Work done by the Department of Labor and Employment on child labor management has reached Bhutan, the world’s happiest country, and now they want to know more about it.
The Ministry of Labor and Human Resources of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan paid a courtesy call to the Institute for Labor Studies, the policy research and advocacy arm of the Department of Labor and Employment, to gain insights on child labor management.
“We are happy that the years of research and program work the Department and the National Child Labor Committee have spent on child labor management has generated interest and inspired action from other countries,” said Executive Director Cynthia R. Cruz of the Institute for Labor Studies.
The Royal Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country between India and China. Known as the country that pioneered the Gross Happiness Index, an alternate model to gross national product as a measurement of national progress, Bhutan has been instrumental in the development of the World Happiness Report, released by the Earth Institute of Columbia University in 2012.
“While we still have a long way to go in our fight against child labor, we hope our experiences and milestones in child labor management can contribute to policy research and program work for Bhutan and other countries as well,” said Cruz.
According to the Labour Act of Bhutan, young people from the ages of 13 and 17 to undertake work in certain categories and in specified workplaces. Based on the 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, children in Bhutan work in agriculture, in shops after school and on weekends. Children were also found to be working in automobile shops as doma (bettle nut) sellers, street vendors, domestic workers and restaurant workers.
Child Labor in Agriculture
In 2012, the ILS with the assistance of the International Labour Organization, released its paper on Hazards at Work: Child Labor in Agriculture. According to the study, periodical updating of existing national list of hazardous work for children has been identified as a policy priority to accelerate action against the worst forms of child labor.
In the Philippines, efforts to amend the hazardous work list has been set in motion, first by increasing the knowledge base on the nature of work and the specific hazards that child laborers are exposed to in crop agriculture.
The study further revealed that child laborers are subjected to various physical and chemical hazards due to strenuous labor, long working hours, exposure to dangerous tools and equipment, and application and handling of fertilizers and pesticides. The study recommended that activities that expose the children to these risks should be considered in updating the country’s hazardous work list.
Child Labor-Free Barangay Campaign
Since the launch of the DOLE Child Labor-Free Barangay campaign in July 2012, 89 barangays in the Philippines have become child labor-free . In these barangays, the DOLE through its regional offices, was able to reach out to 4,863 child laborers and 1,849 parents with various converged programs and services.
“Our work on child labor management is a continuing challenge. The DOLE through the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, Occupational Safety and Health Center and the Institute for Labor Studies are working on amendments on the list of hazardous work and activities for persons below 18 years of age,” said Cruz.
To give inputs to these amendments, the Institute for Labor Studies is undertaking an analysis of child labor in agriculture with focus on top agricultural products such as palay, coconut, corn, sugarcane and abaca, to determine the nature of work that children perform and the hazards that they face.
The Bhutan Research team was led by research assistants and statistical officers from the country’s Ministry of Labor and Human Resources (MOLHR). Among the areas of interest of the MOLHR were methodologies on child labor statistics and best practices on child labor management.
At the conclusion of the visit, the research team expressed appreciation for the information gathered on the work done by DOLE and made known their intention to pursue further study visits in the country.
“Ensuring decent work entails elimination of the worst forms of child labor and providing stronger protection for working children. We must all work together in ensuring that our children are protected against the worst forms of child labor,” said Cruz.
The ILS is the policy research and advocacy arm of the Department of Labor and Employment. Its research papers on child labor are available at its website, www.ils.dole.gov.ph.
(For more information on this release please contact Ms. Linartes Viloria, Chief Advocacy and Publication Division, Institute of Labor Studies, at 5273490/5273447)