10 April 2011

Philippines' Anti-Child Labor Law

Anti-Child Labor Law
Republic Act 9231 or "The Anti Child Labor Law" was signed into law on 19 December 2003. The passage of this new measure makes the Philippines the first country to present model legislation reflective of the widely ratified International Labor Organization Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. About 143 governments or 80 percent of the international community have already ratified ILO Convention 182 in a span of three years.

The law seeks to eliminate the worst forms of child labor such as those involving slavery: such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom, including recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; prostitution and pornography; use pf children for illegal activities, including drug trafficking; and any work that is hazardous and harmful to the health, safety and morals of children.

Among the salient features of the law is the stipulation that children below 15 years of age, if working in non-hazardous conditions, may work for not more that 20 hours a week, at most 4 hours a day. The law limits children 15 – 17 years old to work not more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Night work from 8pm to 6am is prohibited.

The law also states that children should receive and own their wages. The child’s earnings shall be set aside primarily for his/her support, education or skill acquisition and not more than 20 percent of the child’s income may be allotted for the collective needs of the family.

Parents or the legal guardian are instructed to establish a trust fund from at least 30% of the earnings of the child whose wages and salaries from work and other income amount to at least PhP 200,000.00 annually. A semi-annual accounting of the fund shall be submitted to the Department of Labor and Employment for monitoring purposes. The child shall have full control over the trust fund upon reaching the age of majority.

Employers on the other hand are instructed to provide the working child access to al least primary and secondary education. In line with this provision, the Department of Education shall design and make available to working children alternative and non-formal education courses.

The government shall also provide and make accessible to working children free and immediate legal, medical and psychological services. Victims of child labor shall be exempted from paying filing fees for recovering civil damages.

The new law also provides for stiffer penalties against acts of child labor, particularly in its worst forms. It increased the penalties against abusers to a maximum of PhP 5 million and 20 years of imprisonment. The Department of Labor and Employments is given the authority to close down business establishments found violating anti child labor provisions of the new law.

According to Ms. Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, President of Visayan Forum Foundation, "Making child labor abuse a very expensive crime is a way to send a strong signal to employers and recruiters to stop abusing and exploiting children because stiffer penalties encourage parents and the victims to seriously pursue their complaints in court."

The passage of the law is a great victory for the Filipino working child. However, the real test lies in its implementation.