section 6d [hereinafter Country Reports 2000—Cambodia ]. See also Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia: Report of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Peter Leuprecht, submitted in accordance with resolution 2000/79 , U.N. Document E/ CN.4/2001/103 (Geneva: 57 th Session of the Commission on Human Rights, January 24, 2001), 20.
377 Interview with Cambodian labor union leaders of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), NIFTUC, CFITU, CUF, and CLO, by U.S. Department of Labor officials, October 24, 2000.
381 Chea Pyden and Un Chanvirak, “Child Labor in Cambodia,” from the Fifth Regional Consultation of Child Workers of Asia on the Asian Economic Crisis (www.cwa.tnet.co.th/booklet/cambodia.htm). The NGO “Friends” (Mith Samlanh) states that the overwhelming majority of these street children are boys.
383 Report on the Problem of Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Cambodia (Phnom Penh: Commission on Human Rights and Reception of Complaints of the National Assembly, May 1997), 2, 6. The commission noted that this was a minimum estimate, as it did not cover all districts or include commercial sex workers employed in other venues such as massage parlors and karaoke bars.
387 Ibid at 38. The report notes that most trafficking for prostitution occurs internally. See also Annuska Derks, Trafficking of Cambodian Women and Children to Thailand (Phnom Penh: International Organization for Migration and Center for Advanced Study, October 1997). For qualitative information on patterns of trafficking, see Annuska Derks, Trafficking of Vietnamese Women and Children to Cambodia (Phnom Penh: International Organization for Migration and Center for Advanced Study, March 1998). See also Annuska Derks, Trafficking of Cambodian Women and Children to Thailand (Phnom Penh: International Organization for Migration and Center for Advanced Study, October 1997). See also Kritaya Archavanitkul, Trafficking in Children for Labour Exploitation including Child Prostitution in the Mekong Sub-region (Bangkok: ILO-IPEC and the Institute for Population and Social Research of Mahidol University, July 1998).
388 Lauren Engle, coordinator, external relations and information/trafficking focal point of the International Organization for Migration, Washington, D.C., office, e-mail to U.S. Department of Labor official, April 17, 2001.
390 “Poverty Fuels Thriving Child-Labor Market in Cambodia,” Asian Economic News (Kyodo News International, Inc., October 11, 1999). See also Mary Ann Guzman and Yang Daravuth, Study on the Current Programmes, Existing Mechanism of Coordination, Cooperation and Networking among Relevant NGOs and Provincial Government Departments Working on the Issue of Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children (Phnom Penh: Cambodian National Council for Children, January 1999), 25 [hereinafter Study on the Current Programmes ].
391 Interview with the director of the Nonformal Education Department of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MOEYS), by U.S. Department of Labor official, October 17, 2000 [hereinafter MOEYS interview].
398 Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia: Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, Submitted in Accordance with Commission Resolution 1998/60 , U.N. Document E/CN.4/1999/101 (Geneva: 55 th Session of the Commission on Human Rights, February 26, 1999), Points 100-102 [hereinafter Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia ].
403 Committee on the Rights of the Child: Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Cambodia , U.N. Document No. CRC/C/11/Add.16 (Geneva, June 24, 1998), Point 39.
404 Interview with Chea Vichea, president of Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), by U.S. Department of Labor official, October 16, 2000. See also Sophea interview, 10/17/00.
405 Cambodian labor law. Hazardous work is defined as “hazardous to the health, the safety, or the morality of an adolescent.” Article 360 defines the base daily wage as “the minimum wage set by a joint Prakas [declaration] of the Ministry in charge of Labour and the Ministry of Justice.”
410 See, for example, Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia: Report of the Secretary-General, U.N. Document A/ 53/400 (Geneva: Commission on Human Rights, September 17, 1998). See also Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia .
413 Electronic correspondence from Mar Sophea, ILO-IPEC, to U.S. Department of Labor official, March 15, 2001. See also UN Wire , “Cambodia: New Department to Fight Sexual Exploitation,” September 19, 2000.
423 First Synthesis Report on the Working Conditions in Cambodia’s Garment Sector, November 2001 (Phnom Penh: International Labour Organisation Garment Sector Working Conditions Improvement Project, Kingdom of Cambodia), See Also Second Synthesis Report on the Working Conditions in Cambodia’s Garment Sector, April 2002 (Phnom Penh: International Labour Organisation Garment Sector Working Conditions Improvement Project, Kingdom of Cambodia).
433 See Chapter 1, Section C, 5, for a fuller discussion of the information presented in the box. See also Appendix B for further discussion, and Tables 14 through 19 for figures on government expenditure over a range of years.