Last year, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) re-launched its child labor-free and child friendly recognition program as a component of its child-labor project under ILO’s International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC).
The Program is not entirely new. In fact more than thirty (30) companies had been recognized as child labor-free and child friendly since its establishment in 2002.
For more than two (2) years now the Program has been in a state of suspended animation. We would have wanted to proceed with the Program without interruption but forces beyond our control prompted us to hold it in abeyance. The suspension actually worked in our favor as we were able to address fundamental questions related to the Program’s criteria, inclusiveness and sustainability.
The criteria have been revised to make a distinction between large enterprises and small enterprises. In the case of the former, they are expected to do something more than just mere compliance with the minimum requirements of the law. In the case of small enterprises, hiring child labor is a matter of option especially where their very survival is at stake. Non-government organizations and corporate foundations may now also seek recognition as child-friendly organizations.
It is not far fetch to assume that most of these small enterprises engage the services of child labor because of necessity from the perspectives of both the enterprise and the child. A child is paid much less than an adult and therefore would mean savings for the enterprise. On the other hand, any income that a child brings into the family could mean an additional meal not just for himself or herself but for the rest of its members.
In many instances, the advantages of hiring the child, which would include dexterity and lower cost, are more perceived than real. Children, in general, have a shorter attention span and low quality control appreciation. These factors result in higher product rejection rates, which in turn offset any labor cost savings or advantages due to size or dexterity.
A small enterprise which deliberately decides not to engage child labor, even if it has the option of doing so, deserves a pat in the back. In our case, we want this enterprise recognized because it is not only the legal thing to do; it is also the right thing to do.
For larger companies, we prescribe additional requirements before they are recognized as child friendly. It is not enough that they do not hire child labor. This is a given and there cannot be any compelling reason other than to take advantage of the child’s vulnerabilities. To us, this is unacceptable. We would like to be of assistance and service to these companies by showing how others deal with this situation and set up concrete measures to prevent it from happening.
Quite significantly, that there are companies which are in the forefront of promoting and implementing programs and practices that impact on the lives of children. Please note that child laborers may not be the beneficiaries of these initiatives. Nonetheless, through the Recognition Program, we are making a call on them to seriously examine the prospects of leveraging the networks, tools, mechanisms, and systems that they have developed in the course of the implementation of their CSR initiatives for the sake of children who are most vulnerable to exploitation and abuses, which include child laborers. By bringing them to where they are most needed, there is no need to re-invent the wheel, spend so much resources just to start-up a program, and test strategies whose success may not be guaranteed. In other words, business may just be able to provide the resources, which incidentally do not mean funds alone, needed to make a program or project sustainable.
In the recognition program, we want the spotlight focused on the many corporate policies and practices that redound to the benefit of children. We want companies to apply them to the supply chain especially in the informal sector where conditions are worse because they are unregulated. It is all about transparency as we urge them to publicize the steps that they are taking to forestall the occurrence of the worst forms of child labor in the workplace and opening up their facilities to public scrutiny. It is a call on the business community to work hand-in-hand with government and civil society, as child labor is a menace that it cannot solve by its lonesome self.
Seventeen (17) new companies were recognized during the ECOP’s 28th National Conference of Employers (NCE XXVIII) last March 20, 2007 at the Manila Hotel.
The List of Child-friendly Firms : ABS-CBN FOUNDATION, INC.
CS GARMENT, INC.
IBM PHILIPPINES, INC.
JOLLIBEE FOODS CORPORATION
MABUHAY VINYL CORPORATION
PHILEX MINING CORPORATION
PACIFIC SEMICONDUCTOR (PSI) TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
ST. LUKE’S MEDICAL CENTER
COCA-COLA BOTTLERS PHILIPPINES, INC. (CCBPI)
HOLIDAY INN MANILA
HONDA CARS PANGASINAN, INC.
INDO PHIL GROUP OF COMPANIES
THE PAN PACIFIC MANILA
PHILGERMA MANUFACTURING, INC.
FAIRCHILD SEMICONDUCTOR HONGKONG (HOLDINGS), LTD.
FRIENDLY CARE FOUNDATION
LAPANDAY AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (LADECO)
LEXMARK INTERNATIONAL (PHILIPPINES), INC.
NORKIS TRADING CO., INC.
MINDANAO TRUCKING CORPORATION
SHANGRI-LA’S MACTAN ISLAND RESORT
WILLIAM, GOTHONG & ABOITIZ, INC. (WG & A)