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10 Facts About Child Labor in Myanmar
Myanmar was a prosperous country at the beginning of the 1960s. However, when Myanmar came under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011, it became one of the world’s poorest nations. Many considered the former military regime in Myanmar to be one of the most oppressive and abusive regimes in the world, committing serious human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians, including women and children. Child labor is one of the prevalent issues that the government is trying to tackle, but it remains common in Myanmar.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labor as work that negatively affects children’s mentality, physicality or morality and interferes with their schooling. The worst forms of child labor include slavery, sexual exploitation, illicit activities or work that by nature is likely to harm the health, morals or safety of children.

Despite the new government body’s attempt to eradicate child labor, it remains a huge challenge in Myanmar due to its limited resources. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Myanmar.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Myanmar

  1. Child Labor: A 2015 survey estimated that 1.13 million children ages 5 to 17 in Myanmar, or 9.3 percent of the child population, were in child labor. The number in Myanmar is higher than the Asian average, which estimates determine to be 7.4 percent. Among these Myanmar child laborers, over half engaged in hazardous work that may cause harm to their physical, mental or moral development.
  2. Minimum Working Ages: Myanmar law defines the minimum age for work as 14 for certain sectors, but there is no minimum age for work for all sectors. The Myanmar Labor Force Survey 2015 estimates that 60.5 percent of child laborers work in the agricultural sector, which does not have a minimum age for work. The other sector that the majority of child labor occurs is in the manufacturing sector.
  3. School: Myanmar law made school free and obligatory for children only up to age 10. This leaves the children ages 10 to 13 the most vulnerable to child labor since they have neither legal permission to work nor the requirement to go to school.
  4. Army Recruitment: The Myanmar government has made some efforts to eradicate the worst forms of child labor. However, the government officials are complicit in the use of child labor through forced recruitment of children into its national armed force in conflict areas. Despite 18 being the legal minimum age for enrollment in the army, people often coerce children as young as 14 to work in the army as combatants, messengers or domestic workers.
  5. The Economy: The transition from a military-ruled nation to a democratic regime in 2011 has helped the economy expand quickly. When people have more disposable income, the demand for services rises and pushes the demand for more labor. On the other hand, this economic boom partly fueled the crisis of child labor as companies and industries increased in the exploitation of cheap child labor to reduce cost. For example, food establishments only have to pay child workers $0.3 an hour compared to $0.43 for an adult.
  6. My-PEC: In response to child labor in Myanmar, the U.S. Department of Labor funded the ILO’s Myanmar Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (My-PEC), a four-year project spanning from 2014 to 2017. The project aimed to reduce child labor in Myanmar by expanding the knowledge and awareness of child labor, improving laws and capacity to meet international standards, strengthening the capacity through advocacy and networking as well as implementing pilot interventions in target communities.
  7. Street Kids: The government has realized the need to increase the capacity of the educational system and opportunities for children, but the changes are gradual. Some NGOs have stepped up to provide scholarships and free schooling to help child workers. Scholarships for Street Kids, a local NGO, provides educational opportunities for children and also compensates the family for the lost earnings while their children are in school. The program has helped around 300 children.
  8. Myanmar Mobile Education Project (myME): Myanmar Mobile Education Project is a social project that emerged in 2014, and is the first to provide non-formal education for child laborers. The innovative project converts local tea shops and buses into mobile classrooms to bring education directly to the children. Since its inception, myME has benefited approximately 10,000 working and out-of-school children.
  9. The Myanmar Government’s Actions: The Myanmar government has ratified the ILO Conventions on the minimum age and the worst forms of child labor. It is in the process of finalizing its National Action Plan (NAP) on Child Labor, including the list of hazardous jobs that the Convention requires. In February 2018, the government established the National Committee for the Eradication of Child Labor to ensure the implementation of NAP.
  10. The ILO: The ILO is working to attain its Sustainable Development Goal targets of ending child labor by 2025 and securing safe working environments for all workers by 2030. It aims to achieve these goals through My-PEC, the [email protected] and the Youth4OSH projects. The Myanmar government is also working toward its own objective of protecting and preventing all children from child labor, especially the worst forms by 2030.

