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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

A closer look at Child Labour in the Asia-Pacific region

Eradicating child labor is a must

MANILA – With the United Nations declaration of 2021 as “International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, International Labour Organization (ILO) Asst. Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa said the time for change has come.

In a statement from the ILO Regional Office in Bangkok, Asst. Director-General Miyakawa said there are 62 million children in the Asia Pacific region into child labour.

“Spend a moment to think just how big that number is roughly similar to every child aged under 14 in the Philippines, Viet Nam and Japan combined,” she said. She added 28 million of the 62 million undertake hazardous work, endangering their lives and health regularly in sectors which include mining, agriculture and construction.

She underscored behind the numbers are individual children, “each with hopes and dreams for the future.”

Asst. Director General Miyakawa cited the case of Min Min who scours for scraps of jade but dreams of buying his own house, Shahid collecting waste plastic bottles hoping to acquire education and Bhiti, working on a sewing machine with hopes of becoming a doctor someday.

She added wherever child labour exists it would leave damaging consequences for a child’s education, skills acquisition and future possibilities to win over the never-ending circle of poverty, incomplete education and bad jobs.

“The persistence of child labour in today’s world is unacceptable. As ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said ‘There is no place for child labour in society. It robs children of their future and keeps families in poverty,” she added.

For the past two decades, about 100 million children have been removed from child labour, bringing numbers down to the current figure of 152 million worldwide. However, though the figures have fallen with the trend slowed and the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to further reverse the accomplishments made.

“With schools closed and the challenges of distance learning and economic crisis, many children may see themselves pushed into child labour to support household income,” Asst. Director General Miyakawa said.

The United Nations declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour as new global estimates of child labour is up for announcement by June 1o to mark the World Day Against Child Labour.

“We sincerely wish to see a continuation of the downward trend, despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19,” she added.

The purpose of the declaration is to foster policy responses and make initiatives to achieve Target 8.7 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by making” immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, and modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

During the global launch of the International Year last January 2021, UN agencies, governments from different continues, business and civil society organizations vowed to hasted efforts during this year and to send a clear signal that the elimination of child labour is possible.

This year’s slogan “Take action to end child labour,” encouraged government and other stakeholders committing themselves to specific projects to attain the goal by 2025. (Melo M. Acuña)

ILO Asst. Director-General and Asia-Pacific Regional Director Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa. (ILO File Photo)

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