Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Vanuatu

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Vanuatu

2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Minimal Advancement

In 2016, Vanuatu made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government adopted the Vanuatu National Child Protection Policy, which aims to protect children from the worst forms of child labor. However, there is evidence that children perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation. Vanuatu’s minimum ages of 12 for work and 15 for hazardous work are not in compliance with international standards. The Government has yet to pass the Employment Relations Bill of 2012 that prohibits the engagement of children under the age of 18 in hazardous work. In addition, Vanuatu does not have any social programs to address child labor, including its worst forms.

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Although research is limited, there is evidence that children in Vanuatu perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation.(1) Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in Vanuatu. 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

Children

Age

Percent

Working (% and population)

5 to 14

Unavailable

Attending School (%)

5 to 14

Unavailable

Combining Work and School (%)

7 to 14

Unavailable

Primary Completion Rate (%)

 

93.8

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2013, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2016.(2)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis, 2016.(3)

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

Agriculture

Forestry and farming, activities unknown (4)

Services

Street vending (4)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡

Commercial sexual exploitation (1, 5)

‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3 (a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.

There have been no national surveys of child labor in Vanuatu to determine the nature and prevalence of the problem.(6)

Vanuatu has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).

Table 3. 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 4). However, gaps exist in Vanuatu’s legal framework to adequately protect children from child labor.

Table 4. Laws and Regulations on Child Labor

Standard

Meets International Standards: Yes/No

Age

Legislation

Minimum Age for Work

No

14

Section 38 of the Employment Act (7)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

No

15

Section 40 of the Employment Act (7)

Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children

No

 

Section 40 of the Employment Act (7)

Prohibition of Forced Labor

No

 

Section 7 of the Employment Act; Section 102 of the Penal Code; Organized Crime Act (7-9)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

Section 35 of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime Act (9)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Yes

 

Sections 101B, 101C, 101D, 147A, and 147B of the Penal Code (8)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

No

 

Section 35 of the Penal Code (8)

Minimum Age for Military Recruitment

 

 

 

State Compulsory

N/A†

 

 

State Voluntary

N/A†

 

 

Non-state Compulsory

No

 

 

Compulsory Education Age

No

 

 

Free Public Education

No

 

Primary Education School Fee Grant Policy (10)

† No standing military (11)

As Vanuatu has not ratified ILO C.138, the minimum age for work of 14 years does not meet international standards. .(7) The Employment Act permits children ages 12 and 13 to work in agricultural light work, but it does not specify the activities and hours per week that are allowed for work.(4, 7)

The Government has yet to pass the Employment Relations Bill of 2012 that prohibits the engagement of children under the age of 18 in hazardous work and has not determined by national law or regulation the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.(12) The minimum age of 15 for hazardous work is not in compliance with international standards, failing to protect children ages 16 and 17 from work that could jeopardize their health and safety.(7)

Laws related to forced labor are not sufficient, as debt bondage is not criminally prohibited.(4, 7, 8) In addition, the Penal Code does not include heightened penalties for inciting children to engage in criminal activities, including drug production and drug trafficking.(8) There is no compulsory age for education, and education is inaccessible for vast numbers of people who live in remote areas, which increase the risk of children’s involvement in child labor.(12-14) Although it does not appear that there are any laws that provide free basic education, there is a policy that sufficiently provides for free basic education in government-owned schools for children in grades one to six.(10)

The Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5). However, gaps in labor law and criminal law enforcement remain and some enforcement information is not available.

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

Department of Labor and Ministry of Justice

Enforce provisions set forth in the Employment Act, including child labor laws.(4)

Vanuatu Police Force

Enforce all criminal laws related to the worst forms of child labor.(4)

Labor Law Enforcement

In 2016, labor law enforcement agencies in Vanuatu took 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

2015

2016

Labor Inspectorate Funding

0 (15)

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspectors

4 (5)

4 (16)

Inspectorate Authorized to Assess Penalties

Yes (5)

Unknown

Training for Labor Inspectors

 

 

Initial Training for New Employees

No (5)

Yes (16)

Training on New Laws Related to Child Labor

N/A

Unknown

Refresher Courses Provided

No (5)

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspections

41 (5)

185 (16)

Number Conducted at Worksite

Unknown

185 (16)

Number Conducted by Desk Reviews

Unknown

85 (16)

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

Yes (16)

Routine Inspections Targeted

Unknown

No (16)

Unannounced Inspections Permitted

Yes (5)

Yes (16)

Unannounced Inspections Conducted

Yes (5)

Yes (16)

Complaint Mechanism Exists

Unknown (5)

Yes (16)

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services

Unknown

Yes (16)

Criminal Law Enforcement

Research did not find information on whether criminal law enforcement agencies in Vanuatu took 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

2015

2016

Training for Investigators

   

Initial Training for New Employees

Unknown (5)

Unknown* (4)

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

N/A

N/A

Refresher Courses Provided

Unknown (5)

Unknown (4)

Number of Investigations

Unknown (5)

Unknown* (4)

Number of Violations Found

Unknown (5)

Unknown* (4)

Number of Prosecutions Initiated

Unknown (5)

Unknown* (4)

Number of Convictions

Unknown (5)

Unknown* (4)

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services

Unknown (5)

Unknown (4)

* The Government does not publish this information.

Based on the most recent data available from 2012, the Vanuatu Police Force employs 50 investigators, who are responsible for enforcing laws against the worst forms of child labor.(6)

Although the Government has established a working group to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children, research found no evidence that the working group functions as a coordinating mechanism to address child labor, including its worst forms (Table 8).

