- By Khin Yadanar
The Term ‘Child Labour’
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the term “child labour” refers to the employment of children in works that deprive children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and is mentally, physically or morally dangerous and harmful to them as well as interferes with their ability to attend regular school.
Not all work carried out by children should be classified as “child labour” or be targeted for elimination by communities. The engagement of children and adolescents in works that does not affect their health and personal development and does not keep them from attending school is generally regarded as positive. This includes such activities as helping their parents with housework, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside of school hours and during holidays.
Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is done and the objectives pursued by individual countries.
Child labourers in Myanmar
It should be noted that, according to data and statistics, 61 per cent of all child labourers in Myanmar receive the minimum wage, and males get higher pay than females. Child labourers who reside in urban areas receive a salary, while those who live in rural areas get paid only on a daily basis. Being a developing country, there are still many challenges to tackle the issue of child labour in Myanmar, and cooperation is needed to enforce the full rights of child labourers and their rights in accordance with the laws of Myanmar.
Justice for Children
U Myo Aung, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population said, “We have found out that many child labourers in Myanmar are employed in the agriculture, livestock and breeding sectors in rural areas rather than those who work in factories in urban areas. There remain some difficulties to tackle the issue as a nationwide problem. Therefore it is very crucial to take part in dealing with this problem. There should be plans to educate the employers to give the wages they deserve, and not to employ under-age workers. Or else, they can file complaints at their relevant Township Labour Offices. We are all duty-bound to protect child labour and to ensure that justice becomes reality.”
Children’s Workforce Survey
According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the average child labourer is paid Ks400 an hour across all sectors, while mining and quarrying pays the highest wages of Ks600 per hour.
In Myanmar, 18 per cent of children between the ages of 15 to 17 work in dangerous environments, according to the Children Workforce Survey, most of whom do not attend school. Also, children who live in rural areas have to contend with more dangerous worksites than those who reside in urban areas.
“Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe met with Ms. Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict, in May 2018, and discussing matters related to prevention of the recruitment and use of underage soldiers. The Ministry is cooperating with international organisations with the aim of protecting the children and preventing future violations against them.
Child Labor Force Survey
According to the Myanmar Labour Force, Child Labour and School to Work Transition Survey 2015, of the total child labour pool, a 55.7 per cent are working in agricultural, forestry and fisheries jobs. For children in rural areas, 66 per cent work in the farming sector, according to the data. Child labour is a serious challenge, and efforts are being made to eradicate the problem for the sake of the country’s future. It’s been learnt that there are about 12 million children aged 5 to 17, and all the children who can work cannot be regarded as child labourers. About 9 per cent out of all the children are child labourers, and 54.8 per cent of those children have to work in a dangerous environment. Child labourers aged 15 to 17 worked primarily in the forestry and farming sectors. The average weekly hours of work by child labourers is 54.22 hours, which is more than nine hours per day, according to the Survey of Child Labour. Urban children, and more specifically urban girls, work for extremely long hours. A total of 616,815 children work in hazardous environments and they work an average of 51.9 hours per week.
In Myanmar, there are about 11 million households, of which 28 per cent reside in urban areas, 72 per cent in rural areas. Of these families, about 60 per cent have at least one working child. There are more than 1,278,909 working children who were employed across informal and formal sectors including unpaid labour for family businesses such as farming. Of these, 153,348 children are not child labourers. The number of children doing hazardous work is 616815; other child labourers total 508,846, according to the Child Labour and School to Work Transition Survey 2015.
National Action Plan on Child Labour issue
Union Minister of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe had attended the meeting regarding the Child Labour Issue, which was held in Buenos Aires in 2017. With the ultimate goal of elimination the child labour problem, the Ministry has drawn up a National Action Plan on Child Labour as a national-level measure to tackle the rampant spread of child labourers across the country. The 15-year scheme that spans from 2018 to 2033 is a concerted effort of officials representing different government agencies such as the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Home Affairs and city development committees.
Child Labour Elimination in Myanmar
Myanmar has committed itself to taking immediate action to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour by ratifying the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) agreed to by ILO member countries.
As for the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, concerted efforts have been made to eliminate the worst forms of child labour including slavery, trafficking, the use of children in armed conflicts, the use of a child for prostitution, pornography, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and other hazardous jobs across the country. The public should be aware of it and cooperation is of paramount importance in dealing with this problem.
Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung