2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Asia & the Pacific

2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Asia & the Pacific
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Child Labor Information by Country
Child Labor Information by Region
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Meaningful Efforts:

  • Strengthened legal frameworks to prohibit hazardous work for children and designate specific activities as hazardous.
  • Improved sub-regional cooperation to combat child labor in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
  • Provided cash transfers and food support programs for children of impoverished households.

Challenges and Existing Gaps:

  • Inadequate legal prohibitions against the worst forms of child labor, particularly commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Insufficient number of labor inspectors to provide adequate coverage of labor forces.
  • Persistent barriers to accessing education for child laborers, including lack of schools and prohibitive costs to attend school. 

In Asia and the Pacific, 77.8 million children ages 5 to 17 are engaged in child labor, or 9.3 percent of all children in the region.[1] Children are engaged in child labor, predominately in agriculture and as domestic workers in third-party households. Children are also engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, 2 of the 32 Asian and Pacific countries covered in this report received a rating of Significant Advancement—Cambodia and the Philippines. Countries in Asia and the Pacific made meaningful efforts to strengthen legal frameworks to prohibit hazardous work for children; improve sub-regional cooperation to combat child labor in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands; and provide cash transfers and food support programs for children of impoverished households. However, many countries in the region still have persistent barriers to education for child laborers; inadequate legal protection against the worst forms of child labor, particularly against commercial sexual exploitation; and an insufficient number of labor inspectors. Uzbekistan made meaningful efforts, which may have included suggested actions reported in 2014, but had a practice of being complicit in the use of forced child labor in more than an isolated incident during its 2015 cotton harvest.

In 2015, several governments in the Asia and Pacific region strengthened laws related to the employment of children in hazardous work. Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province adopted hazardous work prohibitions for children; Kiribati passed legislation specifying hazardous occupations and activities prohibited for children; Samoa passed legislation that prohibits children from engaging in work in dangerous environments; and Cambodia adopted new regulatory procedures to prevent children ages 15 to 18 from engaging in hazardous work.

In addition, several countries in the region increased the capacity of law enforcement agencies to combat child labor. Bangladesh increased its number of labor inspectors and Fiji significantly increased the number of labor inspections conducted during the year. Cambodia and the Kyrgyz Republic strengthened procedures for identifying children vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor and Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province created a mechanism for receiving labor complaints. Nepal also deployed police personnel to identify incidents of child trafficking following the April 2015 earthquake.

Many countries sought to address the root causes of child labor by administering social programs for impoverished families. In 2015, 10 countries in the region implemented cash transfer programs to improve access for poor families to education, adequate nutrition, and health care. Seven of these 10 governments provided the funding for the cash transfer programs—Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Uzbekistan, while Bangladesh and Indonesia administered food support programs for impoverished households and India, Mongolia, and Timor-Leste implemented school feeding programs.

During the reporting period, sub-regions within Asia and the Pacific worked together to combat child labor. The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children finalized a Regional Action Plan to End Child Labor in countries in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation. Kiribati, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands participated in the ILO-supported Pacific Sub-Regional Child Labor and Trafficking Program, which expanded best practices learned from the ILO’s child labor program in Fiji, such as establishing an inspection unit focused on child labor. ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, adopted the Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which seeks to improve regional coordination on the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases and enhance assistance for victims.

In many countries in the region, there are also legal and enforcement gaps related to the worst forms of child labor. Laws prohibiting hazardous work for children do not meet international standards in 10 countries in the Pacific Islands and 5 countries in South and Central Asia. In addition, laws prohibiting the commercial sexual exploitation of children do not conform to international standards in 5 South and Central Asian countries, 10 Pacific Island countries, and Mongolia. Most governments in the Asia and Pacific region also lacked resources to effectively enforce laws related to child labor, including its worst forms. For example, eight countries in the region did not have a sufficient number of labor inspectors to provide adequate coverage of the labor force.[2]

Despite progress in addressing child labor in the region, many children in the Asia and Pacific region face significant obstacles to accessing education. Six countries lack both free primary education and compulsory education ages. Four countries have the age to which education is compulsory below the minimum age for work, which increases children’s vulnerability to child labor because they are not required to be in school but are not legally permitted to work either. Costs associated with education—such as books, uniforms, and teacher fees—prevent children from attending school in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kiribati, the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands. Physical access to education is also a problem for children living in remote, rural areas, particularly in Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Kiribati, Nepal, the Philippines, and Thailand. In addition, children from minority and migrant communities face barriers to accessing education in Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, the 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, and Papua New Guinea.


[1] ILO. Marking Progress Against Child Labour: Global Estimates and Trends 2000-2012. Geneva; 2013. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---ipec/documents/publication/wcms_221513.pdf.

[2] For seven countries in the region, information on the number of labor inspectors was unavailable.  For three territories, where there is no child labor problem, this information is not reported. 

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