Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cook Islands

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Cook Islands

2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Minimal Advancement

In 2014, the Cook Islands made a minimal advancement in efforts to prevent the worst forms of child labor. The Government participated in UNDAF Pacific, which includes youth initiatives related to access to education and security in the Cook Islands. Also, the Government began a baseline study on youth participation in the workforce, which will result in a Youth Monograph. Although research found no evidence that child labor, including its worst forms, exists in the Cook Islands, the Government's legal framework is insufficient to prevent children from engaging in prostitution and pornography, and research could not determine whether laws prohibit internal trafficking in persons or use of children in illicit activities.

 

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Research found no evidence that child labor, including its worst forms, exists in the Cook Islands.(1)

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The Cook Islands is a self-governing territory of New Zealand. The territory follows a combination of its own laws and some of the laws of New Zealand and the United Kingdom that were enacted prior to self-government in 1965.(2, 3) There are no armed forces in the Cook Islands.(3, 4) New Zealand is responsible for the Cook Islands' defense at its request and in consultation with the Cook Islands.(3)

Since 1988, no treaty signed, ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to by New Zealand extends to the Cook Islands, unless New Zealand acted expressly on behalf of the Cook Islands.(5)

The Cook Islands has ratified one key international convention concerning child labor (Table 1).

Table 1. Ratification of International Conventions on Child Labor

Convention

Ratification

ILO C. 138, Minimum Age

N/A

ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor

N/A

UN CRC

UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict

 

UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

 

Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons

 

The Government has established laws and regulations related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 2).

Table 2. Laws and Regulations Related to Child Labor

Standard

Yes/No

Age

Related Legislation

Minimum Age for Work

Yes

13

Article 30 of the Employment Relations Act 2012 (6)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

Yes

18

Article 73.2 of the Employment Relations Act 2012 (6)

Prohibition of Hazardous Occupations or Activities for Children

Yes

 

Article 73 of the Employment Relations Act 2012 (6)

Prohibition of Forced Labor

Yes

 

Article 3 of the Prohibition of Forced and Compulsory Labor Ordinance 1960 (7)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

Article 109I of the Crimes Amendment Act 2004 (8)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

No

 

 

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

No

 

 

Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment

N/A*

 

 

Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service

Yes

17

Government of New Zealand's general army requirement at Article 33 of the Defense Act 1990 (9)

Compulsory Education Age

Yes

16

Article 23.1 of the Education Act 2012 (10)

Free Public Education

Yes

 

Article 22.2 of the Education Act 2012 (10)

* No conscription (11)

 

 

 

In 2012, the Cook Islands enacted the Employment Relations Act, which prohibits children younger than 13 years of age from being employed.(6, 12) The Act also prohibits a school-aged person, defined as 13 to 16 years old, from working during normal school hours, working for more than 10 hours a week outside of school hours, or doing work that is not considered light work.(6) Light work is defined in the Act as "work that does not threaten the child's health and safety, or hinder the child's education or vocational orientation and training."(6) Under the Act, children under 18 years old are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations.(6)

Under the Crimes Amendment Act, trafficking in persons across borders is illegal; however, it is not clear whether internal trafficking in persons is addressed in the Act.(8, 13)

The Crimes Act and the 2004 Amendment prohibit prostitution but do not address child commercial sexual exploitation or child pornography.(8, 13, 14) In 2010, the Government of the Cook Islands began a comprehensive review of the Crimes Act to amend provisions of the Act to include criminalizing child prostitution and child pornography.(14-16) To date, the Act has not yet been modified.(1, 14, 16) Additionally, a draft Family Law Bill, which will include legislation on child protection, has been pending through 2014.(1)

Research could not determine whether laws prohibiting the use of children for illicit activities exist.

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Even though there is no evidence of a problem, the Government has established institutional mechanisms to monitor the implementation of child labor laws in the Cook Islands (Table 3).

