Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cook Islands

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Cook Islands

2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Moderate Advancement

In 2015, the Cook Islands made a moderate advancement in efforts to prevent the worst forms of child labor. The Government joined the ILO, finalized a youth policy, and released the results of a study on youth, including their employment activities. The Government continued its participation in the UN Development Assistance Framework for the Pacific Region, which includes youth initiatives related to access to education and security in the Cook Islands. Although research found no evidence that child labor, including its worst forms, exists in the Cook Islands, gaps in the Government’s legal framework may make children more vulnerable to engaging in prostitution and pornography or being used in illicit activities.

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

Table 1 provides key statistics on children’s work and education in the Cook Islands.

Table 1. Statistics on Children’s Work and Education

Working children, ages 5 to 14 (% and population):

Unavailable

School attendance, ages 5 to 14 (%):

Unavailable

Children combining work and school, ages 7 to 14 (%):

Unavailable

Primary completion rate (%):

103.5%

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2014, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015.(2)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis, 2015.(3)

The Cook Islands is a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand.(4) 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. There are no armed forces in the Cook Islands.(5, 6) New Zealand is responsible for the Cook Islands’ defense at its request and in consultation with the Cook Islands.(5)

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.(7)

The Cook Islands joined the ILO in June 2015 and has ratified one key international convention concerning child labor (Table 2).

Table 2. Ratification of International Conventions on Child Labor

Convention

Ratification

ILO C. 138, Minimum Age

 

ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor

 

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 3).

Table 3. 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 (9)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

Yes

 

18

Article 73.2 of the Employment Relations Act (9)

Prohibition of Hazardous Occupations or Activities for Children

Yes

 

 

Article 73 of the Employment Relations Act (9); Industrial and Labor Ordinance (1, 10)

Prohibition of Forced Labor

Yes

 

 

Article 3 of the Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Ordinance (11); Article 109I of the Crimes Amendment Act (12)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

 

Article 109I of the Crimes Amendment Act (12)

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

Article 33 of the Government of New Zealand’s Defense Act (13)

Compulsory Education Age

Yes

 

16

Article 23.1 of the Education Act (14)

Free Public Education

Yes

 

 

Article 22.2 of the Education Act (1, 14)

* No conscription (15)

 

 

 

 

 

In 2012, the Cook Islands enacted the Employment Relations Act, which prohibits children younger than age 13 from being employed.(9, 16) The Act also prohibits a school-aged person, defined as ages 13 to 16, 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.(9)

The Crimes Act and the 2004 Amendment prohibit prostitution, but do not address child commercial sexual exploitation, including child pornography.(12, 17, 18) In 2010, the Government began a comprehensive review of the Crimes Act to amend provisions to include criminalizing child prostitution and child pornography.(17, 19, 20) The Act has yet to be modified.(1) A draft Family Law Bill, which will include legislation on child protection, has been pending since 2014.(1)

Laws specifically prohibiting the use of children for illicit activities do not exist.(1)

Even though there is no evidence of a problem, the Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms in the Cook Islands (Table 4).

Table 4. 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.(21)

Cook Islands Police Service

Enforce child labor laws.(1)

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

Provide child services.(1)

 

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

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

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

Table 5. Policies Related to Child Labor

Policy

Description

Cook Islands National Youth Policy
(2015–2020)

Identifies priority areas for youth, including education and work opportunities, health, and youth risk and resilience.(22)

UNDAF for the Pacific Region (2013–2017)

Promotes sustainable development and economic growth for vulnerable groups in 14 Pacific Island countries and territories: the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.(23) In the Cook Islands, includes different youth initiatives related to access to education and safety.(23, 24)

 

In 2015, the Government released a youth study that was published in conjunction with the UN Population Fund. The study indicated that children and young adults ages 15 through 24 were employed as laborers and in restaurants, accommodations, offices, and other areas in the Cook Islands; however the report did not specifically address whether children under age 18 were involved in child labor, including its worst forms.(25)

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

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

Ratify ILO Conventions 138 and 182.

2015

Raise the minimum age for work to 15 to meet international standards.

