Child laborers in the Philippines
Credit:

EILER

What does it look like in a nation where 5.5 million children are working, more than half of them in hazardous jobs in mining or on sugar planations?

Here are photographs of child labor exploitation in the Philippines, where nearly 1 million children have quit schools altogether to work.

These alarming numbers highlight the poor conditions experienced by many Filipino children, who lack key social services and access to welfare.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments that aim to promote the welfare of children. But abuse, poverty and deprivation continues to be experienced by many children.

Last month, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education Research (EILER) reported that about 22.5 percent of households have child workers in plantation communities. In mining towns, child labor incidence was 14 percent.

Child laborers in oil palm fields often serve as fruiters, harvesters, haulers, loaders and uprooters. Meanwhile, child laborers in sugarcane estates work weeding, harvesting and fetching water.

Credit:

EILER

Credit:

EILER

Credit:

EILER

In mines, child laborers usually fetch water, carry sacks of rocks, load the thick logs used to support the underground tunnels, or become errand boys for regular workers. They are also reserve workers whenever regular miners cannot come to work. Girls in mines work in gold panning or doing laundry or cooking for the miners.

Credit:

EILER

Credit:

EILER

Credit:

EILER

The report says child workers are exposed to extreme weather conditions, long working hours and a difficult environment while using substandard tools and equipment.

In plantations, trucks pick children up from their homes and bring them to makeshift tents located in nearby provinces to stay and work for periods lasting from two weeks to a month without their parents. Since many plantations use harmful chemicals, the children working on them are directly exposed.

Their counterparts working in mines, meanwhile, are handling dangerous tools and are made to work without protective equipment. Mines often give children illegal drugs to keep them awake inside the tunnels awake for hours.

Pitang holding a placard which reads: “I am a child laborer”.

Credit:

Jhona Ignilan Stokes/Facebook

A former child worker from Mindanao, Pitang, shares her experience in the plantations during a recent public forum organized by ecumenical group:

I was 10 years old when I stopped going to school. I have lost hope that I might still go back to school, and I thought to myself that I would be a singer instead. I usually sing to endure and forget the feeling of pain and fatigue from working in plantation. It has been four years since I stopped schooling. I only reached the sixth grade level and then had to stop so I could work.

There are groups campaigning for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in the country. One of their programs is Balik-Eskuwela (Return to School), which seeks to bring child workers back to school.

Child workers return to school.

Credit:

Balik-eskuwela/Facebook

*All photos by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education Research, used with permission.

This story is cross-posted with Global Voices.

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