The Philippines is among countries struggling with child labor. Sugarcane, copra (the meat of coconuts), corn rice, rubber, tobacco, bananas, and hogs are among several products that are produced by children at times. According to USDOL in the 2012 Findings Report, one in nine Filipino children between the ages of 5 and 14 work. Mining is among the hazardous work that employs children. The commercial sexual exploitation of children in pornography and sex tourism is a significant problem.

Filipino children risk death to dive and dig for gold

By Deborah Andrews, CLC Contributing Writer

Deborah Andrews the real oneIn September 2015, Human Rights Watch released a report, “Phillipines: Children Risk Death to Dig and dive for Gold,” exposing the desperate working conditions of many of those involved in the Filipino gold mining industry. It is a worthy, informative and thought provoking read. In 2014, the Philippines produced 18 tons of gold. HRW researchers discovered that an estimated 70-80% came from small-scale mines, financed by local businessmen and operated without any basic machinery. These mines are worked by 200,000-300,000 people — many of them children aged 11-17, but some as young as 9 years old.

Most gold in the Philippines is underwater. To mine it, workers dive into narrow shafts often ten yards deep and only two feet wide. Using oxygen tubes to breathe, operated by a diesel compressor at the surface, workers can stay mining under water for 1-2 hours at a time. This is hazardous work. HRW researchers found that compressors frequently break due to mudslides; workers get extremely cold underwater; the diesel compressors can cause carbon monoxide poisoning; and a bacterium in the water causes a skin disease known as Romborombo that leaves skin irritated and infected.

Dry shafts can be 25 yards deep and have oxygen pumped into them by an air blower. Workers often work up to 24-hour shifts with only a short break above ground. There are frequent accidents. In 2014, two brothers suffocated, but the practice continues.

Disturbingly, HRW report authors discovered that mercury is widely used to process the gold. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, causing muscle spasms, brain damage, permanent disability, and even death. It is particularly harmful to children’s developing nervous systems. This unrestricted mercury use is now also contaminating the fish population, a vital food source – further endangering the people.

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Buried Childhoods — Child Labour in Mining and Quarrying

 

Sharon Fawcett

Sharon Fawcett

Jestoni* quit school at age 14 in order to take part in small-scale mining as a means to help support his family. They had abandoned farming for mining because of frequent flooding in their region of the Philippines. Jestoni’s mother worried about his safety as he dug in mineshafts for gold and carried heavy sacks of rock for eight to 12 hours per day.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than half (85 million) of the world’s 168 million child labourers perform hazardous work. Jestoni was one of the one million who work in mining.

The United States Department of Labor’s 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor indicates that child labour and forced labour is used to produce 29 products in the mining and quarrying sector. The top products in this sector, based on the number of countries using child labour in the production, include gold (18 countries[1]), coal (seven countries), and diamonds (six countries), but numerous other minerals, gems, and stones are also mined and quarried with the labour of children.

Nine-year-old Karim Sawadogo works with his uncle at a gold mine in Burkina Faso. Photo by Larry C. Price.

Nine-year-old Karim Sawadogo works with his uncle at a gold mine in Burkina Faso. Photo by Larry C. Price.

According to the ILOalmost all child miners work in artisanal, small-scale mining (ASM), beginning to help out as young as 4 and 5 years of age and working full time by the time they reach adolescence.[2] Artisanal mining is a low-technology industry where miners use their hands and rudimentary tools to extract minerals and raw materials,[3] with little protection from the inherent hazards of the work.… Read the rest

Philippines Becomes Second Country to Ratify Domestic Workers Convention (HRW Press Release)

For Immediate Release [Human Rights Watch Press Release, 8/6/12]

(Manila, August 6, 2012) – The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention will bring the groundbreaking international treaty into legal force, promising better working conditions and key labor protections for millions of domestic workers, Human Rights Watch said today. The convention takes effect one year after the second ratification.

The Philippine Senate ratified the instrument today; President Benigno Aquino III signed it on May 18, 2012, following the treaty’s first ratification, by Uruguay, on April 30.

“The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention means that basic labor rights for domestic workers are finally becoming a reality,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As the treaty goes into effect, millions of women and girls will have the chance for better working conditions and better lives.”

The Domestic Workers Convention sets the first global standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Domestic workers face a wide range of serious abuses and labor exploitation, including excessive working hours without rest, non-payment of wages, forced confinement, physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and trafficking. Under the treaty, domestic workers are entitled to protections available to other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, and minimum wage and social security coverage. The convention also obliges governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to prevent child labor in domestic work.

The Philippines has approximately two million domestic workers at home and millions more abroad. Remittances from Filipino migrant domestic workers, mostly women, constitute a significant source of the country’s foreign exchange. Filipinos working abroad send home over US$20 billion per year.

Migrant domestic workers are often at heightened risk of exploitation due to excessive recruitment fees, language barriers, and national policies that link workers’ immigration status to individual employers. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses against Filipino migrant domestic workers in Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, including beatings, confiscation of passports, confinement to the home, overlong working hours with no days off, and in some cases, months or years of unpaid wages.

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Conflict and Economic Downturn Cause Global Increase in Reported Child Labor Violations- 40% of Countries now rated ‘extreme risk’ by Maplecroft

Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Philippines expose companies to high levels of supply chain risk

An annual study by risk analysis firm Maplecroft has revealed that 76 countries now pose ‘extreme’ child labour complicity risks for companies operating worldwide, due to worsening global security and the economic downturn. This constitutes an increase of more than 10% from last year’s total of 68 ‘extreme risk’ countries.

The Child Labour Index 2012 evaluates the frequency and severity of reported child labour incidents in 197 countries. Worryingly, nearly 40% of all countries have been classified as ‘extreme risk’ in the index, with conflict torn and authoritarian states topping the ranking. Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan are ranked joint first, while DR Congo (5), Zimbabwe (6), Afghanistan (7), Burundi (8), Pakistan (9) and Ethiopia (10) round off the worst performers.

The Child Labour Index has been developed by Maplecroft to evaluate the extent of country-level child labour practices and the performance of governments in preventing child labour and ensuring the accountability of perpetrators. By doing so, the index enables companies to identify risks of children being employed within their supply chains in violation of the standards on minimum age of employment. The index also analyses the risk of the involvement of children in work, the conditions of which could have a negative impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of child labourers.

Maplecroft suggests that the global increase in the use of child labour is mainly caused by a deteriorating human security situation worldwide. This has resulted in increased numbers of internally displaced children and refugees who, together with children from minority communities, continue to be the groups at most risk of economic exploitation. Sub-Saharan Africa is identified as the region posing the most risk in this respect but most of the growth economies have their own unique conditions in respect of child labour and its remediation. Read more