Children’s rights bill inconsistent over child labour regulations

Sections within the draft law are inconsistent over the minimum working age, and child employment in many sectors remains unregulated

A children’s rights draft law introduced to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on July 7 fails to address inconsistencies between existing domestic laws regarding child employment and the legal minimum working age. The bill does not tackle grey areas regarding child employment in sectors unregulated by the labour law.

The proposed legislation, which is currently under consideration by the legislature, attempts to legalise and regulate child employment in a wide range of sectors. But different sections of the bill are inconsistent.

Section 49(b) states that children under the age of 14 are not allowed to work, while section 49(c) stipulates that those between the age of 12 and 14 are permitted to undertake “light work” which do not have safety or health hazards, without jeopardising education, health and development.

The two clauses contradict each other regarding whether children between 12 and 14 are legally allowed to undertake employment.

According to Section 50(c), regulations on child employment between the age of 12 and 14, including the types of work allowed and maximum working hours, will follow existing labour laws.

Hence, children younger than 14 will remain prohibited from working in factories, shops and a wide range of retail and services sectors because of the restrictions imposed by current legislation.

Section 75 of the 1951 Factories Act forbids children under the age of 14 to work in any factory.

Section 13(a) of the 2016 Shops and Establishments Act also forbids children under the age of 14 to work at a shop or at an establishment. Establishment refers to commercial entities such as hotels, banks and companies, entertainment establishments such as cinemas, karaoke rooms and clubs, as well as industrial businesses.

Child labour in the country is prevalent in many other industries, such as construction sites and agriculture fields, according to a research report Child Labour in Myanmar’s Garment Sector: Challenges and Recommendations published by San Francisco-headquartered non-profit organisation BSR in 2016. Child labour is a risk in these areas, but these industries are not covered or addressed by the bill or existing labour laws.

Additionally, section 3 of the draft law prohibits child labour in numerous activities, including human trafficking and child slavery, forced labour, prostitution, child pornography, drug production or sales, among others.

Vicky Bowman, director of Yangon-based Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), told The Myanmar Times that the bill does not resolve grey areas for child employment in unregulated industries.

“We were puzzled to find these articles in the draft Children’s Rights Law, as they seem to open up the possibility for legal employment of children between the ages of 12 and 14.

“While some legal frameworks in other countries make clear that light duties in family businesses are acceptable for children under 14, this draft law does not mention family environments.

The MCRB recently published a briefing paper on “Children’s Rights and Business in Myanmar”, which focuses on the role of businesses in respecting and supporting children’s rights. The publication aims to offer guidance to foreign and domestic companies on what children’s rights mean in the context of doing business in the country.

Child employment and the worst forms of child labour defined by children’s rights bill

Chapter 14 of the draft law concerns child employment and the worst forms of child labour:

– 49(a) Any child shall not be asked to work in the worst forms of child labour.

– 49(b) A child with working capability shall not be younger than the age of 14. If the age for compulsory education prescribed according to the education objectives by the government is more than 14, the minimum working age for school-age children shall not be younger than that prescribed age.

– 49(c) On conditions that it does not adversely affect either the schooling or vocational education or health and development of such a child, a child between the age of 12 an 14 has the right to work in the jobs which have neither danger nor health hazards to the child and which are light in nature.

– 50(b) Types of light jobs, maximum working hours and other regulations, for the children with working capability at the age between 12 and 14 as described in section 49(c), shall be defined in accordance with existing labour laws.

The phrase “worst forms of child labour” means committing any one of the following:

(1) selling children, enslaving, asking to work like a slave, human trafficking, bondage out of debts, forced to participate as a soldier in armed conflicts and forced labour,

(2) asking to work as a prostitute, using as an actor or buying or offering in children pornography making and distributing,

(3) using children for drug production and drug trafficking or buying or offering, and

(4) asking to work in the conditions which can affect the health of the children or cause danger or harm the morality of the children.

Source: Myanmar Times