A national survey released at a conference held Tuesday in Hanoi reported that Vietnam is home to roughly 1.75 million child laborers, more than half of whom have never been to school.
According to figures reported at the conference held by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, 55 percent of the underage labor force (roughly 962,500 children) have never been inside a classroom and 32 percent work more than 42 hours per week or more than 6 hours per day.
Most of the kids started working at the young age of 12, the survey showed.
Deputy labor minister Doan Mau Diep told the conference that the country’s child labor rate was lower than the regional average, adding that experts at the International Labor Organization assessed the situation as “not very severe”.
“However, if children have to work too early, their rights to study, to develop, to be protected from abuse won’t be respected,” said Diep.
“Moreover, many goods produced in Vietnam by child laborers will be stigmatized as the product of exploitative and abusive practices, which puts us at a disadvantage. Therefore, we must find a way to shift child laborers into the role of 'working children'."
Diep explained that working children are those who work a limited number of hours per day to ensure they have enough time to study and play.
A single hour of work per day seems appropriate for children aged 5 to 11, he said, noting that children aged 12 to 14 should only work a maximum of four hours per day. Older children can work up to 7 hours a day and still be considered working children, he said.
Children who do dangerous or harmful work can also be considered child laborers, he added.
Vietnamese garments and bricks have been described by the US government since 2012 as goods produced by children and exploitative labor practices.