Radio Australia's Pacific Beat Q&A with ILO TACKLE

A report has found that child labour exists in PNG and the worst forms exist in Port Moresby.

Press release | 25 April 2012

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts, Radio Australia / Pacific Beat

Speaker:Marie Jane Fatiaki, National Programme Coordinator, Tackling Child Labour Through Education, TACKLE, International Labour Organisation

FATIAKI: In 2009 we had a child labour research training for stakeholders in PNG, including government and the National Research Institute, work with employers and NGOs. And that was followed by the actual research which was conducted in 2010, over a period of six weeks in the field, which interviewed 404 children in child labour, and particularly in the worst forms. So 175 children in commercial sexual exploitation, mainly sex workers were interviewed, and 129 children who were on the streets in various other activities were also interviewed for this survey. We had a research committee, tripartite made out of government workers and employers who vetted the research design as well as the final findings.

COUTTS: Now the number of children working on the streets, 404 was one of the figures that you used, is this with the parent's permission and knowledge?

FATIAKI: The majority of children the parents knew about the work that they did on the streets. And even in some cases with children who were in commercial sexual exploitation this was with the knowledge of the parents as well as with their involvement in getting clients for these children.

COUTTS: Are the children being abused by locals, or is this tourists abusing the children on the streets?

FATIAKI: Locals were the main clients, the perpetrators for the children in commercial sex work.

COUTTS: And is this because it's the only income for families or it supplements family incomes?

FATIAKI: Poverty is one of the main reasons why many of these children are working. There were other reasons such as family breakdown and parental neglect, abuse, peer pressure, and the parents themselves acting as pimps in a few cases. But poverty and the lack of opportunity for parents, as well as for children who had dropped out of school have been the main reasons for children getting into the worst forms.

COUTTS: And are the children working alone or are there little syndicates happening, I mean do they have pimps, they call them on telly, do they have someone who's also getting a cut of the children's salary and getting business for them?

FATIAKI: Yes in most cases all the children have pimps.

COUTTS: And what are the police doing about this because obviously if you can walk up to them and do your surveys the police would be aware of all of this?

FATIAKI: Well since the research results have come out and they've come out before, we've launched this report, presented them nationally to the national stakeholders in July last year, there has been a lot of different activities taking place, the Ministry of Labour for example, the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations is reforming the labour laws, especially the Employment Act to try and improve provisions within the law to prevent child labour, and there are different stakeholders who are starting to implement different interventions.

COUTTS: Did you look at the health issues for children who are involved in the sex industry there and prostitution, STIs and HIV and AIDS?

FATIAKI: Yes, of the 175 child sex workers they were all tested for STIs and 13 of the children tested positive for HIV.

COUTTS: And what happens with these children now? Are they still working?

FATIAKI: Some of the children are still working. We will be launching with the YWCA next month to withdraw a certain number of children from commercial sex work.

COUTTS: And what happens then, I mean what's the spin-off and the displacement effect, where do the families go for the money if they're earning through these children being taken off the streets is now missing?

FATIAKI: Well I think that's quite a big issue that will take not only NGOs, but government resources and different agencies to get together to try and resolve. With this program that we're working with, with the YWCA it's meant as a demonstration model to see how children can be withdrawn from sex work and from the worst forms of child labour, provided with counselling and social support as well as put into education programs. And we hope through that we can then motivate governments to put more resources into building education centres for a lot of children who are out of school at the moment and in child labour, as well as put resources towards supporting families to improve their social protection as well as give them some other forms of generating income.

COUTTS: Well child labour by definition might not be child labour, it might just be a part of the community work like chopping and gathering firewood for instance?

FATIAKI: Yes well that was all taken into consideration when we did the survey. So that does not factor into the research. The research looks specifically at with the ILO conventions as well as the labour laws to define the boundaries to whether an activity done by a child was considered as child labour or not. So with the number of 404 children that were interviewed, all the children in commercial sexual exploitation were classified as children in the worst forms of child labour. Children in illicit activities such as begging, selling drugs and stealing as a form of earning income were also classified as children in the worst forms of child labour. And all children working below the minimum age. So the majority of children who were working on the streets who were interviewed were children between 8 to 13 years old who were working full-time on the streets and not as a holiday job or a job that they do at the weekends. So these are all children who are out of school and working full-time, and those were the boundaries that we used to determine whether a child was in child labour or not.

COUTTS: Alright now presumably you want the government to act, has this report been delivered directly to the government, although with everything going on I'm not sure that it would get much attention, but have you done that and has there been a response?

FATIAKI: The report is launched by the government, it's the government report as the research was done as part of a government request in 2009-2010. So the research design, the final findings, the final report, they were all endorsed by the government before it was then printed, and then the government launched the report yesterday evening.

COUTTS: I should have asked you earlier, how do you define a child, is that someone under 18 or under 16?

FATIAKI: Under 18, we use the UNCRC definition of a child as well as the definition within the ILO child labour conventions.

COUTTS: Alright is there going to be a part 2 or a follow-up to this study?

FATIAKI: Yes, with the children who were identified through the research we have an action program, a project that we have. That, as I said, will be launched in May, and that will involve most of the children who were identified through the research. And we hope that by the end of this action program that we will be able to assist a lot of the 404 children