Amidst increasing number of child workers engaged in hazardous work, there is an urgent call to keep children out of danger and ensure a safer work environment. The study focuses on occupational safety and health (OSH) concerns on child workers in sugarcane farms. It aims to analyze the work hazards they experience in the different stages of sugarcane production, as basis for more child-responsive policies and programs geared at reducing exploitative child labor conditions.
The research was conducted in five selected provinces: one in Luzon, three in Visayas and one in Mindanao. For the survey, the respondents included 797 working children and 255 non-working children. Qualitative data was also obtained through case studies of 18 working children, 20 young adults, and interviews of 26 key informants.
Research findings reveal that poverty remains as the most critical factor in child labor participation. Working in sugarcane farms provides children with added income. This income primarily contributes to family needs and school expenses, as well as their personal needs. However, there are various work hazards which children are subjected to in different farm activities such as plating, weeding, applying fertilizer, burning the sugarcane fields, cutting and hauling sugarcane. The study presents a classification of the work-related risks experienced by the children into low, moderate and high risk, corresponding to specific farm tasks and possible consequences on children’s health. Working children are also disadvantaged in terms of educational opportunities compared to non-working children. The study also discusses specific policy and program implications of the research results in terms of mainstreaming OSH concerns, the need for an integrated support program for working children and their families, and instituting regulations for child labor in sugarcane farms.
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