Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reports Highlight Fiji Kids Involved in Worst Form of Child Labour

Fiji Times News
by Nasik Swami

MORE than 500 children are involved in the worst form of child labour in Fiji.

And according to recent reports from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) some of the worst forms of child labour in the country include commercial sexual exploitation of children, drug trafficking, begging and hazardous work where children under the age of 15 are involved.

Speaking during the World Day Against Child Labour celebrations in Suva yesterday, the Director for ILO South Pacific Countries, David Lamotte said the main contributing factors to child labour in Fiji were poverty, family breakdown, education, unemployment, internal migration and crisis situation.

"Programs to withdraw and prevent children from the worst forms of child labour have found that many children are out of the education system, having dropped out of school from a few months to at least five years ago," Mr Lamotte said.

He said the lack of social support services and relevant education programs for child labourers and school dropouts posed a challenge to effectively removing children from the worst forms of child labour.

Fiji's Ministry of Labour, Child Labour Unit manager Atish Kumar said a child in Fiji could start work from the age of 15 but should not be exposed to hazardous working environment.

"A child in Fiji can qualify to work in any environment once he or she is 18 and above and provided he or she is getting paid in accordance to the minimum wage rate."

And with the minimum wage rate in Fiji being $2.75 an hour, Mr Kumar, however, said children's main priority should be education.

"Children are the future of our society. We are currently withdrawing them from work and admitting them in schools because through education they will be able to get better jobs," he said. Issuing a stern warning to those who employ underaged children, Mr Kumar says the ministry is working on some cases to prosecute employers who are employing under aged children and those who do not pay them a minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour Deputy Secretary Samuela Namosimalua said an individual can be fined $10,000 and more than $50,000 for a corporate business if found employing underaged children. Mr Namosimalua also assured that as part of the Millennium Development Goal, Fiji is trying to reach the target to eliminate any worst form of child labour by 2016.

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