Since the transition to a new government in 2011, Myanmar’s human rights records have been improving. Although child labor is still prevalent in Myanmar due to poverty as well as cultural norms, the government is taking steps to address this issue with the collaboration of the ILO and various NGOs.

These 10 facts about child labor in Myanmar highlight some of the challenges facing the government, but also many great potentials to eradicate child labor in Myanmar through national and international efforts to ensure better lives and rights for the children of this Asian nation.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

Child Labor in Russia
Child labor is a practice that has often occurred throughout history. Considered normal and accepted, child labor persisted for centuries in many places; however, in recent history, nations have enacted laws to protect children and ensure their safety.

In recent years, the ninth largest country, Russia, has been a popular topic in the news and in politics. Children’s rights are among the topics that people consider less often when discussing Russia’s human rights record. The story of child labor in Russia is long and varied throughout the history of its government and economic systems. The state of laws concerning child labor continues to evolve. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Russia.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Russia

  1. The Soviet Republic restricted child labor during its existence. For many years, the world knew the region of Russia as the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). During this time, the USSR forbade children under the age of 16 from working. However, some exceptional cases allowed for the employment of children ages 14 and 15
  2. Children’s economic roles changed after the fall of the USSR. When the era of the USSR ended, many Russians fell into poverty and the nation’s GDP fell. As many families struggled, pressure increased for children to work in order to help provide for the family.
  3. Child labor remained illegal despite new economic pressures. The law that prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16 remained in effect, despite Russia’s changes. Russia permitted the employment of children ages 14 and 15 only if they completed their basic education or obtained parental consent.
  4. Russia restricts shift lengths and working hours for children. Permitted to work, children between the ages of 14 and 16 can work a maximum of 24 hours per week. Further, their shifts cannot exceed five hours. For children ages 16 to 18, shifts cannot exceed seven hours and cannot exceed 36 weekly hours.
  5. The Russian government prohibits certain types of work. Anyone under the age of 18 cannot work night shifts or do dangerous work or work which may be “harmful to their moral development.”
  6. Children have special protections with regard to time off. According to Russian law, employed minors must receive at least 31 days of vacation time per year. For adults, these days roll over to the next year, but minors must use these vacation days.
  7. Despite the laws in place, child labor in Russia is still a threat to children’s well-being. When Maplecroft, a risk-analysis organization, made its Child Labor Index in 2014, it classified Russia as an extreme risk for child labor.
  8. Children who must work face different circumstances in rural and urban areas. Rural children primarily work in agriculture, while urban children’s labor usually occurs in industry or in service work. Common tasks include washing cars, selling merchandise and collecting garbage.
  9. The percentage of children in Russia forced into child labor is unknown. There is a scarcity of research regarding the prevalence of child labor. The surveys conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 1993, estimated that close to 20 percent of children in Russia were involved in child labor. More recent research is scarce.
  10. Child labor puts minors in danger. As shown in a 1997 study by G. I. Zabrianskii, 45 percent of children working on the streets have received threats of violence. Further, one-third of children working on the streets had actually experienced violence.

While there are laws in place to combat child labor, children in Russia are still at risk. Child labor in Russia may be due to economic pressures. Considering working children often face violence, it will take the government’s continued effort to ensure that these risks do not escalate.

Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay

5 Most Hazardous IndustriesAmong the negative effects of living in a low-income country is the inadequacy of workplace safety. Regulations and monitoring organizations to protect workers might be absent. Without the resources for such programs, many developing nations and their citizens suffer high rates of work-related illness, accidents and death caused by unsafe workplaces.

Studies of occupational risk from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Tampere University in Finland show that workers in low and lower-middle income countries have a higher risk of falling sick or dying as a result of their occupation than workers in high-income countries. Up to 92 percent of all global workplace fatalities are reported in low-income countries. One example is the fatality rate of Myanmar, at 25 deaths per 100,000 workers, which is 30 times higher than the United Kindom, at 0.83 per 100,000.

