PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) - The International Labor Organization says Cambodia has reasons to be cheerful as the international community marks World Day Against Child Labor on Tuesday. At the same time, however, a lot more needs to be done.
In a statement, the ILO estimated that 215 million children worldwide were involved in child labor, with more than half associated with its worst forms.
As for Cambodia, around 1.5 million children are involved in child labor and about 310,000 in the worst forms.
"Children concerned should be at school, acquiring skills that prepare them for decent work as adults. By entering the labor market prematurely, they are deprived of this critical education and training that can help to lift them, their families and communities out of a cycle of poverty.
"In its worst forms, child laborers may also be exposed to physical, psychological or moral suffering that can cause long-term damage to their lives."
But "there appears to be a growing realization that Cambodia needs a well-educated young workforce to fuel its economic growth." Moreover, the ILO noted that Prime Minister Hun Sen had signed the first National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in 2008.
A draft for the second phase from 2013 to 2017 has now been developed and will soon be finalized. "The ILO seeks the commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia towards the adoption of this Second National Plan of Action, alongside with the allocation of appropriate resources," it said.
The statement also noted that Cambodia was one of the first countries in the region to adopt the ILO goal of ending the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016. Today, the country has nine separate ministries, many provinces and the Municipality of Phnom Penh working together to achieve the goal.
"Those steps are beginning to show results. Recent monitoring conducted in Kampot, Kep and Poipet (has) shown very significant declining trends of child labor," the ILO said. "These declining trends give us the hope that the 2016 goal of ending the (worst forms of child labor) can be achieved."
But "a lot more still needs to be done and time is short," it warned, noting that both boy and girls need to receive education up to at least 15 years, when they can start work.
Moreover, action against child labor can be accelerated under a new Social Protection Strategy for the Vulnerable and the Poor which provides cash-transfer schemes, scholarships and public-employment schemes for parents.
The ILO also called for "cross-sectoral initiatives" to identify areas free of child labor, better law enforcement including penalizing those who break the law and allocating adequate government resources to eliminate child labor.