The global economic crisis has forced a greater number of children into the workforce, particularly girls, many of whom are exploited for commercial sex, the International Labor Organization said
“Recent global estimates indicate the number of child workers had been falling. But the financial crisis that began in late 2008 is threatening to erode this progress,” Patrick Daru, chief technical adviser at the ILO’s Jakarta office, said Thursday at a press conference.
The crisis has exacerbated the income problems of poor families around the world, including in Indonesia, making them tend to send their children to work rather than to school.
“This is the supply and demand theory at work,” he added.
“Employers use child labor because they’re cheaper, while families also need additional income.”
The ILO is focusing on girl workers for this year’s World Day Against Child Labor on June 12.
“The ratio of girl to boy workers has increased significantly during the past few years,” said Arum Ratnawati, the ILO Jakarta technical adviser.
“For instance, the ratio of girls to boys on the streets in Indonesia has increased from 20 percent in 1999 to 50 percent in 2009.”
ILO data from 2007 shows that of the 1.1 million Indonesian working children under the age of 14, 40 percent or 440,000 are girls. Of this number, an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 are victims of sexual exploitation.
“Girls are more likely to be the victims of trafficking into prostitution,” Arum said.
“Approximately 21,000 prostituted children, both boys and girls, are located in Java.”
Child prostitutes can be found easily in public places like streets and parks, or in “hidden” places of prostitution like beauty and massage parlors, discotheques, cafés and hotels, as well as karaoke lounges, leaving them vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS or forming a drug habit, Arum said.
Alan Boulton, director of the ILO’s Jakarta office, said his organization was carrying out a number of programs in collaboration with the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry and the National Education Ministry.
When asked by The Jakarta Post if the Indonesian government should take responsibility for the increasing number of child workers, Alan said, “I understand the child labor problem is huge. Give the government the opportunity to work, as I see it is already on track.”
The Manpower and Transmigration Ministry’s director general of manpower improvement and supervision, I Gusti Made Arka, admitted eradicating child labor would be very difficult.
“It may be impossible to eliminate all underage workers,” he told the Post. (bbs)