Table 8. Key Mechanisms to Coordinate Government Efforts on Child Labor

Coordinating Body

Role & Description

National Child Protection Working Group

Serve as the primary forum for experience exchange in child protection. Comprises representatives from the Government, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and NGOs.(4, 16, 17)

The Government has established a policy related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 9).

Table 9. Key Policies Related to Child Labor

Policy

Description

Vanuatu National Child Protection Policy (2016–2026)†

Aims to create an environment that protects children from abuse, exploitation, human trafficking, neglect, and violence; provides children with equitable access to services to support reintegration and recovery when needed.(17)

† Policy was approved during the reporting period.

In 2016, the Government adopted the Vanuatu National Child Protection Policy, which aims to protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking; however, the policy leaves children vulnerable to illicit activities.(17)

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

Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, in Vanuatu (Table 10).

Table 10. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including its Worst Forms

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ratify the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

2014 – 2016

Pass the Employment Relations Bill of 2012.

2016

Establish a minimum age for work of at least 15 years.

2016

Establish a minimum age for hazardous work as age 18 and identify hazardous occupations and activities prohibited for children.

2009 – 2016

Ensure that the law protects children ages 12 and 13 employed in light agricultural work by specifying the activities and hours per week that are allowed.

2009 – 2016

Ensure that debt bondage is criminally prohibited.

2015 – 2016

Ensure that the law criminally prohibits the recruitment of children under 18 by non-state armed groups.

2016

Ensure that there are heightened penalties for inciting children to engage in criminal activities.

2015 – 2016

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

2016

Establish by law an age up to which education is compulsory that extends to the minimum age for employment.

2016

Establish by law free basic public education.

2016

Enforcement

Publish information regarding funding to the labor inspectorate to enforce laws prohibiting child labor.

2015 – 2016

Train labor inspectors on enforcing child labor laws and train criminal investigators on enforcing laws prohibiting the worst forms of child labor.

2014 – 2016

Publish data on labor law and criminal law enforcement actions taken to address child labor, including its worst forms.

2012 – 2016

Strengthen the labor inspectorate by initiating targeted inspections based on analysis of data related to risk-prone sectors and patterns of serious incidents.

2016

Establish referral mechanisms among the Labor Department, the Vanuatu Police Force, and social welfare services to protect and rehabilitate children involved in child labor, including its worst forms.

2014 – 2016

Coordination

Establish a coordinating mechanism to combat child labor, including its worst forms.

2012 – 2016

Government Policies

Adopt a policy that addresses all relevant worst forms of child labor, such as the use of children in illicit activities.

2016

Social Programs

Conduct a national child labor survey to determine the prevalence and nature of child labor in Vanuatu.

2014 – 2016

Explore ways to increase access to education and fully implement the policy of free, universal education.

2012 – 2016

Implement programs to address the worst forms of child labor, specifically commercial sexual exploitation.

2012 – 2016

1.           U.S. Department of State. "Vanuatu," in Human Rights Report- 2016. Washington, DC; March 3, 2017; https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265596.pdf.

2.           UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Total. Accessed December 16, 2016] http://data.uis.unesco.org/. Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education. 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 education. A high ratio indicates a high degree of current primary education completion. The calculation includes all new entrants to the last grade (regardless of age). Therefore, 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" in the Reference Materials section of this report.

3.           UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original Data from Labour Force Survey-Child Labour Survey, 2009. Analysis received April 13, 2017. 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

4.           U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, January 31, 2017.

5.           U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, January 22, 2016.

6.           U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, December 28, 2014.

7.           Government of Vanuatu. Employment Act (Cap 160), enacted May 30, 1983. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/docs/1071/Employment%20Act.pdf.

8.           Government of Vanuatu. Penal Code, Chap. 135, enacted August 7, 1981. http://www.paclii.org/vu/legis/consol_act/pc66/.

9.           Government of Vanuatu. Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime Act, enacted February 24, 2006. https://www.unodc.org/res/cld/document/vut/2006/counter_terrorism_and_transnational_organised_crime_act_html/Vanuatu_Counter_Terrorism_and_Transnational_Organised_Crime_Act.pdf.

10.         Tabimasmas, CS. Schools Grants Scheme Government of Vanuatu Ministry of Education, January 22, 2010. https://moet.gov.vu/docs/school-grants/Grants%20Scheme.pdf.

11.         CIA. The World Factbook [online] [cited February 7, 2017]; https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/nh.html. Data provided is the most recent estimate of the country's labor force. This number is used to calculate a "sufficient number" of labor inspectors based on the country's level of development as determined by the UN.

12.         ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request Concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Vanuatu (ratification:  2006) Published: 2017; accessed March 9, 2017; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:13101:0::NO:13101:P13101_COMMENT_ID:3294473.

13.         Child Rights International Network. Vanuatu: Children's Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review, [cited December 19, 2016]; https://www.crin.org/en/library/publications/vanuatu-childrens-rights-references-universal-periodic-review-0.

14.         Humanium for Children's Rights. "Children of Vanuatu: Realizing Children's Rights in Vanuatu, Humanium," Humanium.org [online] December 29, 2012 [cited December 29, 2014]; http://www.humanium.org/en/vanuatu/.

15.         U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 30, 2016.

16.         U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 15, 2017.

17.         Government of Vanuatu. Vanuatu National Child Protection Policy 2016-2026. Port Vila: http://www.mjcs.gov.vu/images/policy/Vanuatu_National_Child_Protection_Policy_2016-2026_FINAL_Nov16.pdf.

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