Child Labour Distributing Resurgence

Published : 10:01 am  June 12, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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labour2Children are acknowledged as future leaders in the world. For a child to be a leader, firstly it should be brought up in an appropriate environment with the proper education, exposure and many other factors.

Every parent would give bring up the child with such big dreams, but certain other factors do not allow a majority of children in the world to even see their path to success.

Poverty is one such push factor that pressurises families living below the poverty line to engage their children in odd jobs, boosting the rates of child labour in the country and from around the world.  Understanding the risk of the dark side of child labour, the Daily Mirror investigated the current situation of child labour in Sri Lanka and the different approaches implemented to eradicate child labour by various institutions.

What is child labour?
Child labour is work that harms children or keeps them from attending school. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently work under conditions that were considered illegal, hazardous, or extremely exploitative. Under-age children work at all sorts of jobs around the world, usually because they and their families are extremely poor. Large numbers of children work in commercial agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, and domestic service.


Conventions and Laws
The issue of child labour is guided by three main international conventions: the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 138 concerning minimum age for admission to employment and Recommendation No. 146 (1973); ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and Recommendation No. 190 (1999); and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These conventions frame the concept of child labour and form the basis for child labour legislation enacted by countries that are signatories. In accordance with provisions of Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children’s Act of Sri Lanka, a child is a person under the age of 14 years. Section 13 of the Act prohibits employment of children except in those circumstances provided under the Act. Section 10 of Shop and Office Employees Act also prohibits employment of children under the age of 14 years.

Employment of young persons under the age of 18 years is prohibited. Government has also issued a list of hazardous occupations/activities where employment of young persons is prohibited (Section 20-A of Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children’ Act).

Employment of a young person is also prohibited at night (Section 10-2 of Shop and Office Employees Act).
The Government has a list of hazardous work activities that includes the 51 occupations and/or working conditions in which employing children under the age of 18 years is prohibited.

Situation in Sri Lanka
While speaking to the Department of Labour, the Daily Mirror learned that many cases of child labour are left unreported.  “When we get complaints to our hotline (1929) we start investigating on them. Also we get complaints from 119 Police emergency line and also through letters from the public.

“According to a Child Activity Survey (CAS) which is conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics in partnership with the ILO it has been revealed that the numbers have been quite exaggerated.  “However they conducted a survey last week after their last in 2008. In the last week’s survey they also took the war-affected areas in to account because previous statistics did not include information from these areas.

“They even count children giving a hand to parents in a simple task as a form of labour. But our definition is that any child who is neglecting school work and is under 14 years and any child under 18 years who are employed in one or many of the hazardous types of work will be counted as children in child labour.”

“We have listed these 51 types of hazardous jobs under five categories namely fisheries, tourism, plantations, quarries and sand mining. We have already started a project to totally eradicate all hazardous forms of child labour from the country by 2016.  “Currently we have conducted these programmes in Kegalle, Ampara and Ratnapura and will be continuing island wide.
When taking the situation in the Colombo suburbs many girls are involved in housekeeping activities. On the other hand, boys work at garages, boutiques and places where there is a lot of hard work to be done.”

Ratnapura Labour Free Zone project
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Mrs. Visakha Tillekaratne said that Ratnapura is the first district to be transformed in to a labour free zone. “The project is conducted under the guidance of the ILO and Ministry of Labour. One reason why we chose Ratnapura is because of the fact that Ratnapura has many small scale and large scale plantations where child labour is quite prominent.

Also it borders large number of other districts. In addition to that the informal sector in the district is very high and it is highly populated. When taking Ratnapura there are many state schools, lonely roads, Tamil speaking schools and we have come to understand that there is no social protection. So we started this project with several parameters.


For the last three years the project has been conducted under an excellent leadership and we have initiated many awareness programmes such as handing out stickers, billboard campaigns and also we have a pledge book which we give to those who wants to show us some support.

“It is essential to address the root causes of the issue and we are focusing on providing social protection. Currently we are looking at figures, because we have only been able to track 200 children who have faced some form of child labour against 4000 reported cases according to the CAS,” Mrs. Tillekaratne said.

Progressive Advancements
According to a report published by the Bureau of International Labour Affairs under the United States Department of Labour it has been revealed that in 2013, Sri Lanka has made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. The Government has reactivated its National Steering Committee (NSC) on Child Labour and has launched a project to create a child labour free district by 2016, which will serve as a model to be replicated in all 25 districts.

“The government has also assisted in the formation of 755 Child Protection Committees in schools across the country in part to prevent trafficking of children. It has also implemented an innovative, fully automated Labour Inspection System Application that supports on-site inspection processes.


“However, children in Sri Lanka continue to engage in child labour in agriculture and manufacturing. The Government’s enforcement efforts continued to be weak, particularly with regards to hazardous child labour,” she said.

The Aftermath of child labour
However, the issue of child labour has not been effectively addressed and many children are still at risk.  “While at work these children are treated badly and will face situations such as sexual exploitation. Parents have a huge responsibility when giving away their child to work. Poverty may be a burden to the family but children should never be victims for their fate. If parents cannot raise children, give them for adoption. There are many couples without children. It is high time to think twice for their future, because the world is changing and children should be out there making a difference and not cleaning houses or changing tyres at a garage,”


labour3At the onset of the World Day against Child Labour which falls today, a case of child labour and abuse was reported from Kandakudawa, Kalpitiya last Tuesday, June 5. When taking a look at the reported incident in detail the Daily Mirror learned that the child has been tortured on several occasions, while being left under the care of his stepfather.  His stepfather, who always return home drunk, has kept the child like a servant, doing all the laundry, cooking and other household chores.

His mother who is currently working abroad has come to see him on several occasions and the child has been living with his stepfather for two years.  As a result of these turn of events, the child does not go to school either. However, the stepfather has been taken to custody since he was charged for brutally assaulting the child.