Pacific Media Watch

21 April 2015

PNG: Families breaking international law with child labour

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PNG families breaking international law on domestic chores. Image: PNG Post Courier

Maureen Garawa
PORT MORESBY (PNG Post Courier/Pacific Media Watch): Many urban families are breaking international law by engaging school-age relatives as babysitters and domestic help, a regional forum has been told.

These are two forms of child labour which contravene International Labour Organisation (ILO) laws which Papua New Guinea is signatory to.

The babysitters were usually young girls who have either dropped out of school or had never been to school and are under the minimum age of employment, which is 15 to 18 years old.

Living with relatives in town, many become housekeepers and are expected to do everything in the home such as cleaning the house, doing the laundry, running errands to baby-sitting to roadside selling of foodstuff.

Child labour forum
Domestic workers were one of the many examples of child labour which were highlighted at the first sub-regional Child Labour and Trafficking Forum in Nadi, Fiji, last week.

Participants from Fiji, Kiribati, PNG, Samoa and the Solomon Islands were drawn from government departments and their social partners such as the trade unions and media organisations to discuss how they could end this and protect the children through various ways, including amendments and enforcement of legislation, networking among relevant government agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Winston Yuka from the PNG Employers Federation said in PNG it had been known that young domestic workers often run away from homes due to mistreatment and end up living risky lives, such as sex workers.

PNG’s coordinator of child protection at the Religion, Youth, and Community Development Department, Lita Mugugia said: "There is a big need to work together, and especially with Labour (Department of Labour and Industrial Relations) officers if we want to combat child labour’’.

As a result of the baby-sitting practice in PNG, many young female relatives miss out on education that would have ensured they had a decent job in future.

ILO conventions
The line of work they do could also put them in contact with toxic chemicals which may be detrimental to their health, thereby breaching ILO Convention that prohibits child labour, under the category of light work that children are expected to do.

According to the ILO Convention on minimum age for employment, children between the ages of 13 and 15 may do light work as long as it does not threaten their health and safety, or hinder their education or vocational orientation and training.

The Nadi forum was told that every country had a few of their own forms of child labour, but there were many common ones seen in all which includes parents or guardians taking children out of school to help in the farms or plantations during harvest time and getting children to sell on the streets to earn a living for the family.

Papua New Guinea is one of the countries that have signed and ratified the two ILO Conventions – the Minimum Age Convention in 1976 and the Worst Forms of Labour Convention in 2000.

By ratifying the two conventions, it is required to report to ILO next year on what it has done so far to adhere to the requirements of the two international laws.

Fiji is the only country in the region that has a child labour office.

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Pacific Media Watch

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