Indonesian children carry baskets containing items for sale on Kuta beach in Denpasar on the resort island of Bali in 2007 (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)
Experts have cheered the government’s announcement of the latest plan to eliminate child labor in Indonesia, with Manpower and Transmigration Minister Hanif Dhakiri stating that a new road map has been drawn up to address the problem.
Hanif said on Monday that the government wanted 1.7 million child workers in Indonesia taken out of the labor force and placed back in school by 2022.
“Child labor is the result of economic problems. Most of them quit school because they have to help their families earn money,” Hanif said, adding that the government would run the program gradually to achieve its desired results.
The ministry’s director general for labor safety and health supervision, A Mudji Handoyo, said that of the total 1.7 million child laborers, as many as 400,000 were working in hazardous environments.
Mudji said the ministry had drafted a road map with plans to support the government’s program to end child labor over the next seven years.
The road map includes policy adjustments, social safety nets, recruitment guidelines for employers, as well as education and empowerment programs targeting low-income families, labor unions and companies that capitalize on such labor.
Hanif said his ministry would work with other government agencies to implement the road map, including the Home Affairs Ministry, the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Religious Affairs Ministry, and the Social Services Ministry.
The International Labor Organization (ILO), the University of Indonesia, the Attorney General’s Office and the National Police are several other organizations the Manpower Ministry will also work with, Hanif added.
“The road map stipulates strategies and roles of each institution so that we can achieve our goal of having zero child workers in Indonesia by 2022,” Hanif said as quoted by the newspaper Tempo.
“This year, for instance, we will free 16,000 child workers from employment and send them back to school.”
Indonesian child rights activists welcome the government’s new plans, but stressed that poverty, at the root of the problem, must be addressed.
National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak) chairman Seto Mulyadi said children were supposed to study and play instead of working for a living, as stated in many international conventions on children, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and another issued by the ILO.
“We need to appreciate this move. Should this program run correctly, our children will have an opportunity to develop their potential without bearing the burden of having to earn money to support their families and others,” Seto told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.
He added that the government must not neglect poverty eradication programs, especially in rural areas, where children are often coerced to work due to financial difficulties.
Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI) chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait emphasized the need for the government to engage the public at large in implementing the programs.
“It is really important to involve the public, including the parents, in this movement, especially to spread the mind-set of the importance of education for children,” he said.
Arist added, though, that the government must form an independent team to evaluate previous programs addressing child labor, as well as to monitor the implementation of future programs.
“This is important to map families that make their children work, and [to identify] next steps to solve the problem — whether it should be family empowerment programs or others,” he said.
“We fully support [the government’s] move, because we hope that in the future Indonesia will be a proper country for children to live in.”
The deputy director of the ILO’s Jakarta office, Michiko Miyamoto, said Indonesia’s vast area would prove to be a major obstacle for the government to carry out the campaign to eliminate child labor.
Miyamoto said that in any given province, there could be many different policies concerning child workers, which keep changing and therefore pose a problem in the implementation of a national campaign to address the problem.
Miyamoto said the central government must therefore ensure that its campaign against child labor was well understood by local administrations, all the way down to village administrations.
Hanif said regional governments would play a key role in eliminating child labor. “So we hope that regional governments will participate in this program,” he said.
Only Bali’s Gianyar district and South Sulawesi’s capital, Makassar, claim to be free of child labor.
Source: Jakarta Globe