2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Asia & the Pacific

2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

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

  • Adopted laws that establish a minimum age for work and a minimum age for hazardous work.
  • Removed children from child labor as a result of labor inspections.
  • Launched national action plans to combat the worst forms of child labor.

Challenges and Existing Gaps

  • Laws do not adequately prohibit the use of children in illicit activities, including for the production and trafficking of drugs.
  • Labor inspectors lack the authority to conduct inspections at informal workplaces and to assess penalties.
  • Children face persistent obstacles to access education, including lack of schools and prohibitive costs to attend school.

In Asia and the Pacific, 62.1 million children ages 5 to 17, or 7.4 percent of all children in the region, are engaged in child labor.(1) Figure 5 provides an overview of the regional outlook. This is close to 16 million fewer child laborers in 2016 compared with 2012. In addition, this is the first time since the ILO released its global estimates on child labor that Asia and the Pacific does not have the highest absolute numbers of child laborers.(1) Children perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and as domestic workers in third-party households. Children also engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation. In 2016, while only 2 of the 32 Asian and Pacific countries covered in this report received an assessment of Significant Advancement (the Philippines and Thailand), countries across Asia and the Pacific made meaningful efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. These efforts included adopting laws that establish a minimum age for work and a minimum age for hazardous work, identifying and removing children from child labor as a result of labor inspections, and launching national action plans to combat the worst forms of child labor. However, additional efforts need to be undertaken to prevent and eliminate child labor, including ensuring that laws adequately prohibit the use of children in illicit activities, authorizing labor inspectors to conduct inspections at informal workplaces, and eliminating barriers to education.

In 2016, one country made meaningful efforts, but had a practice of being complicit in the use of forced child labor: Uzbekistan, where forced child labor occurred in more than an isolated incident during the 2016 cotton harvest. In addition, Burma received no assessment in 2016 because this is the first year that efforts have been assessed and suggested actions provided for Burma. While Burma made meaningful efforts, its national army continued to use some children as combatants, porters and cooks in conflict areas.

In 2016, several governments in Asia and the Pacific adopted laws related to child labor, including its worst forms. Burma, India, and Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces passed legislation that established minimum ages for work and hazardous work. The Philippines revised and expanded its list of hazardous work prohibited for children under age18, and Thailand adopted a ministerial regulation to protect children under age 18 from hazardous work in seafood processing establishments. Afghanistan passed legislation to prohibit child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, the Solomon Islands criminalized commercial sexual exploitation broadly, and Cambodia adopted a law that prohibits the use of minors for forced labor while they are held in juvenile detention facilities.

Countries in the region also increased the capacity of law enforcement agencies to combat child labor, including its worst forms. Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, the Philippines, and Thailand increased their numbers of labor inspectors and Cambodia issued standardized guidance on how to conduct child labor inspections. Of the 32 countries in Asia and the Pacific covered in this report, 17 provided training to labor inspectors and 15 provided training to criminal law enforcement officials. Both the Philippines and Thailand established law enforcement agencies to combat Internet-facilitated commercial sexual exploitation of children. Nepal’s police also developed a training curriculum that addresses child labor issues and trained officers with this new curriculum. In addition, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan’s Punjab Province, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka conducted targeted inspections of workplaces with a high risk of child labor and removed children engaged in prohibited work.

Several governments improved policy frameworks and established social programs to protect children from the worst forms of child labor. Cambodia, Kazakhstan, and the Kyrgyz Republic launched national action plans to combat the worst forms of child labor, and Afghanistan adopted a policy to incentivize families to prevent their children from working in carpet weaving and enroll them in school. The Philippines set a new goal of withdrawing one million child laborers by 2022. Several countries designated additional geographic areas as child labor free, including industrial zones in Indonesia, 5 additional municipalities in Nepal, 79 additional districts in the Philippines, and 19 additional districts in Sri Lanka.

In addition, countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands attended a sub-regional consultation workshop in Thailand on achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 that focuses on ending child labor, forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking. Furthermore, the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children held a sub-regional consultation on Goal 8.7 in Bhutan. Both consultations were held in preparation for the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labor, which will be hosted by Argentina in November 2017. During the year, many countries in the region also supported regional policies (Table 1) and participated in programs (Table 2) to address child labor, including its worst forms.

