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Indonesia needs to reduce number of child workers

22nd June 2012 | 4.264 Views
Indonesia needs to reduce number of child workers
Photo document of child workers.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The quality of human resources usually determines the future of a nation, and involves great efforts to develop the nation`s younger generation, particularly children.

Indonesia however, has not yet been able to exploit its abundant natural resources for the prosperity of its people. This is partly due to the country`s failure to improve the quality of its human resources, and also because of not being able to provide equitable education to its younger generation.

Millions of Indonesian children are forced to work as child laborers, thus losing their basic rights to education, a childhood, assurances of physical safety and recreation.

A survey two years ago by the Central Statistics Agency and the International Labor Organization revealed that at least four million of the 58.8 million children across the nation were being employed, and of those, at least 1.7 million were child laborers.

Poverty is the main reason why children are forced to take jobs. "Child workers are an important issue for all of us. The number of child workers below age 15 is still high," National Development Planning Minister Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said during a discussion at the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) on Wednesday.

The minister said that she would include the child worker issue into the country`s poverty eradication program as the number of child workers in Indonesia remains high due to poverty.

In its latest report, Understanding Children`s Work (UCW) -- a partnership organization with the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNICEF and the World Bank -- agriculture was reported as the largest sector which employs children aged below 15 years.

According to Angela Kearney, UNICEF representative in Jakarta, about 58 percent of child workers aged between 7 and 14 years are employed in the agricultural sector. This is followed by the service sector, with 27 percent child workers, and manufacturing sector with 7 percent.

Kearney said the figures in the report were consistent with the overall composition of Indonesia`s manpower market. So, it could also be revealed that about one-third of children working in the service sector were working as domestic helpers.

She explained that children are also used as domestic helpers, as the public has not yet paid proper attention to this problem, and also because this type of labor is not regulated properly. Another reason is that female children work behind closed-doors, are prone to violence and are away from the public eye. "Therefore, a special policy is needed to regulate it," she added.

The UNICEF representative said that the involvement of children in the agricultural sector was inseparable from their parents` roles. In this case, almost all children are working without wages for their families.

Most parents working in the agricultural sector prefer for their children to help them cultivate the land. Although some of these working children are sent to school, in terms of school attendance they lag behind those who do not work.

"Education is the most important key to the problem of working children in Indonesia," she asserted.

In the meantime, a survey by the Central Statistics Agency and the International Labor Organization at the end of 2009 presented a complete study on child labor in Indonesia.

This study revealed four million of 58.8 million children across the nation were working, and of those at least 1.7 million are considered child laborers.

Uzair Suhaimi, chief of population statistics at the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), was quoted by the Jakarta Globe early in 2010 as saying the survey was the first detailed study of its kind on child labor in Indonesia, and was included in the 2009 National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas).

"Compared to figures from countries in Asia Pacific, these figures are relatively small," he said. "The percentage [6.9 percent of 58.8 million] is small, but because we are a massive nation, even that small percentage seems large when we actually study the figures.Generally, though, we are better off than most countries," Uzair noted.

He added that the survey figures were gathered from 248 districts across the country`s 33 provinces and the children in employment were between the age of 5 and 17.

"BPS will hand the results to the related ministries and working groups in order for them to work on follow-up policies and actions to tackle this. One of them is the Social Affairs Ministry," Uzair said.

The survey, detailed in the book `Working Children in Indonesia 2009,` said the definition of child labor includes working children between the ages of 13 and 14 who work more than 15 hours per week, and children between the ages of 15 and 17 years who work more than 40 hours a week.

According to Minister Armida, children aged 15 and above can legally enter the work force. "The minimum age requirement to enter the Indonesian labor force is 15 and above. But many children aged below 15 are still employed," Armida noted.

"It is permitted if they do light jobs, for instance, assisting their parents. The most important thing is that their education should not be hindered," she said.

However, many children aged below 15 still do jobs which are strictly prohibited under UN conventions and the laws, Armida added. She said the number of employed children aged 10-14 reached 878,100 and the number of children seeking jobs was 174,500 in 2011.

According to the 2010 population census, there are about 22 million children in the 10-14 age group, Armida stated. "This means that nearly 5 percent of Indonesian children aged 10-14 are either employed or seeking jobs. I think the number is quite high," she said.

"Such a high number of child workers draw special attention, because they still have to attend school," Armida explained.

World Bank Director for Indonesia, Stefan Koeberle, said that polices on youth development could prevent problems that working children have to contend with. Thus, it is important for less fortunate youths to attend skill and training programs in order for them to improve the quality of their lives.

"We are aware that taking the right step is one of the decisive factors for future success. Therefore, preventing children from working is important, because otherwise it would have a poor impact on them in the future," Koeberle said.