Table 3. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

The Labor and Consumer Affairs Division of the Government

Implement child labor laws in the Cook Islands.(17)

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Social Services' Employment and Labor Relations Office

Provide child services.(1)

Cook Islands Police Service

Enforce child labor laws.(1)

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Even though there is no evidence of a problem, the Government has established institutional mechanisms to address children's rights and protection (Table 4).

Table 4. Mechanisms to Coordinate Government Efforts on Child Labor

Coordinating Body

Role & Description

Minister of Health

Coordinate national efforts to comply with the provisions of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols.(1)

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Even though there is no evidence of a problem, the Government of the Cook Islands has established policies related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5).

Table 5. Policies Related to Child Labor

Program

Description

United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the Pacific (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.(18) In the Cook Islands, includes different youth initiatives related to access to education, and safety.(18, 19)

In 2014, the Cook Islands began a baseline study of youth participation in the workforce, which will result in a Youth Monograph expected to be published in 2015.(20-22) The Youth Monograph is part of a new youth policy, but the policy has not yet been finalized.(21)

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As there is no evidence of a problem, there appears to be no need for programs to address child labor, including its worst forms.

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Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the continued prevention of child labor, including its worst forms, in the Cook Islands (Table 6).

Table 6. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including its Worst Forms

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Clarify whether the prohibitions in the Cook Islands Crimes Amendment Act 2004 extend to internal trafficking in persons.

2011–2014

Amend the Crimes Act to address and criminalize child prostitution and child pornography.

2012–2014

Ensure the Family Law Bill meets international standards for child protection and applies to children working in domestic service.

2014

 

Clarify whether a law exists that prohibits the use of children in illicit activities.

2011–2014

 

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1.U.S. Embassy - Wellington. reporting, Feburary 3, 2015.

2.Government of the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands, Government of the Cook Islands, [online] [cited February 22, 2013];.

3.Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: The Cook Islands, CIA, [online] August 9, 2013 [cited 2013];.

4.Child Soldiers International. "Appendix II: Data Summary on Recruitment Ages of National Armies," in Louder than Words: An Agenda for Action to End State Use of Child Soldiers. London; September 2012;.

5.U.S. Embassy- Wellington official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 16, 2014.

6.Government of Cook Islands. Employment Relations Act 2012, enacted 2012.

7.Government of Cook Islands. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labour Ordinance 1960, No. 2 of 1960, enacted 1960.

8.Government of Cook Islands. Crimes Amendment Act 2004, No. 5 of 2004, enacted June 1, 2004.

9.Government of New Zealand. Defence Act 1990, 1990 No 28, enacted April 1, 1990.

10.Government of Cook Islands. Education Act 2012, 18 of 2012, enacted December 12, 2012. http://www.education.gov.ck/attachments/article/785/Education%20Act%202012.pdf.

11.Government of New Zealand. Declaration to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; November 12, 2001.

12.Public Services International. Cook Islands workers celebrate new labour legislation. Ferney-Voltaire Cedex, France; January 2, 2013.

13.Government of Cook Islands. Crimes Act 1969, enacted January 27, 1970.

14.Reeves, R. Cook Islands Seeks to Modernize 1969 Crimes Act. Rarotonga, Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center; February 13, 2012.

15.Punanga Tauturu Incorporated. Cook Islands NGO Parallel Report to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rarotonga, Cook Islands; September 29, 2011.

16.U.S. Embassy- Wellington. reporting, January 22, 2014.

17.Government of Cook Islands. Cook Islands Response to 2011 TDA Appendix Submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Request for Information on 2011 TDA Appendix. Wellington; 2013.

18.United Nations Development Assistance Framework. United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the Pacific Region 2013 — 2017; 2013.

19.United Nations Development Assistance Framework. Cook Islands NSDP 2011 — 2015/UNDAF Results Matrix 2013 — 2017; 2012.

20.Ministry of Internal Affairs. Cook Islands baseline data on labour force and youth has commenced, Government of Cook Islands, [Media Release] October 1, 2014 [cited December 31 2014];.

21.U.S. Embassy - Wellington official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 11, 2015.

22.U.S. Embassy- Wellington official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 12, 2015.

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