Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
The 2011 Survey on Children conducted by the National Statistics Office showed that out of 29.019 million Filipino children aged 5-17 years old, about 18.9 percent, or 5.59 million, are already working. This marks a significant increase from the 4 million Filipino working children registered in a 2011 survey conducted by the International Labor Organization and the US Department of Labor.
Of the 5.59 million children at work, 3.028 million were considered as child laborers and 2.993 are reported to be exposed to hazardous conditions. 60 percent of Filipino child laborers are in the agricultural sector and Western Visayas is among the regions that has the highest incidences of child labor in the country. Child labor is defined under the law as any work or economic activity performed by a child that subjects him or her to any form of exploitation, or is harmful to his or her health and safety, or physical, mental, or psycho-social development.
The Philippines has pledged to reduce by 75 percent all worst forms of child labor by 2015, which is anchored on the millennium development goal of achieving universal education and although NSO officials say the 2001 and 2011 surveys could not be compared due to different methodologies, the trend that is showing an increase instead of a decrease in child laborers during that period should worry the government officials who are supposed to be responsible for abiding by that pledge.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz expressed surprise at the results of the survey but at the same time remains optimistic that the Philippines will be able to meet its target to reduce the number of child laborers by identifying the 609 poorest municipalities in the country where the government will focus the anti-child labor campaign. ILO country director Lawrence Johnson, who sees poverty as the root cause of child labor, believes that the fight against child labor should not be fought by government alone, but by employers, workers’ organizations and local communities.
Based on the available statistics, it may seem as if we are losing, or at least getting nowhere in the war against child labor. However, this does not mean that the Philippine government and the private sector should just give up and let it be. The DOLE is committed to eliminating child labor in the communities it has identified, even if it takes one barangay at a time. If the private sector pitches in, we still have a chance to restore the childhoods of a significant portion of the 3 million child laborers in this country. This is a fight that our government cannot give up on, no matter how daunting the task may seem.*