This disparity is driven by a lack of occupational health services and monitoring in low-income countries. The risk becomes more pronounced within the following five most hazardous industries, which account for the majority of work-related harm.

5 Most Hazardous Industries

  1. Mining – Mining presents a great risk to workers and holds the highest share of work-related fatal injuries. In addition to the risk of cave-ins in underground mining operations, miners are often exposed to pollutants. These include asbestos, metal and silica dust, and radioactive waste. Exposure makes workers prone to respiratory diseases and lung cancers. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases caused by the inhalation of dust, vapors, gases and fumes are the third largest cause of occupational fatalities overall.
  2. Construction – Work-related deaths in the construction industry make up about 30 percent of annual workplace fatalities. The ILO has determined that the risk of fatal injury to construction workers in low-income countries is three to six times higher than in more developed economies. Falls are the greatest threat to workers in the industry, but heavy machinery and electrocution also present a significant risk. Construction workers frequently face exposure to carcinogens and toxins like asbestos, resulting in long-term illnesses and disability.
  3. Agriculture – The agricultural industry makes up half of all global employment. The ILO estimates that at least 170,000 agricultural workers are killed per year in work-related accidents. Accidents often involve farming or fishing equipment, drowning, tree falls or agrochemical poisonings. Due to the number of workers employed in the industry and the frequency of informal farm work in low-income countries, injuries and fatalities in agriculture are likely to be underreported.
  4. Transportation – Most cases of occupational injuries occur in transportation-related events. Transportation is the top cause of workplace fatalities in the United States, and transportation workers are among the top five most frequently injured. Though often understudied, injuries and crashes among transport workers in countries like China have drawn attention, with one driver badly injured or killed every 2.5 days in Shanghai.
  5. Ship-breaking – The ship-breaking industry, often informal or illegal, is a growing concern for occupational safety monitors. Demolition involves frequent exposure to harmful chemicals, carcinogens, welding fumes and asbestos. The ILO reports the informality of the industry as its greatest threat to workers, saying: “Inadequate safety controls, badly monitored work operations and high risk of explosions create very dangerous work situations.” In Bangladesh, experts fear that environmental contamination from job sites threatens the health of neighboring communities.

A Trend Toward Safer Working Conditions

A growing number of countries have embraced efforts to increase regulation and monitoring of work conditions since the 1990s. Safety recommendations and training from the ILO have been implemented, with 134 nations ratifying the Labor Inspection Convention in 2005. However, regulation can’t come fast enough. In 2013, only 7 percent of international labor conventions had been passed in Asia, where the majority of injuries occur.

Decreased rates of workplace injury and fatal accidents over the last two decades are an encouraging sign that safety efforts are paying off in many developing nations. The number of people killed as a result of accidental occupational incidents in low-income countries dropped by 43 percent between 1996 and 2016. Experts note this decrease is lower than in high-income countries and that the five most hazardous industries still disproportionately burden these areas.

– Marissa Field
Photo: Flickr

Help People in TunisiaIn December of 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian man who struggled with poverty committed self-immolation in protest of police and government actions. This incident marked the starting point of the “Arab Spring,” during which various North Africa and Middle East countries reached democratic regimes.

However, after 5 years of revolution, Tunisia still faces distinct difficulties. Corruption, unemployment and violence against women are the most severe issues. Even though there have been advances to solve these complications, the following organizations help people in Tunisia developing several programs.

Transparency International

Corruption was one of the main problems that citizens attempted to solve in Arab Spring. Ironically, it is the principal concern that Tunisians have now. According to a study made by Transparency International, 61 percent of the people in the country believe that the level of corruption has increased in the last 12 months. Additionally, 30 percent of the people surveyed fear retaliation if they speak out about corruption.

Transparency International brings some strategies to attack this issue and help people in Tunisia. One of them is finishing with the impunity, which means that those public officials that break the law must be punished in order to end the corruption cycle. Empowering the citizens to monitor politicians and promote transparency allows citizens to know where taxes, credits or international aid are used in the public interest is another strategy.

