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Report: Child Labor Worsens in South Asia

By Dan Huntley  10/13/2011
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The Philippines, India and Bangladesh lead the world in the production of goods by child laborers, according to one of three reports released Oct. 3, 2011, by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor report, mandated by the U.S. Trade and Development Act, contains more than 140 country profiles, focusing on hazardous work performed by children such as spreading fertilizer and pesticides by hand, cracking rock in mines and scavenging garbage dumps. These “worst forms” include prostitution and child soldiering.

“These reports provide an overview of international efforts to protect children from hazardous work and identify critical gaps in policy and enforcement that leave them vulnerable,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a statement. “Through increased education and awareness, and critical assistance to families and governments, we can help make exploitative child labor a thing of the past.”

According to the child labor report, India uses children to produce 20 products, including bricks, fireworks, footwear, locks, matches, rice, silk fabric and soccer balls.

The Department of Labor released two other reports:

The updated List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor, mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, adds two goods (incense and goats) to the lists, for a total of 130 goods. It adds Mauritania to the list for a total of 71 places where such goods are produced by child laborers.

The List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor has been updated to include bricks from Afghanistan as well as cassiterite and coltan (used in the manufacture of cell phones) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), based in Geneva, estimates that there are more than 215 million child laborers and that more than half are involved in hazardous work. The ILO has found a growing number of people ages 15 to 17 are engaging in work that is hazardous to their health, safety and morals.

Solis announced $32.5 million in grants to combat exploitative child labor. That includes $15 million awarded to World Vision in the Philippines to address the worst forms of child labor in sugarcane production; $15 million awarded to the ILO to help targeted countries decrease child labor; and $2.5 million to help the ILO support the U.S. Labor Department’s programming and implementation of evaluations to identify best practices for addressing child labor.

Solis said the reports and lists are tools “to generate action.”

“It is meant to help foreign governments, industry groups, companies, unions, workers and consumers make informed decisions about the goods they produce and consume,” she said. “No one has the right to threaten the health, education and well-being of children by involving them in inappropriate work. No family should have to depend on the labor of its children to put food on the table. And no person should be forced to work.”

Copies of all three reports and additional information on the Labor Department’s efforts to combat child labor are available here.

Dan Huntley, a freelance reporter, is based in Charlotte, N.C.         

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