- Strengthened legal frameworks prohibiting hazardous work for children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- Leveraged technology to improve enforcement of child labor laws.
- Launched new policies aimed at eliminating child labor.
Challenges and Existing Gaps:
- Insufficient number of labor inspectors and inadequate resources prevent enforcement of child labor laws.
- Social programs do not exist for children engaged in certain types of child labor, particularly for children engaged in hazardous work and commercial sexual exploitation.
- Some governments perpetrated acts of violence against child laborers or made children more vulnerable to child labor.
In Asia and the Pacific, 62 million children ages 5 to 17, or 7.4 percent of all children in the region, are engaged in child labor. Figure 10 shows an overview of the regional outlook. Children in this region engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation. Children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and as domestic workers in private households. In addition, the governments of Burma and the Philippines committed acts of violence against children during the reporting period. Following the Burmese military’s acts of ethnic cleansing and violence against the Rohingya people, an estimated 400,000 children were displaced to refugee camps in Bangladesh, where they were vulnerable to additional abuses, including child labor. In the Philippines, police and armed persons associated with the police killed a number of children suspected of being drug dealers, while other children were placed in detention centers with poor conditions.
In 2017, countries throughout the region strengthened protections for children, including by addressing gaps in existing laws related to hazardous work and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. For the first time, Timor-Leste and Pakistan’s Sindh Province established hazardous work prohibitions for children, and India and Mongolia expanded the list of hazardous work activities for children. Afghanistan adopted a Penal Code that explicitly prohibits bacha bazi, a practice involving exploitation of boys for social and sexual entertainment. In addition, the Philippines passed the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, which aims to prevent the online sexual exploitation of children. In Burma, the USDOL-funded Myanmar Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (My-PEC) supported the country’s efforts to bring laws and practices into alignment with the principles of ILO C. 182, including by amending existing national laws to meet international minimum age requirements and provide additional legal protections to children.
In 2017, some countries in the region also leveraged technology to enforce child labor laws. India launched an online portal that allows NGOs and law enforcement officials to share information and coordinate child labor cases at the national, state, and local levels. Likewise, Thailand adopted the Cyber Tipline Policy, enabling it to partner with the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to combat the online sexual exploitation of children.
Despite this progress, the region faces significant challenges in eliminating child labor. Fewer than a quarter of countries covered in this report had an adequate number of labor inspectors. Afghanistan, for example, had only 8 labor inspectors, compared with the ILO’s technical advice of 200 inspectors. Bangladesh ideally would have 1,835 inspectors, but employed only 317, while Pakistan’s inspectorate had only 356 inspectors of the ILO’s technical advice of 1,597 inspectors.
Most countries in Asia and the Pacific dedicated insufficient financial resources to their Labor Inspectorates, which negatively affected the enforcement of child labor laws. For instance, Tuvalu’s Labor Inspectorate received no funding in 2017. Officials in Nepal’s Department of Labor noted their budget was insufficient and had decreased, compared with 2016 levels, resulting in a lack of resources to collect and publish data on child labor law violations. Bhutan’s Ministry of Labor and Human Resources also reported that limited resources placed constraints on the number of inspections conducted and inspectors employed.
Many labor inspectors across the region lacked the training needed to do their jobs. Inspectors in the Maldives received no training on the identification and remediation of child labor. Pakistan’s provincial labor inspectors indicated that insufficient training hampered their ability to inspect workplaces. In addition, insufficient training limited the capacity of local authorities in Cambodia to enforce regulations against hazardous work for children in agriculture, brickmaking, fishing, tobacco, and cassava production.
Countries across the region also lacked social programs to adequately assist child laborers, particularly those working in hazardous situations and commercial sexual exploitation. In the Maldives, social programs did not specifically address the commercial sexual exploitation of children, forced labor in domestic work, or the use of children in drug trafficking or the production of pornography. Existing programs in Pakistan did not provide adequate protection and rehabilitation services for bonded child laborers and victims of human trafficking. Afghanistan also had no programs aimed at eliminating child labor in agriculture or the production of bricks, and it greatly needs government-run shelters for victims of human trafficking. The Government of Kazakhstan lacked programs to assist children engaged in the production of cotton, which is on the country’s hazardous work list.