Thursday, February 7, 2013

CSR Asia - Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia

Source: CSR Asia
 Vol. 9 Week 5 06/02/2013
Child labour and children at risk in Laos
by Richard Welford

According to the ILO's most recent estimate, 215 million children around 
the world are trapped in some form of work. These children do not go to
school, they have little or no time to play and many of them do not receive 
proper nutrition or health care. Child labour remains a challenge in many 
of the poorest parts of Asia and there is still a lot of work to be done on
 breaking the links between poverty and child labour.
Surveys of the labour force and child labour in the Lao People’s
 Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) are therefore very welcome. 
The Labour Force Survey and Child Labour Survey of Lao PDR 
found that the population of Laos is 5,818,447 of whom 2,913,989 
are female. This is a very young country: More than two million 
people, or almost two-fifths of the population, are under 18
 years of age. The report shows that out of 3,886,000 persons 
aged 15 or over, 3,080,000 are in the labour force.
However, according to the Child Labour Survey, approximately
 178,000 children in Laos are considered to be engaged in child
 labour – around 96,000 girls and 81,000 boys. Of these more
than 130,000 – or two out of every three child labourers - are
involved in what is defined as hazardous work. Ninety per cent
 of child labourers work in agriculture, forestry or fishing, and 
seven out of 10 work more than 49 hours per week. The 
majority of child labourers are found in rural areas.
The Labour Force Survey and Child Labour Survey are the first
 such studies to be conducted in the Lao PDR. They provide us
 with a not untypical snapshot of the situation in many least 
developed countries. The findings and the new statistical 
information will help planners, policy makers, researchers
 and businesses who want to make an impact on a significant 
challenge in Laos.
Education plays an important part in breaking the cycle of 
poverty that leads to child labour. The online Children’s Rights 
Portal argues that increased efforts are required to ensure that 
each and every Laotian child goes to school. Today 20% of 
children do not enjoy the right to education. Many children live 
in isolated villages where different ethnic languages are 
spoken even though the official language used in school 
programs is Lao. Poverty is a key factor which obstructs 
children from enjoying their right to education. Commonly,
 school fees may be too high for the family to afford and this 
may prevent children from attending school.
Many children in Laos are also victims of physical and sexual 
abuse. Such abuse can take place in the family circle and has
 detrimental consequences for children. A recent study has 
shown that nearly half of all street children in Laos ran away
 from home because they were subjected to domestic violence.
The international NGO, Save the Children, says that although
 various instruments of government legislation have
 been enacted for the development and protection of Lao
 children, there is still a lack of specific national strategies
 for protecting children directly from abuse, exploitation 
and neglect.  There are growing concerns of the numbers of 
children being lured into commercial sexual exploitation with 
child prostitution common. This is a particular problem 
amongst children without appropriate care including orphans,
 street children, victims of trafficking and migrant children. 
National data estimates that there are 85,000 orphans under
 16 years of age in Laos (3.5% of the child population).
There are about 800 street children (either working or
 living on the streets, or doing both) in the Lao capital. 
A survey of 270 street children in the capital found that 
34% are below 10 years of age; 60% are between 10
 and 15 and 6% are over 15 years old. Laos is a country
 of origin for human trafficking, with the primary destination 
to Thailand, although with increasing cases now to China.
 An overwhelming majority of trafficking victims are girls
aged between 12-18 years and of these, 35% are believed 
to end up in forced prostitution.
As Laos opens up to more and more foreign investment, 
responsible businesses can find meaningful ways to engage
 with the challenges of children at risk. Helping children to
 go to school and contributing to better quality education
 is a good starting point. It is often helping to overcome
 the barriers to children receiving education which can be
 most successful.
Providing more economic opportunities to parents can often
 do even more because we know that as household incomes
 rise, the incidence of child labour falls. Therefore, thinking
 about employment opportunities, inclusive supply chain 
initiatives and helping to create successful rural small
 businesses all have huge potential for economic empowerment.
 Raising awareness about children at risk and creating CSR 
programs which can lead to effective development interventions 
will bring benefits to children in danger and improve the reputation
 of the business.
The private sector has a huge role in engaging in poverty 
alleviation strategies through its own activities and thus
 contributing to development opportunities. Helping to create
innovative social enterprises and inclusive supply chains also has
 a track record of success. This is the focus of our four-day intensive course on Development, Poverty Alleviation and Social Business in Bangkok, 7-10 June. For more innovation on this and our Professional Masters degree on CSR please go to:

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