Unfortunately, 15 percent of the Tunisians live in unemployment, an indicator that triggers poverty. In addition, some areas are more vulnerable than others: the most affected zone is the central area of the country, where poverty reaches 30 percent in some regions.

International Labor Organization

Unemployment gets worse in youth, since 33 percent of young Tunisian men and women between 15 and 29 suffers this problem. To help people in Tunisia, the International Labor Organization (ILO) works to transform this situation.

It has created local economic development by giving young people pilot projects. One such project is the construction of a marketplace that will give merchants a better place to sell their wares. In addition, it has helped local people to develop new and useful skills; for instance, about 100 Tunisians have been trained in agriculture, knowledge that will permit them growing, harvesting and selling products.

U.N. Women

In other areas, Tunisia is moving forward. In 2010 for instance,  U.N. Women reported that nearly 50 percent of Tunisian women had experienced violence in their lifetime. However, last July, the Tunisian Congress passed the first national law to combat violence against women. This law primarily ensures the survivors access to essential services, such as legal and psychological assistance.

Mobile applications also prevent violence against women. With Eyewatch, for example, in just one click the app informs people what is happening at the moment. This technology was used by women in Dharavi, a locality in Mumbai, India. The application has helped women to track cases of violence, the Guardian reported.

How to help people in Tunisia has become an important question that organizations are addressing. Donating to these organizations and calling your legislators to support bills that help nations like Tunisia are surefire ways to help truly make a difference.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

Human TraffickingHuman trafficking is a disturbing crisis that affects individuals of all ages, sexes and races at a global level. It is a crime that is often regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. According to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking in the United States rose 35.7 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Human trafficking is essentially a form of modern-day slavery, where traffickers will use force, fraud or coercion to control victims. The two most common forms of human trafficking are sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking has been found in a multitude of venues within the sex industry, including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs and street prostitution. Labor trafficking is found in a variety of labor settings such as domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Trafficking exists due to two major factors: low risk and high profits. Human traffickers tend to see little risk in these criminal operations. Although there have been increasing investigations, penalties and prosecutions throughout the years, the high profit potential from committing these crimes makes them worth the risk for many. There is often a lack of government and law enforcement training with these situations, as well as many in a community not being aware of the threat, ineffective laws, scarce resources to help victims recover and even social blaming of victims. Many of these high profits include when individuals are willing to buy commercial sex, whether it be from children or adults, and many consumers are willing to buy services from industries that rely on forced labor.

 

Top Facts on Human Trafficking:

 

  1. Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
  2. While 19 percent of trafficking involves labor exploitation, 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
  3. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
  4. About 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and 80 percent are female while half are children.
  5. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry—just behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking—and reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of the $32 billion, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized nations.
  6. According to the International Labour Organization, it is estimated that women and girls represent the largest share of trafficking victims when it comes to forced labor with 11.4 million (55 percent), compared to men at 9.5 million (45 percent).
  7. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the greatest numbers of traffickers stem from Asia, Central Europe, Southeastern Europe and Western Europe.

The Department of Homeland Security has a page that can help one recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as a page on further identifying a victim with hotlines to call to report suspicious criminal activity to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Being informed on human trafficking as well as the proper steps to take when potentially encountering a trafficking victim could save someone from an unfortunate and disturbing fate.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr

Pakistani Kiln Worker
For Pakistani kiln worker, Amna Bhatti, the only escape from debt is death. Bhatti explains to the Washington Post, “We are poor, and we will always stay poor. When you enter this road, the only way out of it is death.” Many other Pakistani kiln workers face a similar reality.

According to the U.N., 21 percent of the population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line and some are left with no choice but to take out loans in exchange for labor. These loans can have very high interest rates, creating a cycle of bonded labor.

Workers labor in the hot sun to pay off their debt and, many times, their family’s debt, which can be passed down through the generations. Although this practice of paying off loans through labor has been outlawed by the Pakistani government since 1992, actual enforcement of the law is not practiced.

