More than 600,000 Children Doing Hazardous Work in Myanmar: ILO

By Zue Zue 13 June 2019

YANGON—Over 600,000 child laborers in Myanmar are engaged in hazardous work, according to a workforce survey conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The ILO released the figures at a press conference on Tuesday in Yangon held in advance of the World Day against Child Labor, which was marked worldwide the following day.

According to the survey report, 1.13 million children aged 5 to 17 years, or 9.3 percent of Myanmar’s child population, are involved in labor. Around half of them—616,815, or 5.1 percent of the child population—are trapped in hazardous work likely to harm their physical, mental or moral development.

Of the children doing hazardous work, 24.1 percent are 12-14 years old, while 74.6 percent are 15-17 years old. The 12-14 age group tends to work very long hours, the report noted.

The major sectors in which child labor occurs are agriculture (60.5 percent); manufacturing (12 percent); and another broad category that includes wholesale/retail businesses, auto repair shops and other commercial enterprises (11 percent).

“The elimination of child labor is related to economic development, improved social standards and educational development,” said U Nyunt Win, director general of the Factories and General Labor Laws Inspection Department.

“Internal conflict, poverty, migration, disasters, food insecurity and socioeconomic hardships caused by climate change force children to quit school and become laborers. Long-term efforts are needed to address this in developing countries,” he said.

Many child laborers in Myanmar have to work more than 44 hours per week, he said.

Child labor, according to the ILO’s definition, is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

According to the ILO, there are 152 million child laborers worldwide, 73 million of whom are trapped in hazardous work.

Naw Se Se, general secretary of the Women’s League of Burma, said, “There are many child laborers working at worksites that are not suitable for long-term employment. And the jobs they are doing are really dangerous. For example, children have to carry iron nails, screws and so on at scrap-iron foundries. It is a challenge to them to carry heavy loads.”

Child labor is common in conflict areas, said U Nyunt Win. “In some areas, schools are closed and fathers are conscripted. As the families are displaced, children have to do such things as farming, collecting firewood and fishing in order to support their families.”

Myanmar signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2012, according to the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population.

Myanmar ratified ILO’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in 2013, and is implementing in partnership with the ILO a national plan for the eradication of child labor in dangerous workplaces. The plan aims to end the worst forms of child labor by 2030.

The World Day against Child Labor is commemorated on June 12 across the globe; its motto this year is, “Children shouldn’t work on fields but on dreams.”