Vietnam has about 1.75 million child laborers, accounting for 9.6% of the children aged 5-17 nationwide, according to a national child labor survey released by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) in March. This rate is 0.3% higher than in Asia and the Pacific but 1% lower than the world average.
The survey said two in every five of them were under 15 and worked in conditions the report defines as child labor. In this survey, child laborers include those in the 5-17 age group engaged in work classifed as having a negative impact on the physical and spychological development and dignity of children. Children aged 5-11 working for one hour a day or five hours a week are regarded as child laborers. The figures are respectively four hours a day or 24 hours a week, for those aged 12-14, and seven hours a day or 42 hours a week for those aged 15-17.
The survey, the first of its kind in the country, covered 50,640 households with children aged 5-17, but did not include children living in establishments and working places and street kids.
The survey was conducted for three months in 2012 by the General Statistics Office with the technical support from ILO and the report was prepared by the Institute of Labor Science and Social Affairs under MOLISA.
According to the survey, of 18.3 million children nationwide, one-sixth (2.83 million) were currently engaged in some forms of economic activities, 42.6% of whom were girls. Children aged 5-11 made up 15% of all child laborers, the survey said.
It found that about one-third of the child laborers, or nearly 569,000 children, had to work an average of more than 42 hours per week (over 6 hours per day). Working long hours affected their schooling as over 96% of these children did not attend school.
A boy works at a fish market__Photo: Internet
Most child laborers (nearly 86%) lived in the countryside and two-thirds belonged to the 15-17 age group, the survey said. They mostly worked in agriculture and were unpaid family workers. More than 70% worked in the agricultural sector with over 82% engaged in crop cultivation and animal husbandry and 74% did unpaid housework. More than half of the children did household chores from five to twenty hours a week. Generally, children in rural areas tended to engage in household chores more than those in cities, girls worked more than boys and the number of working hours increased with age, the survey reported.
The age of starting work of child labor in the country was earlier than the world with 70% starting to work from the age of 12 and older as a result of slow rate of economic development in some parts of the country. This largely affected their schooling as over 41% of working children did not go to school (more than 2% of them never attended school). This rate rose to almost 55% for child laborers and as high as 96.4% for children working more than 42 hours a week.
Over 1.3 million child laborers (75%) were at risk of engagement in activities prohibited for minor workers or heavy or hazardous work as prescribed by law, the survey revealed.
It found that children worked because they were forced to do so, worked as a necessary choice to learn a trade or were tempted by high payment. Payment for working children was relatively high with 38% on average earning more than VND 4.5 million (roughly USD 210) a month.
Children in special circumstances, including minor workers, was a challenge for Vietnam, said Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs Doan Mau Diep at the launch of the survey. Vietnam has been doing its best to take preventive measures and interventions to protect children and create a healthy environment for every child, he said.
But the concept of child labor did not cover all working children, Diep pointed out, saying households played a big role in the economy and the local labor force remained underdeveloped, so children of certain age groups were allowed to do a limited amount of work under strict guidelines that did not affect their health, schooling or development.
He said the survey provided the first overview of child labor in Vietnam and was expected to contribute to the elimination of child labor set by the Vietnamese Government for 2016-2020.
ILO Vietnam Country Director Gyorgy Sziraczki said child labor should be eliminated as it deprived children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and was harmful to physical and mental development.
Nguyen Hai Huu, Director of MOLISA’s Child Protection, Care Department, said the report showed an overall picture of child labor in Vietnam. It also showed a strong impact of the economic downturn in recent years to the life of children as the number of children engaged in economic activities in general and child labor in particular tended to increase compared with 2006. At that time, the rate of children participating in economic activities was less than 7%.
Nguyen Thi Lan Huong, Director of the Institute of Labor Science and Social Affairs stressed as the child labor group tended to shift from agriculture to industry and service, protection for them was less and children were more vulnerable.
The survey report recommended that the number of child laborers in employment at risk of falling into the list of prohibited work for junior workers or in environments negatively affecting children’s development should be reviewed.
It also suggested continued improvement of laws and policies focusing on child care, protection and child labor as well as conformity of these laws with related international laws and the current situation in Vietnam. Sanctions and penalties for violations of these laws should be strengthened, the report stressed.
It said efforts to address child labor should be mainstreamed into socio-economic development policies in rural areas (encompassing rural development and modernization, commodity economic development, education and training, hunger reduction and poverty eradication) to eliminate child labor.
It also pointed to family’s key role in the employment of the children and as a result, households should be the center of outreach efforts to raise awareness about working children issues. Educational assistance should also help households with substitute incomes when children resume schooling.
The report proposed to develop and implement a national program on child protection to offer protection from different dimensions, especially preventing, intervening and supporting working children in manufacturing and services, in urban areas and those under 11 years of age. Furthermore, social bonds between children, families, schools and social workers should be strengthened.
Leadership by authorities and media campaigns should also be strengthened to fight child labor with full engagement from state agencies, socio-political organizations, the community and individuals, it said.- (VLLF)