Table 1: Key Regional Policies Related to Child Labor in Asia and the Pacific

Policy

Description

Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of All Forms of Child Labor in South Asia (2016–2021)†

Seeks to prevent and eliminate all forms of child labor in South Asia by strengthening the institutional capacity of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children and increasing collaboration among its members, which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.(2)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

Establishes a regional anti-human trafficking framework among 10 ASEAN member states to improve coordination on the investigation and prosecution of trafficking in persons cases and enhance assistance for victims. In 2016, Thailand and Cambodia ratified the convention.(3, 4)

Beijing Declaration on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia Pacific Region

Commits signatories to advancing efforts to protect children’s rights, including pertaining to child labor, child trafficking, and child pornography. Includes 29 signatories, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu.(5)

United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the Pacific Region (2013–2017)

Promotes sustainable development and economic growth for vulnerable groups in 14 Pacific Island countries and territories: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.(6)

† Policy was approved during the reporting period.

 

Table 2: Key Regional Social Programs to Address Child Labor in Asia and the Pacific

Program

Description

Pacific Sub-Regional Child Labor and Trafficking Program

ILO-supported program that expands the work and lessons learned from the TACKLE program in Fiji to Kiribati, Samoa, and Solomon Islands.(7) Activities include conducting research, raising awareness, and building government capacity to address child labor.(8)

Asia-Australia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2013–2018)

$45 million Australian Aid-funded, 5-year regional and national-level project implemented in ASEAN countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Seeks to build the capacity of regional and national stakeholders to improve the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of human trafficking cases and to enhance coordination at the regional level.(9)

 

Despite efforts in addressing child labor in the region, many countries lack adequate legal protection  against the worst forms of child labor, especially with regard to hazardous work. For example, 7 countries have a minimum age for hazardous work below the international standard of 18 years; 9 countries only provide a general prohibition and do not identify specific hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children; and 9 countries’ hazardous work prohibitions are not comprehensive. Laws prohibiting the commercial sexual exploitation of children do not adequately criminalize the use, procuring, and offering of children for prostitution, pornography, and pornographic performance in Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, and seven Pacific Island countries. Furthermore, 19 countries in the region have not adequately prohibited the use of children in illicit activities because the use, procuring, and offering of children for both the production and trafficking of drugs are not criminalized.

Many countries in the Asia and Pacific region lacked the authority and resources necessary to enforce laws related to child labor, including its worst forms. Labor inspectorates in 6 countries lack the authority to conduct inspections in the informal sector, particularly domestic work in private homes where many children work. Labor inspectorates also do not have the authority to assess penalties in 9 countries and unannounced inspections are not permitted in Cambodia, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Mongolia. In addition, 14 countries in the region did not have a sufficient number of labor inspectors according to the ILO’s recommendation.(10)

Children in the Asia and Pacific region face significant obstacles to accessing education. Five countries have not established an age up to which education is compulsory and 5 countries have compulsory education ages that are 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 also not legally permitted to work. Free primary education has also not been established by law in 7 Pacific Island countries. In addition, prohibitive costs associated with education, such as books, uniforms, and teacher fees, prevent children from attending school in 11 countries.

 

 

1.            International Labor Organization. Global estimation of child labour 2016: Main results and methodology. Geneva,  September 2017.

2.            South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC). Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of All Forms of Child Labor in South Asia (2016-2021); 2016. http://www.alliance87.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/SAIEVAC-Regional-Action-Plan-on-Child-Labour.pdf.

3.            Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Kuala Lumpur; November 21, 2015. http://www.asean.org/storage/2015/12/ACTIP.pdf.

4.            U.S. Embassy- Bangkok. reporting, February 17, 2017.

5.            UNICEF. The Beijing Declaration on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia Pacific Region. Suva; November 4–6, 2010. www.unicef.org/eapro/Beijing_Declaration.docx.

6.            United Nations Development Programme. United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the Pacific Region: 2013–2017. Suva. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/samoa/docs/UNDP_WS_UNDAF_Summary_Report_2013-17.pdf.

7.            ILO. 2015 Sub-Regional Child Labour and Trafficking Forum. Nadi, Fiji; April 13–16, 2015. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---asia/---ro-bangkok/---ilo-suva/documents/publication/wcms_405960.pdf.

8.            ILO. ""Tackle Update": Tackling Child Labour through Education Quarterly Newsletter." (February 2015); http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---asia/---ro-bangkok/---ilo-suva/documents/publication/wcms_360537.pdf.

9.            U.S. Embassy- Bangkok. reporting, January 26, 2015.

10.          For eight 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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