Most of the time, work is done for far less than minimum wage since employers regularly do not keep records and authorities have limited resources to oversee the industry. According to Kahlid Mahmoud, the director of the Labour Education Foundation located in Lahore, no more than a dozen kiln factories in Punjab, Pakistan pay the country’s minimum wage of $7.50 per 1000 bricks.

Actual pay can amount to as little as $1.25 cents a day. Workers are not excluded because of age either.

Child labor in Pakistan encompasses over 12 million children according to the International Labour Organization. Two million of these children work up to 14-hour days in the brickmaking industry. According to the Maplecroft risk analysis firm Pakistan places sixth in their list of 10 countries with the worst rankings for child labour. Many times these children work side by side with their parents.

Pakistan has also been ranked by the 2013 Global Slavery index as having “the third highest prevalence of modern-day slavery.” Female kiln workers are among the worst treated. Zakaria Nutkani of Action Aid explains, “Female workers have virtually no rights, as most of them do not even possess a national identity card, which is a basic document to prove a person’s existence in government records.” Nutkani explains further that female workers are often the lowest paid and face never-ending work because of additional responsibilities maintaining their households.

Cases of sexual abuse of women and children are common. Ghulam Fatima of the human rights advocacy group Bonded Labour Liberation Front explains that workers face extreme repercussions for refusing to work.

These repercussions can include murder or being sold to human traffickers. The punishments can even extend beyond the individual and to their families. Kiln worker Naser explains to CNN about his work conditions simply stating, “He beats me up if the work doesn’t get done.”

Options of escaping bonded labor are rare or non-existent. Bonded laborer Muhammad Mansha sold his kidney to buy his children out of their family’s debt.

Poverty allows conditions such as these to continue to thrive. It greatly limits the options and opportunities people could otherwise have access to. For these Pakistani kiln workers, this is their reality and they know it all too well.

– Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, United Nations Development Programme in Pakistan, CNN World

Global March Against Child Labor
In 1998, a group of forward-thinking activists organized the Global March Against Child Labor. It took groups from over 100 countries to lead a march that crossed 103 countries and ended at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 1998, where activists from all over the world rallied to end child labor.

In response, the ILO began the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002. Every year on June 12, governments, citizens and civil societies gather to focus the world’s attention on child laborers and create campaigns to help them.

The movement has lofty ambitions but is still doing a great job of fulfilling them. Before the turn of the millennium, there were nearly 250 million children who were child slaves. The figure has now dropped almost 100 million and is estimated to be around 168 million.

Girls in particular have benefited from this as their numbers have dropped nearly 40 percent since then, while boys have dropped 25 percent. Despite this, some 88 million children still work in potentially fatal jobs.

Like many problems that need to be solved, one method employed in the reduction of child labor is simply raising awareness. The Global March Against Child Labor has proven to governments and civil societies around the world that this is something that needs to be stopped.

The U.S. Department of Labor has played a critical role in producing promotional documents and reports that have been quite successful in raising awareness of this terrible issue. Additionally, USAID acknowledged the power of video and strung together compelling footage in what eventually came to be a feature film about child labor, titled “Stolen Childhoods.”

USAID has played a big role as well in raising awareness. Through the Global Labor Program, USAID has helped workers in Liberia mobilize against employers and has ensured that any exploitative wage practices were discontinued. As children were typically employed in rubber plants in Liberia, USAID managed to ensure that children would not be separated from their parents if they worked, and also oversaw the building of a school on the plant. The employers agreed to pay the adults a living wage.

Another entity that is vital to ending child labor is business. Thanks to the Global March Against Child Labor and USAID’s awareness campaigns, a spotlight has been placed on businesses and their obligation to ensuring that children are not working.

The most prominent advocate of this is the program GoodWeave. This is a system by which companies in India can be certified to ensure that children are not used in the creation of rugs or carpets. Since its inception in 1995, GoodWeave has approved of over 11 million carpets. In that time, the number of children who work in carpet factories has dropped from 1 million to 250,000.

The Global March Against Child Labor was the beginning of a bold social movement, but now we must celebrate and continue its ongoing achievements.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: USAID Blog, International Labour Organization, U.S. Department of Labor, Global March
Photo: List Top Tens