Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tonga

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Tonga

2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

No Advancement

In 2015, Tonga made no advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Although research is limited, there is evidence that children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in forced domestic work. Gaps in the legal framework remain; the country has no laws specifying a minimum age for work or defining hazardous forms of work for children under age 18, leaving children unprotected from labor exploitation. The Government has not established a coordinating mechanism, policy, or program to address child labor, including its worst forms.

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Although research is limited, there is evidence that children in Tonga are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in forced domestic work.(1, 2) Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in Tonga. Data on some of these indicators are not available from the sources used in this report.

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 (%):

110.9

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2013, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015.(3)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis, 2015.(4)

Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children’s work by sector and activity.

Table 2. Overview of Children’s Work by Sector and Activity

Sector/Industry

Activity

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡

Commercial sexual exploitation as a result of human trafficking* (1, 5)

Forced domestic work* (1, 2)

* Evidence of this activity is limited and/or extent of the problem is unknown.
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.

Tonga has ratified one key international convention concerning child labor (Table 3).

Table 3. 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 4).

Table 4. Laws and Regulations Related to Child Labor

Standard

Yes/No

Age

Related Legislation

Minimum Age for Work

No

 

 

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

No

 

 

Prohibition of Hazardous Occupations or Activities for Children

No

 

 

Prohibition of Forced Labor

Yes

 

Sections 69-70 of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act (6)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

Section 69 of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act (6)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Yes

 

Sections 115A, 125, and 126 of the Criminal Offences Act (7, 8)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

No

 

 

Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment

N/A*

 

 

Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service

Yes

16

Section 25 of the Defense Services Act (9)

Compulsory Education Age

Yes

18

Section 98 of the Education Act 2013 (10)

Free Public Education

No

 

Section 95 of the Education Act 2013 (10)

* No conscription.(9)

Tonga has not established a minimum age for work or for hazardous work, nor has it been determined by national law or regulation the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.

Tonga’s law prohibiting child trafficking is insufficient because it does not specifically prohibit trafficking children domestically.(6) The law also does not criminally prohibit forced labor, debt bondage and slavery  unless they also involve trafficking.(1, 6)  

While the Criminal Offenses Act prohibits the procurement of women and girls under age 21 for prostitution, the Act does not criminalize procurement of boys for prostitution.(8) While the Criminal Offenses Act prohibits distributing, publishing, producing, and possessing child pornography of children under age 14, the Act does not prohibit the use, procurement, and offering of children for the production of pornography and for pornographic performances.(7)

According to the Criminal Offences Act, a child can be deemed an “involuntary agent” if that child is used to conduct illegal activities; however, the act  does not specifically prohibit using children in illicit activities, particularly for producing and trafficking drugs.(8, 11)

The Education Act 2013 does not guarantee free primary education for all children; however,  the Tonga Education Policy Framework provides free education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14.(12)

The Government has drafted an Employment Relations Bill that would establish a minimum age for nonhazardous and hazardous work and prohibit the categorical worst forms of child labor.(13-15) The parliament has yet to pass the Bill.(15)

The Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5).

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

Ministry of Commerce, Tourism, and Labor

Enforce labor laws, including those relating to child labor and worst forms of child labor.(15)

Tongan Police, Transnational Crime Unit and Domestic Violence Unit

Enforce criminal laws relating to the worst forms of child labor.(15)

Ministry of Internal Affairs, Immigration Department

Collaborate with Tongan police and Ministry of Commerce, Tourism, and Labor on enforcement of criminal laws in cases in which foreign nationals are involved in the worst forms of child labor.(15)

 

Labor Law Enforcement

In 2015, law enforcement agencies in Tonga did not take actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms (Table 6).

Table 6. Labor Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Labor Law Enforcement

2014

2015

Labor Inspectorate Funding

Unknown

Unknown (16)

Number of Labor Inspectors

Unknown

Unknown

Inspectorate Authorized to Assess Penalties

Unknown

Unknown

Training for Labor Inspectors

   

Initial Training for New Employees

Unknown

Unknown

Training on New Laws Related to Child Labor

N/A

N/A

Refresher Courses Provided

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspections

Unknown

Unknown

Number Conducted at Worksite

Unknown

Unknown

Number Conducted by Desk Reviews

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations Found

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Penalties Imposed That Were Collected

Unknown

Unknown

Routine Inspections Conducted

Unknown

Unknown

Routine Inspections Targeted

Unknown

Unknown

Unannounced Inspections Permitted

Unknown

Unknown

Unannounced Inspections Conducted

Unknown

Unknown

Complaint Mechanism Exists

No (11)

No (15)

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services

No (11)

No (15)

 

Although Tonga has no formal child labor legislation, business license inspectors look for children engaged in the worst forms of child labor during their regular inspection duties. If there is a specific complaint, then the Chief Labor Inspector visits the site, conducts an investigation, and requests police involvement if necessary.(15)

Criminal Law Enforcement

In 2015, criminal law enforcement agencies in Tonga did not take actions to combat the worst forms of child labor (Table 7).

