One barangay at a time, says Baldoz
On World Day Against Child Labor rites, DOLE vows firm resolve to make barangays child labor-free
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said the DOLE is participating in the country's celebration of World Day Against Child Labor today, Tuesday, 26 June, with "a very determined" resolve to make every barangay of the country's over 1,500 municipalities child labor free to achieve the country's goal of reducing by 75 percent all worst forms of child labor by 2015, which is anchored on the millennium development goals of achieving universal education (MDG2) , which is contingent on freedom from labor to allow children to attend school and perform well.
"As we celebrate World Day Against Child Labor in the Philippines, we at the DOLE reiterate our pledge to do our utmost in making every barangay in the country with high child labor incidence child labor-free. In carrying out this resolve, we will take it one barangay at a time. We will meet the challenge head-on," Baldoz said.
Baldoz issued the statement during the launching of the Batang Malaya, the National Child Labor Committee's new and scaled up campaign for a child labor-free Philippines at the Frontera Verde,Pasig City, which was highlighted by the release of the National Statistics Office of the results of its 2011 Survey on Children.
The survey, conducted by the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO), is the first survey that utilized the ILO framework for statistical identification of working children, or children in employment, child labor, and hazardous child labor.
The preliminary results of the survey showed there are 5.492 million working children 5-17 years old as of October 2011.
Of this number, more than one-half, or 55.1 percent, or 3.028 million, were counted as child labor and 2.993 million (54.5 percent) reported to be exposed to hazardous child labor.
Under the law, child labor is defined as any work or economic activity performed by a child that subjects him/her to any form of exploitation, or is harmful to his/her health and safety or physical, mental, or psycho-social development.
On the other hand, hazardous child labor refers to employment in industries and occupations designated as hazardous under the country's OSH standards.
Baldoz welcomed the results of the survey saying it will provide the government a more accurate and more comprehensive picture of the child labor situation in the country which the previous 1995 and 2001 surveys did not make available.
For instance, she cited one finding of the survey which showed that of the total number of child labor, 69.5 percent, or 2.106 million, are attending school.
"Retention in school of the 69.5 percent of the child laborers and bringing back to school the 30.5 percent require a very focused and serious effort," Baldoz said.
She hastened to explain, though, that the 2011Survey on Children, which is a rider survey to the NSO's October 2011 Labor Force Survey, does not capture other worst forms of child labor as defined under ILO Convention 182 and as adopted by R.A. 9231, otherwise known as An Act Providing for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Affording Stronger Protection for the Working Child.
These worst forms of child labor include all forms of slavery, e.g., trafficking, recruitment for armed conflict; prostitution and pornography; and illicit activities, e.g., drug trafficking.
"We will use the results of this survey as a baseline for a more responsive programming against child labor in general and hazardous child labor in particular," she said.
For instance, she said the survey's finding that the total number of child labor, 69.5 percent, or 2.106 million, are attending school.
Baldoz emphasized that even before the conduct of the survey, the government has been focusing on convergence programs in providing services to child laborers and their families, with the DOLE, DSWD, and non-government organizations providing livelihood assistance to parents and DepEd providing alternative learning modes for children.
"Our convergence efforts extend to the removal of children from abject work conditions through the Sagip Batang Manggagawa mechanism, which has resulted to the filing of cases and closure of establishments in cooperation with NGOs and civil society organizations," Baldoz said.
The labor and employment chief particularly emphasized the DOLE's scaled-up campaign, the Child-Labor Free Barangay Campaign, which seeks to declare 80 barangays in 16 regions this year as child-labor free.
"In this campaign, we at the DOLE, together with the DSWD and DILG, are working at strengthening the Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children (BCPCs) to transform, initially, some 80 barangays into child labor-free barangays, especially those identified under the government's "609 focused municipalities", she said.
She outlined the next steps in the battle against child labor, saying that on the issue of education alongside work, as recommended by the ILO Committee on Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendation, the National Child Labor Committee is working to resolve the gap between the age of completion of compulsory education and the minimum age for work or admission to employment, which is 15 years old, for us to fully comply with ILO Convention 182. This matter needs legislative amendment and is also being studied by the NCLC.
She also bared that the NCLC, in collaboration with the ILO Manila, will formulate an inter-agency action plan for the period July 2012-June 2016 and to be presented to the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster for its approval and implementation. One of the features of this plan is the institutionalization of child labor in the NSO's Labor Force Survey every July-round through addition of child labor-related questions.
Finally, Secretary Baldoz said the DOLE's strengthened enforcement of labor laws, including the enforcement of the provisions of RA 9231 that prohibits child labor, sets the child’s working hours, and penalizes violators, will further get a boost with President’s creation of additional 372 labor inspectors who will focus on labor law compliance.
"We have just upped the ante in our fight against child labor and we are prepared for it," she said.