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The twin challenges of child labour and educational marginalisation in the East and South-East Asia regions

BANGKOK, THAILAND, 12 JUNE 2015 – Much remains to be done to overcome the twin challenges of child labour and educational marginalisation in the East and Southeast Asia regions, according to a recent report by the Understanding Children’s Work (UCW) programme, an ILO research initiative jointly with UNICEF and the World Bank.

The Asia and Pacific region hosts the largest number of child labourers in the world according to the ILO – 78 million out of 168 million globally. Although the eight countries covered by the study (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and Mongolia) have collectively shown improvements in terms of child labour elimination and primary school attendance, the study reports that these 8 countries are still host to over five million children in the 5 to 17 years age range who are in child labour, and to over three million primary school-aged children who are out of school, many due to the demands of work. Of particular concern are children 15-17 years of age where data indicates between 20-30 percent of children in several of these countries toiling in hazardous work. Further, many are not even captured in available data – undocumented migrants, the stateless, victims of prostitution and trafficking, and other illicit activities.

Lack of interest in school, education not being perceived as important, and disability feature as the primary reasons for children not attending in school overriding commonly perceived factors such as affordability of education. Boys face a greater risk of child labour in all but Cambodia and Lao PDR.

The study stresses that both child labour and educational marginalisation can lead to social vulnerability and societal exclusion, and both can permanently impair productive potential and therefore influence lifetime patterns of employment and pay.

Child labour is often associated with direct threats to children’s health and well-being in the eight countries. By far the largest share of child labourers in the eight countries are found in agriculture, one of the three most dangerous sectors in which to work at any age.

Significant numbers of children in the eight countries are also found in other hazardous forms of child labour, including mining, off-shore fishing, brick-making and garment production, and in extreme forms of child labour, including commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking.

There are no simple solutions for the millions of children in the study countries who remain trapped in child labour and out of school. Child labour is a complex phenomenon requiring a response that is comprehensive in nature and that involves simultaneous action across a range of policy sectors.

The eight study countries have committed themselves to combat child labour through different legislative, policy and development measures.

Still much remains to be done.

Download the report
For further information please contact:
Simrin Singh
Senior Specialist on Child Labour
ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team for East and South-East Asia and the Pacific
Tel: 02 288 1744
Cell: 086 021 6803

Furio C. Rosati
Programme Coordinator
Understanding Children's Work
University of Rome
Tel: +39 34 (0)681 9687


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