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August 13, 2020

Fighting child labour requires collective effort of all stakeholders

In a historic move, Myanmar ratified the ILO Convention-138 that seeks to eliminate child labour and ensure children do not leave school to join the workforce full time, and the treaty will take effect on 8th June, 2021. The development has been heralded as a positive development, particularly in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, which threatens the rights, safety and development of the estimated 1.13 million children in child labour across the country. The Minimum Age Convention 138 requires countries to set a minimum age aligned with the end of compulsory education and under which no one shall be admitted to work in any occupation except light work and artistic performances. It also prohibits hazardous activities for anyone under 18 years old. In Myanmar, the minimum working age is 14 years old, as per the new Child Rights Law and existing Labour Law.
The Convention also requires countries to establish national policies for the elimination of child labour. Myanmar is the 178th country to ratify the convention and has an estimated 9.3% of the child population aged 5 to 17 in child labour, including more than 600,000 working in hazardous work environments. Lack of adequate information, capacity and monitoring mechanism would become challenges for tackling child domestic labour in Myanmar. The majority of child labourers can be found in the agricultural sector, factories, or employed as domestic help due to poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and a desire to support their families. It is going to be a herculean task for implementing the treaty. Hence, regarding ILO Convention-138, the Union Government is willing to work with NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies to improve the country’s human resources by promoting capacity building among governmental staff, MPs, employees, employers and the people. The implementation of ILO Convention-138 must be linked with the three 5-year national level projects on ending child labour.
At present, the Information and Public Relations Department has conducted an educational campaign against child labour in the regions and states, with talks and exhibitions on the subject organized in schools. In efforts to end child labour, Yangon Region, Bago Region, Ayeyawady Region, Kayin State, and Mon State have been designated as priority areas. We are confident that the positive role of the non-government organisations (NGOs) and activists would contribute immensely to spreading awareness against child labour and focusing on its prevention, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts.

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