International Labor Organization forum tackles child labor woe

EXPERTS and global actors from Africa, Asia and South America gathered in the Philippines to join the first-ever Inter-regional Knowledge-Sharing Forum on Child Labor and Working Conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mines (ASGM).

The International Labor Organization (ILO), which served as a platform for the three-day dialogue that will be concluded today,  said the forum aims to address child labor and poor working conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mines ASGM.

Governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, miners’ groups and their communities, and ASGM supply chain actors also joined the forum.

Countries included Colombia, Congo, Cote d’ Ivoire, France, Ghana, Guyana, Indonesia, Italy, Mali, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, Thailand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.

“Jobs in artisanal and small-scale gold mines are often linked to poor working conditions, with limited rights and access to social protection, without a voice and freedom to join unions. Miners risk their safety and health even without stable income to lift their families out of poverty. Of great concern are children working in these mines, which is one of the worst forms of child labor,” said Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

ILO estimates in 2011 some 19,000 children work in 45 artisanal and small-scale gold mines in the Philippines.

Children can be found inside mining tunnels or on surface collecting gold and hauling sacks of ore or smelting gold.

The sector is associated with many labor issues such as hazardous working conditions that have led to work-related injuries, diseases and deaths.

Child labor is also present in different mining stages. Evidence from various ILO surveys and research studies show that mining is by far the most hazardous sector for children with respect to fatal injuries.

“We should continue to zero-in on families as they need to know the risks involved in sending their children away for work. Child labor is not the solution to the households’ economic problems, rather, it creates long-term problems. This forum is a step forward to be more responsive and to provide us with the necessary tools to address child labor and other labor issues in ASGM,” said Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

The 3-day forum held on 28 to 30 May 2019 in Manila provided a venue to exchange knowledge, technologies, practices and challenges to put forward concrete solutions to address child labor and poor working conditions. The forum also looked at the impact of the sector on people and the environment.

“We are well aware of negative impacts of ASMG on people and the environment. Most of the operations in the sector continue to work without permits and mining practices are not covered by government regulation, This is manily the reason why two of the worst issues in the mining sector – child labour and working conditions – are common in ASGM,” said Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) .

Implemented under the ILO CARING Gold Mining Project (Convening Actors to Reduce child labor and Improve working conditions in ASGM) , which is funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) , the forum linked issues of child labour and working conditions to decent work and compliance with Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work  for workers, families and communities in the sector.