2015

Ensure the Crimes Act addresses and criminalizes commercial child sexual exploitation, including child pornography.

2012 – 2015

Ensure the Family Law Bill meets international standards for child protection.

2014 – 2015

Ensure the law prohibits the use of children in illicit activities.

2015

Government Policies

Clarify whether children identified in the youth study were involved in child labor, including its worst forms.

2015

1.         U.S. Embassy- Wellington. reporting, January 15, 2016.

2.         UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total. [accessed December 16, 2015]; http://data.uis.unesco.org/. Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary school. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. This ratio is the total number of new entrants in the last grade of primary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population at the theoretical entrance age to the last grade of primary. A high ratio indicates a high degree of current primary education completion. Because the calculation includes all new entrants to last grade (regardless of age), the ratio can exceed 100 percent, due to over-aged and under-aged children who enter primary school late/early and/or repeat grades. For more information, please see the “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” section of this report.

3.         UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Analysis received December 18, 2015. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Analysis received December 18, 2015. Reliable statistical data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms. As a result, statistics on children’s work in general are reported in this chart, which may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on sources used, the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” section of this report.

4.         Government of the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands, Government of the Cook Islands, [online] [cited February 19, 2016]; http://www.cook-islands.gov.ck.

5.         Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: The Cook Islands, CIA, [online] February 19, 2016 [cited 2016]; https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cw.html.

6.         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; http://www.child-soldiers.org/global_report_reader.php?id=562.

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

8.         UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Interactive Dashboard. Ratification of Human Rights Treaties; accessed February 19, 2016; http://indicators.ohchr.org/.

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

10.       Government of Cook Islands. Industrial and Labour Ordinance enacted 1964. http://www.vertic.org/media/National%20Legislation/Cook_Islands/CK_Industrial_Labour_Ordinance_1964.pdf.

11.       Government of Cook Islands. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labour Ordinance 1960, No. 2 of 1960, enacted 1960. http://www.paclii.org/ck/legis/num_act/pofoclo1960503/.

12.       Government of Cook Islands. Crimes Amendment Act 2004, No. 5 of 2004, enacted June 1, 2004. www.paclii.org/ck/legis/num_act/caa2004162/.

13.       Government of New Zealand. Defence Act 1990, 1990 No 28, enacted April 1, 1990. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1990/0028/latest/DLM204973.html

14.       Government of Cook Islands. Education Act 2012, 18 of 2012, enacted December 12, 2012.

15.       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. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPACCRC.aspx.

16.       Public Services International. Cook Islands workers celebrate new labour legislation. Ferney-Voltaire Cedex, France; January 2, 2013. http://www.world-psi.org/en/cook-islands-workers-celebrate-new-labour-legislation.

17.       Reeves, R. Cook Islands Seeks to Modernize 1969 Crimes Act. Rarotonga, Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center; February 13, 2012. http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2012/February/02-16-19.htm.

18.       Government of Cook Islands. Crimes Act 1969, enacted January 27, 1970. http://www.paclii.org/ck/legis/num_act/ca196982/.

19.       Punanga Tauturu Incorporated. Cook Islands NGO Parallel Report to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rarotonga, Cook Islands; September 29, 2011. http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?id=26495.

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

21.       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.

22.       Government of Cook Islands. Cook Islands National Youth Policy:

Back to Basics for Youth 15-24 Years. Rarotonga; 2015. http://www.intaff.gov.ck/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CI-National-Youth-Policy-2015-2020.pdf.

23.       United Nations Development Assistance Framework. United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the Pacific Region 2013 - 2017; 2013. http://pacific.one.un.org/images/stories/2013/UNDAF_Summary_Report.pdf.

24.       United Nations Development Assistance Framework. Cook Islands NSDP 2011 - 2015/UNDAF Results Matrix 2013 - 2017; 2012. http://www.mfem.gov.ck/docs/AMD/Development%20Partners/UN/Result%20Matrix-Master-%20Cook%20Islands_230812.pdf.

25.       UNFPA. The Young People of the Cook Islands:  Analysis of the 2011 Populaton and Housing Census. Youth Monograph. Suva; February 2015. 

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