MANILA — The chairman of the House of Representatives labor and employment committee urged the government to “exhaust more measures and enlist more allies” in the fight to eradicate child labor in the country.
“More and more children are being forced to work since the pandemic. We need to exhaust more measures and enlist more allies so we can protect our children from the dangers of child labor and exploitation,” Rizal 4th District Rep. Fidel Nograles said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the number of child laborers in the country went up in 2021.
According to the PSA, there were 1.37 million working children aged five to 17 years old in 2021. This figure is higher than the 872,333 children of the same age range working in 2020.
The PSA added that 62.8 percent or 858,000 of these child laborers were boys, while girls had a 37.2 percent share, or 508,200.
Agriculture accounted for the highest proportion of working children at 45.7 percent, followed by the services sector at 45.4 percent of the total working children.
Nograles noted that there might be a need to review existing laws aimed at protecting children’s welfare, primarily Republic Act (RA) 9231 or an Act Providing for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Affording Stronger Protection for the Working Child, which amended RA No. 7610.
“Kailangan nating matingnan kung sapat pa ba ang mga batas natin upang maitaguyod ang kapakanan ng mga bata kontra sa child labor,” said the lawmaker.
He also highlighted the need for more social protection services, quality education, and better economic opportunities that would mitigate the effect of poverty on families, thus preventing them from engaging the help of children for their livelihood.
The solon also said that he would initiate a meeting with other stakeholders to discuss what measures could be crafted and implemented to help address the issue.
“Hindi lang ito usapin ng batas. Ang kailangan natin dito ay multi-sectoral approach. Nananawagan ako hindi lang sa pamahalaan, kundi pati na rin sa mga partner natin sa private sector, academe, non-government organizations, at mismong mga komunidad natin na makipagtulungan at makipagkaisa kontra sa child labor,” said Nograles.
“Ang mga bata, dapat nag-aaral at naglalaro, hindi nagtatrabaho, upang lumaki silang kayang abutin ang rurok ng kanilang potensyal,” he added.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.