Child Labour in Fiji

Project documentation | 14 April 2015
Fiji has ratified the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No.138) in 2003 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention,1999 (No.182) in 2002 respectively and has made significant progress towards fully absorbing this into its national legislations and policies. As a beneficiary of the European Union funded TACKLE Project implemented in the country from 2008 to 2013 Fiji has undertaken legislative compliance reviews and the ILO has partnered with the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations (MEPIR) to ensure that all legislations relating to child labour are relevant to current working conditions (for example, the principles of the child labour conventions are addressed in the country’s labour legislation, particularly the Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) 2007, Chapter 10, which sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years, hours and types of work allowed, and protects children from child labour, in particular, the worst forms of child labour).

Currently, the MEPIR has completed work on the National Action Plan to eliminate child labour, including its worst forms and through the Child Labour Unit and has conducted divisional training workshops to ensure proper structures and mechanisms are in place for effective reporting and resolution of cases, including the development of an inspection guide specific to child labour. The MEPIR has also formulated the Hazardous Child Labour List which details the work that children are not to be involved in under any circumstances.

Tripartite partnerships were also strengthened with the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) and the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) as well as other social organisations and these have been crucial in assisting and coordinating awareness campaigns advocating for the elimination of child labour. FCEF have conducted awareness workshops around the countries with its extensive membership base and have also amended workplace policies on employing children. The FTUC have conducted training workshops with its membership, including teacher training sessions to ensure members are able to identify children in instances of child labour or at risk and provide assistance as required. Workshop activities in communities have also been crucial is raising awareness in the informal and agricultural sectors where instances of child labour are found to be highest.

In 2010, the TACKLE project published findings of the child labour research conducted in Fiji. The surveyed covered five key areas and is titled, “Child labour in Fiji: A survey of working children in commercial sexual exploitation, on the streets, in rural agricultural communities, in informal and squatter settlements and in schools”. The research also set the basis through which most of TACKLE work was done in the subsequent years. These actions have included providing technical assistance to the development of strategic policies and legislations at the national level resulting in the setting up of the Child Labour Unit at the MEPIR and the adoption of a Hazardous Child Labour list for Fiji.

The National Forum on Child Labour in February 2013 in Fiji evaluated the progress made by TACKLE and the next steps that needed to be addressed. These annual national child labour forums have become instrumental in sharing ideas, concepts and methodologies amongst stakeholders both nationally as well as regionally to assist in combating child labour.

Technical support has also been provided to the Ministry of Education (MOE) towards the inclusion of entrepreneurship education (Know About Business – KAB and Start Your Own Business – SYOB) into the education curriculum through the Basic Employment Skills Training (BEST) Programme. SYOB was introduced to schools in 2012 and the KAB was piloted by 2013. TACKLE has also worked closely with the MOE to provide teacher training on child labour as well as providing support to children who are involved or at risk of falling into child labour. TACKLE has also assisted with Careers education by providing technical assistance as well as resources for youths to use through the ‘My Guide to Employment’ guidebook.

The continuation of the TACKLE project in Fiji has been made possible through further funding from the European Union. TACKLE II commences in March 2015 and aims to build on the previous good work conducted by the ILO and its tripartite partners. It hopes to implement and enforce policies to fight child labour, strengthen mechanisms for the Government, unions and employers as central focal points for child labour to dialogue, ensure ownership and mainstream child labour elimination into relevant national policies, strategies and programmes, and support direct actions to provide children in child labour and at risk with access to education, skills training and rehabilitation.

Phase 2 of the TACKLE Fiji project commences in March 2015 for a period of 24 months and is again funded by the European Union. The aim of TACKLE II is to strengthen the systems and structures put in place by stakeholders engaged in the TACKLE project from 2008 to 2013, and sustain national efforts to progressively eliminate child labour. TACKLE II will further:
• Enhance national child labour response through effective partnership, coordination, enforcement and monitoring mechanisms
• Build capacity to implement policies and programmes for formal and non-formal education and promote school retention and access to education for out-of-school children
• Improve knowledge base on combating child labour, especially its worst forms, through research, direct action, awareness and knowledge- sharing
ILO tripartite stakeholders have also been involved with awareness raising activities aimed at improving members’ knowledge on the issue. Key resource developments through this have included the ‘Employers Guide to Eliminating Child Labour as well as the ‘Pocket Guide on Child Labour for Trade Unions’.