Child labour

Opening address at the World Day against Child Labour celebration in the Philippines

By Mr Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the World Day against Child Labour celebration in the Philippines, Pasay, Philippines, 29 June 2019

Statement | Pasay, Philippines | 29 June 2019
  • Secretary Silvestre Bello III and officials of the Department of Labor and Employment;
  • Our partners from government agencies, workers’ and employers’ organizations and the National Child Labor Committee;
  • Colleagues, advocates and pioneers in the fight against child labour led by Ms Thetis Mangahas;
  • Teachers and children from partner schools, non-government organizations, civil society and the media;
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
It is an honour to celebrate with you today the World Day against Child Labour in the Philippines.

This year, the International Labour Organization marks 100 years of advancing social justice and promoting decent work.

Since the very beginning, the protection of children is embedded in the ILO constitution.

One hundred years ago, the very first International Labour Standard on child labour was adopted to address minimum age in industries.

This move challenged the widely accepted use of child labour then as a form exploitation of childhood which constitutes the evil - the most unbearable to the human heart, the exact words of the first ILO Director-General Albert Thomas.

On this World Day, we call for immediate and strong action to address remaining challenges on child labour. It is not an easy task since child labour is deeply rooted in poverty, which is not only happening here in the Philippines.

This is my experience when I managed an ILO project in Africa to combat child labour in tobacco. We removed thousands of children from tobacco fields, but much remains to be done.

This year’s theme denotes the complexity of the issue of child labour: “Children should not work in fields, but on dreams”.

What was your dream as a child? To the children who are with us today – what is your dream?

My dream when I was 8 years old was to become a soldier, then I wanted to be a doctor like my cousins.

I met Emmanuel in Malawi. His dream then was to finish a course in Marketing, Finance or Agricultural Economics.

Work in tobacco fields is not safe or healthy for children like Emmanuel but it was the only way for his family to survive. Emmanuel graduated from a prestigious high school and saw the difference between life on the farm and in school.

In Barangay Malaya, many of the children working in small scale gold mines dream of becoming a teacher or a police officer.

The ILO CARING Gold Mining Project, funded by the United States Department of Labor aims to address child labour and poor working conditions in communities like Barangay Malaya by adopting strategies on formalization and implementing child labour monitoring systems.

We have huge dreams ahead of us. Yet globally, over 152 million children remain victims of child labour, of which 73 million are in hazardous work.

In the Philippines, 2.1 million are engaged in child labour, with more than half of them are in agriculture, largely characterized by informality.

Looking back, there has been a decrease of 40 per cent in child labour worldwide in 2000. The target under the Sustainable Development Goals however is zero child labour in all its forms by 2025.

From today’s celebration, it is imperative to look at past gains and lessons to end child labour. A lot has been done here in the Philippines.

I am glad to see colleagues, advocates, and pioneers gathered today in the fight against child labour.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Philippine Program against Child Labour established during an ILO National Planning Workshop in July 1994.

We celebrate not only their initiatives and efforts but their commitment to end child labour.

New forces are transforming the world of work and these changes could worsen existing challenges including poverty and child labour. The future of work and the future of societies depend on how we deal with these challenges.

The Global Commission on the Future of Work proposed a human-centred agenda. It is about investing in people’s capabilities, in institutions of work, and in decent and sustainable work.

A human-centred agenda contributes to the achievement of the SDGs and the fight to end child labour.

As Secretary Bello said at the recent International Labour Conference, it is about ensuring the dignity of labour against the backdrop of technological advances.

It was also in the same Conference or the ILC where governments, employers and workers adopted the Declaration on the future of work, declaring the need to act with urgency and to eradicate forced and child labour.

A concerted effort, as well as innovative and integrated approaches are thus needed. Let us remain committed to the goal of ending all forms of child labour by 2025.

How we treat our children is a reflection of our societies and values as ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said. He urged governments, workers and employers to make a final push to end child labour and to ensure that it does not reappear.

It is time to make that final push and to recommit to action!

Together we can help children reach their dreams and build a brighter future of work – a future without child labour and leaves no one behind!

Thank you!