By Antoinette Capuz
Child labor remains prevalent in the Philippines along with the rest of South-Eastern Asia region, according to the International Labor Organization and United Nations
Children’s Fund which on Thursday said that the worldwide tally has increased to 160 million amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
In the Philippines, 3.2 million children aged five to 17 years old have been engaged in child labor and 3 million of them were involved in hazardous work as recorded in 2018 by the United States Labor Department. South-Eastern Asia had 6.2% or 24.3 million children .
Despite the risks to their health, safety, and morals, the number of children aged five to 17 years old in hazardous work increased by 6.5 million to 7.9 million in 2016 and children aged five to 11 years old who were pushed to enter the workforce continuously increased worldwide.
The Covid-19 pandemic also threatens some progress to end child labor in regions such as Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean the ILO-Unicef study said.
The Child Labor: Global estimates 2020 stressed that the progress to end child labor has stagnated, reversing the downward trend that has once dropped by 94 million in between 2000 and 2016.
“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder told in an ILO report. “Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic hardship.
Increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture is essential. We are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we respond. This is a time for renewed commitment and energy, to turn the corner and break the cycle of poverty and child labor.”
With the ongoing pandemic, nine million additional children are at risk of being pushed into labor according to ILO and UNICEF.
This number could increase up to 46 million by 2022 if children will not have access to critical social protection coverage.
Moreover, other regions such as the sub-Saharan Africa had an additional 16.6 million children forced into child labor because of an increasing population, poverty, and inadequate social protection coverage in the last four years.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic such as the additional economic shocks and school closures has worsened children’s conditions particularly those who are already in the workforce.
The current situation may lead more of these children to work longer hours to make ends meet while their families are experiencing job and income losses amid the pandemic.
“We are losing ground in the fight against child labo[u]r, and the last year has not made that fight any easier,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore told an ILO report. “Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices. We urge governments and international development banks to prioritize investments in program[me]s that can get children out of the workforce and back into school, and in social protection program[me]s that can help families avoid making this choice in the first place.”
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ Labor Department in collaboration with the United States Labor Department and Levin Sources last April organized a webinar addressing the child labor in the country.
Karina Perida-Trayvilla, head of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns told in a released statement that the webinar enabled her to share the Philippines’ initiatives on addressing the child labor in artisanal and small-scale mining.
“Several initiatives were undertaken by the national government in partnership with the local government units and other stakeholders.
First, the formalization of the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector through the People’s Small Scale Mining Program created through Republic Act No. 7076,” she said.
The Republic Act 7076 allows government to regulate and monitor small-scale mining industry.
Trayvilla also added that the Labor department’s Caring Gold Project on labor inspection and occupational safety health has focused on improving work conditions and reduce child labor incidence in the country.