Child labour in the Philippines

Children work in mercury-laden water and in dangerous conditions to search for gold in Camarines Norte, Philippines (©ILO/G. Carreon).

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Child labour is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. In the Philippines, there are 2.1 million child labourers aged 5 to 17 years old based on the 2011 Survey on Children of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). About 95 per cent of them are in hazardous work. Sixty-nine per cent of these are aged 15 to 17 years old, beyond the minimum allowable age for work but still exposed to hazardous work.

Children work in farms and plantations, in dangerous mines, on streets, in factories, and in private homes as child domestic workers. Agriculture remains to be the sector where most child labourers can be found at 58 per cent.

The Philippines has ratified the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182. It has adopted the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL)as the official national programme on the elimination of child labour. This is a convergence of the efforts of the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), chaired by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) working together with the government, the private sector, workers and employers organizations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and international development institutions towards the prevention, protection and removal from hazardous and exploitative work of child labour victims and, as may be appropriate, healing and reintegrating them.

The ILO supports the Philippines in implementing the PPACL through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). The ILO, in partnership with the Government of Japan is also implementing the Achieving reduction of child labour in support of education: Programme to reduce the worst forms of child labour in agriculture in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Child labour

  • Work burdens the child; too heavy for child's age and capabilities
  • Child works unsupervised or supervised by abusive adults
  • Very long hours of work; child has limited or no time for school, play or rest
  • Workplace poses hazards to child's health and life
  • Child is subject to psychological, verbal, or physical/sexual abuse
  • Child is forced by circumstances or by coercive individuals to work
  • Limited or no positive rewards for the child
  • Child's work is excluded from legislation, social security and benefits
  • Child's work is used for exploitative, subversive or clandestine operations or disguised illegal activities

Child work

  • Work is appropriate to child's age and mental capabilities
  • Supervised by responsible and caring adults
  • Limited hours of work; does not hinder the child from going to school, playing or resting
  • Workplace is kept safe and child friendly, does not pose hazards to health and life of the child
  • Child's physical, emotional and mental well-being are nourished even in the work environment
  • Child works voluntarily to participate in the family responsibility of maintaining the household
  • Child is justly compensated materially and psychologically
  • Child's work is regulated by law or governed by family/community norms and values
  • Child's work serves as a vehicle for social advancement and improvement in the child's quality of life