Laos partners with ILO to combat child labor

by Khonesavanh Latsaphao, Vientiane Times & the Asia News Network

Laos is one of many countries in the world where large numbers of children are engaged in some form of work, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported at a meeting in Vientiane yesterday.The June 13-14 meeting is taking place for the soft launch of the National Child Labour Survey and consultation on the draft National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Laos.“Many children in Laos are employed, because more than 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 20,” National Coordinator in Laos Khemphone Phaokhamkeo told the meeting.She explained that Laos has widespread poverty, and many children do not go to school.According to the ILO’s most recent estimate, 215 million children around the world are trapped in some form of work. These children do not go to school, they have little or no time to play, and many of them do not receive proper nutrition or health care.More than half of them work in hazardous conditions and in the worst areas of work, such as forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, and illicit activities like drug use. These hazardous and worst forms of labour can cause children long-term physical, psychological or moral damage.Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Laoly Faiphengyoa said the Lao government has begun promoting and protecting the rights and benefits of children, along with youth development, as development ta rgets in the 7th National Socio-economic Development Plan for 2011-2015.Laos ratified ILO Conventions 138 on the minimum working age and 182 on the worst forms of child labour in 2005, he added.

This week’s meeting is drawing up a draft national plan of action that will be submitted to the National Assembly for approval in the near future.

The ministry of labour and social welfare and the ministry of planning and investment’s National Statistics Bureau carried out the first labour force survey and child labour survey in Laos in 2010, which was supported by the ILO.

The survey was conducted in 10,800 randomly selected households in 540 villages and urban areas throughout the country.

The survey revealed that 239,395 children were working in agriculture, forestry and fishery. In addition, 7,738 children were working in the handicraft sector, 7,667 were employed in trading, and 3,041 were working on building sites.

To support national efforts to tackle the child labour issue, ILO has been helping to implement technical cooperation programmes and building partnerships with the ILO’s tripartite constituents, namely the ministry of labour and social welfare, Lao Federation of Trade Unions, and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, since 2000.