Table 7. Criminal Law Enforcement Efforts Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement

2014

2015

Training for Investigators

 

 

Initial Training for New Employees

Unknown

Unknown

Training on New Laws Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor

N/A

N/A

Refresher Courses Provided

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Investigations

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Violations Found

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Prosecutions Initiated

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Convictions

Unknown

Unknown

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services

Yes (11)

Yes (15)

 

The Government of Tonga did not employ specific investigators to enforce laws against the worst forms of child labor.(15)

Research found no evidence that the Government has established mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor, including its worst forms.

Research found no evidence of policies to address child labor, including its worst forms (Table 8).

Table 8. Policies Related to Child Labor

Policy

Description

Tonga Education Policy Framework*

Aims to build the capacity of the Ministry of Education, improve school quality, and achieve universal primary education.(12, 17)

UNDAF 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.(18) Includes initiatives to prevent and respond to exploitation and abuse of children in Tonga.(19)

* Child labor elimination and prevention strategies do not appear to have been integrated into this policy.

Research found no evidence of programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms.

In 2012–2013, the Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted a spot survey of sectors that have limited evidence of child labor; however, these data have yet to be released.(15)

Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, in Tonga (Table 9).

Table 9. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including its Worst Forms

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ratify the UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

2013 – 2015

Establish labor regulations that include a minimum age of 14 for employment and a minimum age of 18 for hazardous work, in accordance with international standards.

2009 – 2015

Ensure that hazardous occupations or activities are prohibited for children.

2009 – 2015

Ensure that the law criminally prohibits forced labor, including debt bondage and slavery.

2015

Ensure that the law specifically prohibits domestic human trafficking of children.

2014 – 2015

 

Ensure that laws prohibit all forms of commercial sexual exploitation for both girls and boys under the age of 18.

2009 – 2015

Ensure that the law prohibits the use of children in illicit activities, including in the production and trafficking of drugs.

2014 – 2015

Enforcement

Publish information on labor law and criminal law enforcement activities and efforts.

2014 – 2015

Establish a mechanism for child labor complaints and ensure that labor inspectors have the training and resources necessary to respond to child labor complaints.

2013 – 2015

Provide criminal investigators with the training and resources necessary to enforce laws prohibiting the worst forms of child labor.

2013 – 2015

Establish referral mechanisms between the labor inspectorate, the police, and social welfare services to protect and rehabilitate children involved in child labor, including its worst forms.

2014 – 2015

Coordination

Establish a coordinating mechanism to combat the worst forms of child labor.

2009 – 2015

Government Policies

Adopt policies that address child labor, including its worst forms.

2014 – 2015

Integrate child labor elimination and prevention strategies into existing policies.

2010 – 2015

Social Programs

Implement programs to address child labor in domestic work.

2010 – 2015

Publish results of the spot survey and conduct further research to determine the activities carried out by children.

2013 – 2015

 

1.         U.S. Department of State. "Tonga," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2015. Washington, DC; July 27, 2015; http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/index.htm.

2.         U.S. Department of State. "Tonga," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2014. Washington, DC; June 25, 2015; http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/.

3.         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.

4.         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.

5.         U.S. Department of State. "Tonga," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2013. Washington, DC; February 27, 2014; http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220238.

6.         Government of Tonga. Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act, enacted 2013. http://www.crownlaw.gov.to/cms/images/LEGISLATION/PRINCIPAL/2013/2013-0017/CounterTerrorismandTransnationalOrganisedCrimeAct2013_1.pdf.

7.         Government of Tonga. Criminal Offenses (Amendment) Act 2003, enacted 2003. http://legislation.to/Tonga/DATA/AMD/1988-018/CriminalOffences(Amendment)Act2007.pdf.

8.         Government of Tonga. Criminal Offenses Act, enacted 1988. http://crownlaw.gov.to/cms/images/LEGISLATION/AMENDING/2003/2003-0006/CriminalOffencesAmendmentAct2003.pdf

9.         Government of Tonga. Tonga Defence Services Act 1992, Law No. 17, enacted 1992. http://legislation.to/Tonga/DATA/PRIN/1992-017/TongaDefenceServicesAct1992.pdf.

10.       Government of Tonga. Education Act 2013, enacted February 26, 2014. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/98654/117468/F-2000392432/TON98654.pdf.

11.       U.S. Embassy- Suva. reporting, January 15, 2015.

12.       Tonga, Go. Tonga Education Policy Framework 2004-2019; 2004. http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Tonga/Tonga_Final-draft_policy_framework_2004-2019.pdf.

13.       Government of Tonga. Employment Relations Bill [draft]; 2013.

14.       Government of Tonga. Submission Re: Child Labor in Tonga. Nuku'alofa; 2014.

15.       U.S. Embassy- Suva. reporting, January 4, 2016.

16.       U.S. Embassy- Suva official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 31, 2016.

17.       U.S. Embassy- Suva. reporting, January 31, 2013.

18.       UNDP. UNDAF for the Pacific Region 2013-2017. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/samoa/docs/UNDP_WS_UNDAF_Summary_Report_2013-17.pdf.

19.       UNDAF. Results Matrix 2013-2017, Tonga. http://www.pacific.one.un.org/images/stories/2013/tonga_ccrm.pdf.

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