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Pandemic fuels child labor increase in the Philippines

Bishop calls on all parties to intensify crusade against forcing children to work

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Updated: December 08, 2020 07:53 AM GMT
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Pandemic fuels child labor increase in the Philippines

Children in poor communities are increasingly being driven into child labor due to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the government says. (Photo: Angie de Silva)

The economic crisis in the Philippines brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has fueled a rise in child labor, according to a government report.

Children have become “collateral damage from pandemic” as families are forcing them to work under tedious conditions and in dangerous environments, said the report issued by the Department of Labor and Employment.

The department has launched a campaign called “Project Angel Tree” aimed at rescuing and preventing children in poor rural families from being forced into child labor.

Bishop Rex Alarcon of Daet, chairman of the bishops’ Commission on Youth, said a concerted approach by church and government leaders was necessary to address child labor in the Philippines.

“We need to intensify efforts to protect the most vulnerable, especially the children. The situation of children being forced to work is a very sad and unfortunate reality. Our authorities should continue to work for their safety and well-being,” he said.

A recent International Labor Organization (ILO) and UNICEF study also revealed that child labor cases were on the rise due to poverty brought by Covid-19.

“As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labor,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said recently.

He said that while medical matters are important in a pandemic, so is the social protection of children.

“Social protection is vital in times of crisis, as it provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable. Integrating child labor concerns across broader policies for education, social protection, justice, labor markets, and international human and labor rights makes a critical difference,” Ryder said.

The Philippine Statistics Office also said nearly 50,000 or four percent of about 1.4 million Filipino domestic workers are minors.

The government figures revealed that almost 5,000 of them were aged 14 or under.

Bishop Alarcon warned those employing them and the business sector that employing children aged 14 and under was illegal.

“While it may be a complex situation … the government and all sectors of society must strive to end this unfortunate situation as it opens children to further exploitation,” he added.

Lay groups battling child labor welcomed Bishop Alarcon’s call.

Human rights group Karapatan said children’s rights are part of human rights protected by international law.

It also said that the protection of children’s rights must be one of the issues future government leaders of this country should uphold.

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