The abuse of child workers whether in small family owned businesses or supply chains of large multinational corporations can’t be justified for any reason, said Dang Hoa Nam of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).
“Many children in Vietnam and around the globe are taught the value of hard work by doing household chores, helping out on family farms, or working part-time to help increase their families’ income.”
It’s the labour that disrupts attaining a good education or that is hazardous to the child’s wellbeing that we, as a nation, need to confront and take proactive steps to eliminate in its entirety.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the UN, defines the age of 15 as the youngest a child should stop attending school— and any work performed by a child under 15 that interferes with his or her education is considered exploitive.
For jobs such as mining and chemical processing, the minimum age of entry is increased to 18 to take into consideration the physical demands and developmental risks of the work.
The latest statistics of the ILO show that Vietnam has an estimated 1.8 million child workers that work in jobs that pose risks of being abused.
However, the problem must be addressed in a comprehensive and balanced manner, said Mr Nam, as child labour often offers income to families who otherwise would face unemployment or poverty.
That is why the government has committed to work with organizations in the public, private and social sectors throughout the country to give effect to the National Action Plan for the prevention and elimination of child labour.
The national battle plan is sufficiently broad in scope to not place undue restrictions on child labour, that risks robbing these children of a source of income, worsening their destitution, rather than alleviating their problems.
If substantively takes into consideration three approaches for battling the problem.
The first approach is too hold all businesses that operate within the borders of the country accountable for any child labour in their chain of supply to reduce the misuse of children in the workforce.
The second path is to rely heavily on consumer choice as an effective strategy to eliminate improper use of child labour, said Mr Nam, as businesses and consumers alike can refuse to sell or purchase goods and services from disreputable companies.
Lastly, the plan targets grappling with the root causes of poverty itself by building a dynamic thriving economy with equal access to education and opportunity to better oneself as an effective strategy to ending these despicable practices.
We are already starting to see many benefits from the national plan, said Mr Nam, particularly with respect to a significant reduction in the number of street children in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and some other big metropolitan areas.
The problem of monitoring supply chains is much more complicated because they are not concentrated in suburban areas but are spread-out widely and scattered throughout the nation.
I am a strong supporter of MoLISA Deputy Minister Doan Mau Diep on this issue when he says we should pay greater effort to supply chains to insure that we can say with pride and conviction that goods and services originating from Vietnam are free of exploitive child labour.
I am also proud to report that Vietnam is making commendable advances in the child labour battle.