Labour law re­form meet calls for bet­ter pro­tec­tion of child work­ers

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING shoonnaing@mm­times.com

PRO­TECT­ING child labour­ers was a hot topic at a labour law re­form work­shop in Yan­gon at the end of last week.

The Stake­hold­ers’ Fo­rum lauded im­prove­ments such as rais­ing the min­i­mum work­ing age from 13 to 14 years old and de­vel­op­ing a list of work deemed too haz­ardous for chil­dren un­der 18, but also called for more to be done to com­bat some of the worst forms of child labour.

The 2nd Stake­hold­ers Fo­rum on Labour Law Re­form was con­vened by the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Den­mark, Ja­pan, the United States, the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ILO).

The multi-gov­ern­men­tal ini­tia­tive was launched two years ago and is in­tended to help sup­port Myan­mar’s ef­forts to mod­ernise labour codes, im­prove com­pli­ance with in­ter­na­tional labour stan­dards, and fos­ter a di­a­logue be­tween the gov­ern­ment, em­ploy­ers and work­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to the par­tic­i­pant’s joint state­ment, many sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ments in re­gard to child labour have oc­curred since the last time the fo­rum met in May 2015.

Child labour is en­demic in Myan­mar. The be­he­moth prob­lem was re­cently thrown into the pub­lic spot­light by rev­e­la­tions of se­vere phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse of two child house­maids at a Yan­gon tai­lor­ing shop.

Since 2014, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ILO, Myan­mar has un­der­taken a project called Myan­mar Pro­gramme on the Elim­i­na­tion of Child Labour (My-PEC). Ac­cord­ing to the ILO’s web­site, this pro­gram is aimed at re­duc­ing child labour.

Prom­i­nent hu­man rights lawyer U Robert Sann Aung told The Myan­mar Times that he sup­ports the ac­tion taken by the ILO to in­crease the min­i­mum work­ing age given the prob­lems that the coun­try has faced.

“Child labour­ers, in­clud­ing house­maids, are suf­fer­ing in our coun­try. While there are still many is­sues faced by chil­dren in Myan­mar, I be­lieve that it is a good idea to in­crease the min­i­mum work­ing age to 14 and I sup­port it,” he said.

Busi­nesses found to be em­ploy­ing chil­dren un­der the age of 14 could face fines rang­ing from K5 mil­lion to K10 mil­lion, up to six months in prison, or both. It is also il­le­gal for chil­dren aged 14 to 16 years to work more than four hours a day, ac­cord­ing to the 2016 Shops and Work De­part­ments Law, al­though the reg­u­la­tion is fre­quently flouted.

Ac­cord­ing to a Min­istry of Labour sur­vey, an es­ti­mated 24.4 to 33.6 per­cent of the 1.3 mil­lion child labour­ers are con­sid­ered “hard work­ers” clock­ing 60 or more hours a week.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2014 cen­sus, more than one in five chil­dren be­tween the ages of 10 and 17 in Myan­mar go to work in­stead of school.

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