2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Asia & the Pacific

2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

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In Asia and the Pacific, 77.8 million children ages 5-17 are engaged in child labor, which equates to 9.3 percent of all children in the region.(8) Children in the Asia and Pacific region continue to engage in child labor, predominately in agriculture. In many of the region’s coastal and island countries, children work in the fishing and seafood industries; while in Central and South Asia, many children work in cotton cultivation. Children in South Asia work as forced and bonded laborers in textiles and manufacturing. Throughout the Asia and Pacific region, children are employed as domestic workers in third-party households. Commercial sexual exploitation is also a concern, particularly in Kazakhstan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, and Vanuatu.

In 2014, countries increased government capacity to combat the worst forms of child labor by hiring new personnel and conducting training for law enforcement officials. Both the Philippines and Thailand, for example, received an assessment of Significant Advancement for making a number of meaningful efforts in these areas to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

In 2014, several countries strengthened legal frameworks to protect children against child labor exploitation. Laws regulating children’s work were strengthened as Afghanistan approved a list of 29 hazardous jobs and working conditions prohibited to children, Thailand raised the minimum age for agricultural work to 15 and for work on sea fishing vessels to 18, and Samoa passed legislation improving regulations of hazards in the workplace. Kazakhstan, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea enacted legislation that strengthened punishments for crimes committed against children, including the worst forms of child labor. Legal frameworks against trafficking in persons were improved as Afghanistan acceded to the Palermo Protocol and the Solomon Islands enacted legislation that prohibits all forms of human trafficking and established specific penalties for the trafficking of children.

During the year, many countries in the Asia and Pacific region strengthened government capacity to enforce child labor laws. In Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, and Sri Lanka, additional labor inspectors were hired and received training; while in Nepal, the number of labor inspections increased. Law enforcement capacity to address crimes involving the worst forms of child labor was also strengthened in the region. Training programs to combat trafficking in persons were conducted in India, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Kiribati, and Mongolia; while Cambodia and India drafted and implemented guidelines for the identification and referral to services of victims of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Governments in Maldives, Nepal, and the Philippines significantly increased the provision of welfare and protective services for children, including those involved in the worst forms of child labor.

Many countries in the region sought to increase children’s access to education, including for child laborers and children at risk of labor exploitation. In 2014, Pakistan’s Balochistan provincial government enacted legislation mandating free and compulsory education for children ages 5-16. Nepal began a pilot project for compulsory basic education, while Fiji approved a policy to provide 13 years of free, basic education. Governments in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, and Nepal funded and implemented formal and non-formal educational programs for children rescued from the worst forms of child labor. Bhutan, Cambodia, Nepal, and Thailand also implemented social programs that aimed to increase access to education for children from marginalized groups who are most vulnerable to labor exploitation. Low-income families received financial assistance to cover educational expenses in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Timor-Leste, while the Indonesian government increased funding for schools that waive education fees for poor and vulnerable children. In addition, Fiji implemented a transportation assistance program to improve access to schools for children in the most remote areas of the country.

Despite these efforts, children in the Asia and Pacific region continue to engage in child labor, predominately in agriculture. In many of the region’s coastal and island countries, children work in the fishing and seafood industries; while in Central and South Asia, many children work in cotton cultivation. Children in South Asia work as forced and bonded laborers in textiles and manufacturing. Throughout the Asia and Pacific region, children are employed as domestic workers in third-party households. Commercial sexual exploitation is also a concern, particularly in Kazakhstan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, and Vanuatu.

There continue to be significant gaps in legal frameworks and law enforcement capacity to combat child labor in the Asia and Pacific region. India, Norfolk Island, Pakistan, and Tonga have not established a minimum age for work. India and Pakistan, as well as six Oceanic countries and territories, have not established a minimum age for hazardous labor. Fiji, Kiribati, Maldives, and Papua New Guinea have not prohibited hazardous occupations and activities for children. In 2014, the majority of the countries in the region did not have sufficient funding and personnel to enforce laws regulating child labor or prohibiting the worst forms of child labor. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu did not take any actions to enforce laws prohibiting child labor, including its worst forms; Bhutan and Pakistan provided no data on whether law enforcement actions were taken. During the reporting period, 10 countries did not have a national mechanism to coordinate government actions to combat child labor.

Many children in the Asia and Pacific region continue to face significant obstacles in accessing education. Eleven countries in the region have compulsory education ages that are below the minimal age for work, which may make children more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. Prohibitive costs associated with education—such as books, uniforms, and teacher fees—prevent children from attending school in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kiribati, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands. Physical access to education is a problem for children living in remote, rural areas, particularly in Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Kiribati, Nepal, the Philippines, and Thailand. Children from marginalized minority and migrant communities face barriers in accessing education in Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Thailand. Safety concerns due to physical distance, violent conflict, and harassment make it difficult for girls to attend school in Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand.

Meaningful efforts:​

  • Strengthened punishments for crimes involving the worst forms of child labor.
  • Increased numbers of trained personnel responsible for the enforcement of labor and criminal laws.
  • Increased funding for educational programs targeting rescued child laborers.

Challenges and existing gaps:

  • Weak legal frameworks for regulating the minimum age of employment and no minimum age for hazardous work in some countries and territories.
  • Insufficient funding for labor and criminal law enforcement personnel.
  • Significant barriers to education, particularly the lack of physical access and prohibitive costs to attend school