MORE than 90,000 children have been removed from doing harmful work since the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) started profiling child laborers.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said that the initiative is aimed at creating a database that will serve as a basis for providing appropriate services and interventions necessary to remove children from child labor.
The profiling is aligned with the Philippine Development Plan 2017–2022 goal of reducing child labor cases by 30 percent.
Since 2018, the labor department has already collected the key demographic information of over 400,000 child laborers nationwide.
The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority estimated that 597,000 children are still engaged in child labor, mostly working in the agriculture sector.
Meanwhile, cases of online sex abuse and exploitation in children (OSAEC) spiked by 264 percent during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sexual exploitation is among the worst forms of child labor identified by the International Labour Organization.
In a study by the Institute of Labor Studies (ILS) presented during the National Stakeholders’ Summit addressing the Worst Forms of Child Labor, including Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, the alarming rate of increase can be attributed to the country’s affordable and easily accessible internet packages.
“Affordable internet access also contributes to enabling impoverished households to participate in this money-making scheme,” ILS Researcher Frances Camille Dumalaog said.
The policy study also cited the country’s robust money transfer infrastructure, high proficiency in the English language, and widespread poverty as top reasons why OSAEC proliferates in the Philippines.
To address the issue of poverty, the labor department provides several social amelioration packages for families of identified child laborers.
“Through the [profiling] database, DOLE can identify and provide appropriate interventions to remove children from child labor. These include providing livelihood assistance programs for parents of child laborers given that they will stop engaging their children in hazardous work,” DOLE – Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns Director Lawywe Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla said during the summit.
DOLE’s Project Angel Tree, Special Program for Employment of Students, and intensified Labor Inspection program are also some of the labor department’s key programs to address child labor.
DOLE Undersecretary and National Council Against Child Labor alternate chairperson Atty. Ana C. Dione also called for convergence and harmonized efforts among key sectors to end the worst forms of child labor.
“Despite different mandates and objectives, our goal is the same—ensure that children are safe from the pernicious effects of child labor,” Dione said.
The two-day summit, held in partnership with World Vision’s Project against Child Exploitation (Project ACE), was participated by partners from the national and local governments, non-government, civil society, and youth sectors.