Asia & the Pacific
2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
2013 Regional Outlook
- Improved legal frameworks, particularily related to trafficking in persons.
- New tracking systems to enhance enforcement.
Challenges and existing gaps:
- Lack of adequate legal protections, specifically for children in hazardous labor.
- Lack of or weak intra-governmental coordination.
- Lack of funding for labor inspections.
In the Asia and Pacific region, 77.8 million children ages 5-17 are engaged in child labor or 9.3 percent of all children in the region.(26) In 2013, governments in Asia and the Pacific continued to make notable progress in combating the worst forms of child labor, particularly in the area of legislation on trafficking in persons, which is of particular concern in the region. The Philippines was the only country in the region to receive an assessment of Significant Advancement for making several meaningful efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. However, children in Asia and the Pacific continue to engage in child labor, predominately in agriculture, in which child labor is prevalent in two-thirds of the countries.
In Central Asia, children are primarily found working in the cultivation of tobacco and cotton, while in Southeast Asia and South Asia, children often work as domestic servants. Among the Oceanic countries and territories, commercial sexual exploitation is a problem, while bonded labor and forced labor are issues of concern in South Asian countries. Despite governments’ efforts to address child labor in these areas, significant shortcomings in legal protections exist that leave children vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, including the absence of national lists of hazardous work prohibited to children; lack of a minimum age for work or a minimum age of 18 for hazardous labor; and low compulsory education ages. Additionally, many countries have weak enforcement systems and do not make data regarding child labor violations, investigations, prosecutions, and convictions publically available.
During the year, several countries conducted or published surveys to better understand the prevalence of child labor. Cambodia and Mongolia both published national child labor surveys. Bangladesh and Kiribati conducted national child labor surveys, and the Philippines and Tonga implemented surveys in specific sectors in which child labor is known to occur.
In 2013, countries in Asia and the Pacific passed legislation or ratified international standards to protect children against the worst forms of child labor. Laws were strengthened to address trafficking in persons in Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Maldives ratified ILO Conventions 29, 105, 138, and 182, which cover forced labor, the minimum age for work, and worst forms of child labor. Solomon Islands also ratified ILO C. 138 on the Minimum Age for Work. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, and the Philippines established or made amendments to lists of hazardous occupations prohibited to children.
Four countries initiated new tracking systems for enforcement of child labor laws. Fiji established a National Child Labor Database, and India launched the Criminal Tracking and Networking System, which connects all 15,000 police stations and enables police to better monitor trends in serious crimes, including trafficking. Sri Lanka launched the Labor Inspection System Application, a fully automated system in which authorized personnel can use a handheld tablet to enter data during on-site inspections and track and monitor the status and disposition of cases. Afghanistan began installing an information management system to track the age of every member of the Afghan National Security Forces, in an effort to prevent the recruitment of underage children.
At least five countries in Asia and the Pacific also initiated social programs addressing child labor more broadly. Afghanistan began participating in a $2 million USDOLfunded project targeting child labor in the carpet sector, implemented by GoodWeave. Cambodia piloted a new cash scholarship transfer program through a mobile banking system to encourage children to remain in school. The Philippines implemented the Convergence Program Against Child Labor (2013–2016) to work with local governments in creating child labor-free communities. Sri Lanka also began a program to create a child labor-free zone in Ratnapura District which will serve as a model to be replicated in all 25 districts. Thailand, in cooperation with the Thai Frozen Foods Association and the ILO, created the Good Labor Practices program that promotes training and good practices for the prevention and elimination of forced and child labor and the general improvement of workplace conditions at all points in the shrimp and seafood processing supply chain.
Despite these efforts, significant obstacles to progress remain, particularly in the areas of legal protections related to minimum age, hazardous work, intra-government coordination, and enforcement. Pakistan, India, Tonga, and Norfolk Island have not established minimum ages for work. Pakistan, India, and Nepal, as well as six of the Oceanic Countries and Territories, have not established a minimum age for hazardous labor. The Maldives, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji have not adopted lists of hazardous work prohibited to children. Eleven countries in the region have compulsory education ages that are below the minimum age for work, which may make children more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. Seven countries and six territories do not have a mechanism to coordinate actions on child labor, and a majority of those that do have a weak coordinating mechanism. Research was unable to find data regarding child labor violations, investigations, prosecutions, and/ or convictions for Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Uzbekistan. In general, funding for child labor coordination and inspection is also limited throughout the region.