Myanmar Labor Minister Commits to Working Toward Elimination of Child Labor

Half of Myanmar’s child laborers work in dangerous conditions for low minimum wages as the Southeast Asian country strives to eliminate the ubiquitous practice of employing young people, the country’s labor minister said Monday.

“Half of Myanmar’s child laborers are working in dangerous conditions, but we can’t ask them to stop immediately,” Thein Swe, the minister of labor, employment and social security, said in reply to questions by reporters at a Labor Day ceremony in the commercial capital Yangon.

“We now have been working on collecting data on child laborers, providing them with an education, and checking the safety of their work environments,” he said.

Thein Swe also said his ministry is working with other ministries to pay current workers a minimum wage of 3,600 kyats (U.S. $2.60) per day and eventually to eliminate child labor in the country.

President Htin Kyaw sent a message to the ceremony saying that the government has been working on the eradication of forced and child labor as well as the enforcement of workers’ rights under the law.

Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon region, along with lawmakers and representatives from labor organizations attended the ceremony on May 1, a public holiday in Myanmar that commemorates the achievements of the country’s labor movement.

Trade unions that represent the interests of workers in Southeast Asia frequently hold rallies on Labor Day to push for improved treatment and labor conditions from their employers and governments.

The International Labour Organization—the Geneva-based United Nations agency that deals with global labor problems and standards—defines child laborers as those who are either below the legal age for employment or engaged in work requiring longer working hours than prescribed by law for their age group.

Through its four-year U.S. $5 million project, the Myanmar Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, the ILO is trying to increase awareness of child labor in Myanmar, reduce child poverty in certain areas of the country, and improve the legal and institutional environment contributing to the elimination of child labor.

An October 2015 report issued by ILO on child labor in the Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone, Myanmar’s largest industrial zone, situated about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside Yangon, found that half of those interviewed were under the legal working age of 13 and tended to drop out of school after the fourth or fifth grade in order to work.

One of five children in Myanmar between the ages of 10 and 17 goes to work instead of school, according to a Myanmar census report on employment published in March 2016.

The children who worked in the industrial zone’s formal sector, performing jobs such as delivering water and sewing garments, did so mainly to contribute to the incomes of their impoverished families, but also because of the lack of coherent legislation to prevent and eliminate child labor, the ILO report said.

Children who worked informally performing physically laborious tasks such as pushing and carrying heavy loads outdoors in the heat and dust for long periods were more likely to be exposed to hazards and have greater risks of illness and injuries, the report said.

Source: RFA

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