A file photo shows a child working at a garment factory in Ho Chi Minh City's Binh Tan District. Photo: Hoai Nam
The risk that child labor may be present in supply chains, from agriculture to manufacturing, services to construction, should be fully addressed for the future of the younger generations and society itself as Vietnam integrates deeper into the global economy, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has said.
“With 1.75 million engaged in child labor in Vietnam, these supply chains producing goods and services for millions every day could run the risk of having child labor,” ILO Vietnam Director Chang Hee Lee said at a workshop on Tuesday held by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the ILO to mark this year’s World Day Against Child Labor (June 12). This year’s theme was “End child labor in supply chains – It’s everyone’s business!”
Lee warned that child labor “can be difficult to detect" as it occurs predominantly in the rural and informal economies, beyond the reach of labor inspectors, and in areas where trade unions and employees' organizations are often weak or absent.
“It’s the same for child labor in supply chains as the work may be done in small workshops or households and often goes undetected by firms at the top of the chains,” Lee said.
In household production, children are often highly vulnerable because parents’ incomes are insufficient or because informal family enterprises cannot afford to hire adult workers to replace the unpaid work of their children, he said.
Doan Mau Diep, Vietnam's deputy labor minister, said the country already has laws and policies to protect children’s rights, particularly to prevent child labor, and has carried out many programs and interventions.
“Preventing, minimizing and ending child labor in Vietnam and other countries in the world face challenges which first include the awareness of the children themselves, their families, community and employers,” he said.
Lee said: “Enterprises need to be vigilant to ensure that their supply chains are free from child labor or risk having their reputations ruined and their business seriously damaged.”
According to the ILO, the fight against child labor requires coherent policies packages that address various issues including quality education, social protection and decent jobs for parents.
Diep said law enforcement and the proactive participation of all stakeholders in society – families, community, state agencies, enterprises, trade unions, and social organizations – play an important role.
Two sisters Lam Thi My Yen and Lam Thi My Huyen work as domestic workers after school in the southern province of Dong Nai. Photo credit: Bao Dong Nai.
“The active, positive and responsible participation of all social partners will help laws and policies against child labor be better enforced, children’s rights be realized in practice, and children’s future and the future of the country’s workforce be ensured.
“We are the ones who decide the speed and level of reducing child labor in supply chains. We are the ones who decide our children’s future.”