In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that about 28% of the Cambodian national population ages 5 to 14–nearly 900,000 children–participated in child labor practices.
World Vision is a nonprofit organization working to reduce the prevalence of Child Labor in Cambodia by providing educational and household assistance to low-income families. The organization is operating a four-year child labor reduction project known as EXCEL, which has already assisted over 20,000 children and receives annual funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.
When asked how the organization plans to continue to reduce child labor rates within Cambodia, World Vision administrator Imelda Ochavillo responded, “If you want to reduce it significantly we should have very comprehensive interventions that would include continuous poverty alleviation, provision of alternative sources of income, decent employment for youth, and education should be made accessible.”
U.N. findings report that, of the 430,000 Cambodians under the age of 18, nearly half participate in roles that the International Labor Organization regards as “the worst forms of child labor.” These practices include agricultural production, construction, brick-making, fishing, street vending and illegal child solicitation.
Cambodia maintains one of the highest incidences of child labor practices within Asia and the Pacific, as a U.S. Department of Labor Study estimated the average frequency of child labor for this global region rested at 9.3% in 2013.
Researchers argue that significant disparities within Cambodia’s educational infrastructure and economic development programs have fostered a national environment that encourages child labor practices. In many rural areas of Cambodia, access to educational opportunities is limited and requires children to travel long distances despite a lack of public transportation systems. The persistence of children not accessing educational institutions due to limited infrastructural systems and safety concerns has led many low-income families to allow their children to enter the labor force.
Veng Heang, Director of the Child labor Department in Cambodia, explained recently in an interview that despite decreasing child labor by nearly 50% within the country since 1999, his administration remains determined to have less than 375,000 Cambodians under the age of 18 participating in the national labor force by 2015.
“Not only in 2015, but after 2015–we have to work very carefully on quality of education, food security and especially income generation for the poor,” Heang insisted.
Along with nonprofit organizations such as World Vision, the government of Cambodia has continued to demonstrate strong dedication to reducing the frequency of child labor at a national level. The country completed a National Child Labor Survey in 2013 to study the relative occurrences of child labor practices within sub-national areas and lead multiple operations to combat forced labor and child sexual exploitation, showing that Cambodia recognizes the necessity for further progress within this issue.
With Cambodia continuing to record high annual rates of child labor practices, efforts by both the national government and foreign aid entities to improve infrastructure, educational opportunities and regulatory services are essential in advancing the fight.
– James Thornton