Frontline Stories

78 Million Reasons to Eradicate Child Labour

Asia is the world’s fast growing economic region, but millions of the continent’s workers are children. There are more child workers here than in any other region of the world. In fact, half of the world’s child workers are in Asia Pacific, according to International Labour Organisation. These children are still waiting for their basic rights to be granted.

Although the region has made meaningful efforts and improved legal frameworks, particularly related to human trafficking, and established new tracking systems to reinforce the law.

There are still 78 million child labourers in Asia Pacific. The region has the largest number of trafficking victims, who were involved in commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour and other worst forms of child labour.

According to the national household surveys, captured children are also involved in hazardous work, but many are uncounted because of the illegal and inaccessible trades they are involved in. Many are secluded in hazardous household work, debt bondage, sex trade, compulsory labour or other forms of slavery that fail to be recorded. Studies that count child labourers are often based on small surveys or rough assessments, failing to paint a full picture. Therefore, the real number of child workers in Asia Pacific are potentially much higher.

All child workers have something in common. They have no freedom. They work for low or no wages. They work under the threat of violence. And they are losing their education and their childhood.

These children are often from a socially disadvantaged or excluded background. Some children inherit debt from their parents and may be bought and sold between contractors. Some children came from lower castes (in India, Bangladesh or Nepal) and are trapped in the poverty cycle. Their families received an advance payment and became bonded for generations to pay off debt. Other children are members of indigenous groups, ethnic or religious minorities who are routinely discriminated against.

Since 2002, 12 June serves as a date for the world to renew its call to eradicate child labour. This year’s focus is that quality education is a key step in tackling child labour. We at World Vision are urging the region’s leaders to take action.

Governments should regulate the minimum age of workers and provide legal protections against child labour. Laws should prevent children from hazardous work and ensure effective child labour inspections. Government departments should coordinate to address trafficking. Furthermore, there should be free, compulsory and quality education for all children under the minimum working age, including present child workers. Also, establishing policies that ensure sufficient investment in the education sector.

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