March 3, 2024

After the tumult and uncertainty unleashed by the Covid-19 in 2020, this mid-year signals hope and resolve. The global theme for this year’s World Day Against Child Labor (WDACL) celebration is “Act now to end child labor”,which focuses on the actions being undertaken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour to accelerate progress for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal target set to end child labor in its all forms by 2025.
Every year since 2002, the Philippines joins in the international observance of WDACL in June to raise awareness on the plight of child laborers and to demonstrate the country’s solidarity in the worldwide campaign against child labor. The theme for the Philippine celebration of 2021 WDACL is “Makibahagi, makialam, at magkaisa para sa batang malaya.”
Sadly, the impact and length of the Covid-19 pandemic and how different people will act remain unclear.
When circumstances result in losses in household income, the family expects children to contribute financially. More children could be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs and those already working may do so for longer hours or under worsening conditions. Gender inequalities may grow more acute within families, with girls expected to perform extra household chores or work in farms. Temporary school closures may aggravate these leanings, as households look for new ways to allocate children’s time.
With the vulnerability of children to abuse and exploitation, there is a need for the Department of Labor and Employment to strengthen the enforcement of Republic Act 9231, or An Act providing for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Affording Stronger Protection for the Working Child.
Strengthening efforts to alleviate family poverty and increase access to education will do more to improve the lives of children than allowing them to work.
In recent years, the DOLE, other government agencies, and social partners strengthened the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL) for a child labor-free Philippines and continues to work to transform the lives of child laborers, their families, and communities towards their sense of self-worth, empowerment, and development.
The United States Department of Labor (USDL) reported that the Philippines has a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 92 institutionalizing the National Council Against Child Labor to help further implement the PPACL Strategic Framework.
The government also permanently closed nine establishments found violating child labor laws, and launched the six-year #SaferKidsPH campaign, which aims to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of cases of online commercial sexual exploitation of children. However, children in the Philippines engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and in armed conflict.
The USDL also reported Filipino children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and mining.
Although the government made meaningful efforts in all relevant areas, it did not adequately protect children allegedly engaged in drug trafficking from inappropriate incarceration, penalties for crimes they were forced to commit, or physical harm.