ILO urges Vietnam to raise age for domestic child workers to 18

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  PHOTO COURTESY OF BAODONGNAI.COM.VN
Two sisters Lam Thi My Yen and Lam Thi My Huyen work as domestic workers after school in the southern province of Dong Nai

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has urged Vietnamese authorities to stop children under 18 from working as domestic help, saying it puts them at risk of being exploited and abused.

The Labor Code allows children to be hired as domestic workers at 15 if the job is light and suitable for their age, but Gyorgy Sziraczki, country director of ILO Vietnam, said in a release Wednesday that child workers are "particularly vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse," since the job is often hidden from the public eye.

"It is time to identify hazardous elements of domestic work and to prohibit such work for children under 18 of age."

The release was meant to mark the World Day Against Child Labor, June 12.

The Labor Code also stipulates that for children the working hours should not be too long or affect their schooling, and the working environment should not harm their physical or mental development.

According to the ILO, while the country does not have official data on child domestic workers, the latest National Population and Housing Census found that some 7.1 percent of domestic workers in Vietnam are under 18.

A study by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and ILO Vietnam in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2011 had found that 17.3 percent of domestic workers started at their job before turning 18.

"The number of child domestic workers tends is on the rise due to a number of reasons," Deputy Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Doan Mau Diep said.

The job is one of the few options for poor children who drop out of school, he said, pointing out there is an increasing demand for domestic workers in urban households.

The fight against child labor, especially its "worst forms," needs the participation of family, community, and society, Diep said.

Vietnam has implemented a number of programs to deal with early child labor in cooperation with it, the ILO said.

They include a national program for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor which focuses on prevention, early intervention, and saving children from hazardous work, and enabling them to re-integrate into the community, it said.

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