Wed, 09 Jul 2003

Government told to eradicate child labor within four years

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The International Labor Organization (ILO) urged the Indonesian government on Tuesday to phase out the worst forms of child labor in the next four years in view of the increasing exploitation of children in the country.

The chief technical advisor of the ILO Jakarta office Carmello Noriel said on Tuesday that after making the commitment to ratify a convention on the complete eradication of such inhumane practices, Indonesia needed to act first on the eradication of the worst forms of child labor.

"By the strong commitment especially from key ministers this morning... we can gradually and systematically eliminate significant numbers of the worst forms of child labor in the next four years," Noriel said during a seminar on child labor here.

Noriel hopes that in the next five years Indonesia will manage to eradicate child-trafficking for prostitution, and the presence of child workers in the footwear sector, offshore fishing, and the sale, production and trafficking of drugs, five areas of work deemed to be the most harmful for children.

According to an ILO estimate in 2002, there are 250 million child laborers worldwide. The Asia-Pacific region has the largest number of working children (5-14 years), some 127 million or 60 percent of the total.

A 2001 report by the ILO and the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) said there were around 1.4 million domestic workers in the country, 23 percent of them children under 15.

Another report from the Office of the State Minister for Women's Empowerment said after the economic crisis, between three and six million children were left without parental care and scrambled to make a living.

Indonesia has ratified ILO Convention No. 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labor, which requires the country to eradicate 20 of the worst forms of child labor within a twenty-year period.

In 2001, then president Abdurrahman Wahid issued a presidential decree on a national action committee tasked with eradicating the worst forms of child labor.

To help the campaign, the ILO and IPEC have earmarked around US$4.5 million in aid for the second semester of 2003.

In collaboration with a number of universities in the country, ILO-IPEC has embarked on a survey to collect data on children employed in the worst forms of child labor.

Meanwhile, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Jacob Nuwa Wea said the government had created the legal basis to curb the employment of children in harmful situations.

"Law No. 13/2003 stipulates severe punishment for employers of children," he said, adding that the law demanded up to five years imprisonment or a fine of Rp 500 million for its violators.

Jacob also said that all provincial manpower agencies had agreed to set up action committees to start campaigning on the phasing out of child labor.

"The ministry has also moved to set up a child-labor free zone, probably the first of its kind in the world. The first model is to be introduced in Kutai, East Kalimantan and more will follow," he said.