Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2019, 15:06 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Philippines

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Philippines, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 24 January 2019]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2001:19,874,678
Working children, 5-14 years (%,), 2001:11.0
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2001:13.4
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2001:8.4
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2001:
     – Agriculture65.4
     – Manufacturing4.2
     – Services29.4
     – Other1.1
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:11
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:109.5
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:91.4
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2001:87.6
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:74.0
ILO Convention 138:6/4/1998
ILO Convention 182:11/28/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in the Philippines work on sugarcane, tobacco, banana, coconut, corn, mango, rice, and rubber plantations. They also engage in garbage scavenging, pyrotechnics production, deep-sea fishing, gold and iron ore mining, and quarrying. Children living on the streets often work in the informal labor economy in such activities as begging and scavenging. Children are involved in the production of fashion accessories. Children, primarily girls, are engaged in domestic service. Children are also involved in the commercial sex industry as prostitutes, are used in the production of pornography, and are exploited by sex tourists. Children living on the streets in urban centers are particularly vulnerable to prostitution and pornography. Children are also involved in the production and trafficking of drugs within the country.

Reportedly children are trafficked internally from rural areas to major cities for commercial sexual exploitation, work in factories, domestic service, and other activities in the informal sector. There are no reports of child soldiers in the Government's Armed Forces, but children under 18 years are recruited into terrorist organizations, including the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the New People's Army. However, in December 2008, MILF agreed to an action plan with UN to stop the recruitment and use of children in their organization.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law prohibits the employment of children less than 15 years, except when working directly with a parent, when working in public entertainment is "essential," or when the work does not endanger the child's life, safety, health, or morals, and does not interfere with schooling. The law requires that any child under 15 years employed under these guidelines receive a special permit from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), but it does not define any absolute minimum age for these children to be allowed to begin work under these special circumstances. A child is permitted to work as an apprentice at 14 years. The law sets limits on children's working hours; it prohibits night work for children under 15 years from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and forbids children 15 to 18 years from working after 10 p.m. Penalties for violations include fines and prison terms up to 20 years.

Philippine law defines the worst forms of child labor as all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery; any use of a child in prostitution, pornography, or pornographic performances; any use of a child for illegal or illicit activities; and work that is hazardous, including nine hazardous categories. Criteria for categorizing work as hazardous includes work that degrades the worth and dignity of a child, exposes the child to physical danger, performed underground, or under difficult conditions, and entails the handling of explosives or pyrotechnics, among others.

There are various Philippine laws that further describe, prohibit, and provide penalties for the identified worst forms of child labor. Slavery and forced labor are prohibited. The law specifically prohibits the handling of dangerous machinery or heavy loads; exposure to extremes of cold, heat, noise, or pressure; and exposure to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. The law criminalizes trafficking of children for exploitation, including trafficking for sex tourism, prostitution, pornography, forced labor, and the recruitment of children into armed conflict. The law establishes the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine for trafficking violations involving children and provides for the confiscation of any proceeds derived from trafficking crimes. The law prohibits the involvement of minors in the manufacture, delivery, sale, or purchase of dangerous drugs. The law prohibits child prostitution, including engaging in, profiting from, or soliciting prostitution from children. The law also prohibits the use of children in the production of pornographic materials.

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into military service is 18 years, or 17 years or for training purposes.

DOLE is responsible for enforcing child labor laws through labor standards enforcement offices. However, USDOS reports that child labor enforcement is weak because of a lack of awareness of laws, lack of resources, and an inadequate judicial infrastructure. The National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group are tasked with counter-trafficking activities, and are members of the national Interagency Council Against Trafficking headed by the Department of Justice. In addition, local, regional, and provincial Interagency Councils Against Trafficking address child labor and human trafficking issues throughout the country. The Women's and Children's Concerns Division of the PNP investigated 55 cases of trafficking in women and children and the National Bureau of Investigation investigated 237 such cases during the reporting period.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Philippine National Strategic Framework for Plan Development for Children, 2000-2025, also known as "Child 21," and the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL) Strategic Framework 2007-2015 continue to serve as the primary Government policy instruments for the development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of programs designed to prevent and eliminate child labor in the Philippines. The plan of action developed in 2008 for PPACL includes regularly updating child labor data, institutionalizing strategic partnerships, conducting awareness raising, and enforcing compliance with relevant legislation and policies. The Medium Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010 also includes measures for reducing the incidence of child labor, especially in hazardous occupations. In the plan, the Philippine Government pledges to strengthen mechanisms to monitor the implementation of child protection laws, develop "social technologies" to respond to child trafficking and pornography, and implement an enhanced program for children in armed conflict. The Government also has several mechanisms in place to address the issue of children involved in armed conflict including a monitoring and reporting country task force, a comprehensive program framework, and an interagency memorandum of agreement on the treatment and handling of children involved in armed conflict.

Several governmental agencies in the Philippines have ongoing programs to address the needs of children vulnerable to exploitive labor. DOLE continues to lead the Rescue the Child Workers Program to monitor suspected cases of child labor and intervene on behalf of children in confirmed cases. From January to June 2008, DOLE rescued 59 minors in 16 different operations from exploitive labor. As of January 2009, DOLE had 153 labor inspectors, who continue to receive training on child labor issues. DOLE also implements the Project Angel Tree, which grants wishes to child laborers such as providing food, clothing, and education assistance in an effort to remove them from exploitive labor. The Cebu Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and ILO, maintains an awards program for Child Labor-Free and Child-Friendly Firms. A staff person from DOLE sits on the screening committee for administering the awards. The Philippines's National Statistics Office gathers information on child labor by including children 5 years and above in its quarterly Labor Force Survey when measuring the economically active population in the Philippines. DOLE's Poverty Free Zones Program aims to ensure that all Poverty Free Zone communities are child labor-free by the year 2010.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is the lead Government agency that provides support, primarily through 42 residential care units – including 13 exclusively for girls – for victims of trafficking; children in armed conflict; and children who have been exploited, abused, or rescued from living on the streets. From January to September 2008, DSWD provided assistance to 149 victims of child trafficking and 89 victims of child prostitution. The Interagency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT) coordinates, monitors, and oversees the implementation of the trafficking law. In addition, IACAT approved guidelines for the rights of trafficked children during the reporting period. The Philippines is one of several countries in South East Asia participating in a campaign by MTV Europe to raise awareness on human trafficking.

The Government of the Philippines, through DOLE, is participating in a Timebound Program to implement PPACL. Phase I of the program targeted children involved in commercial sexual exploitation, mining and quarrying, pyrotechnics, deep-sea fishing, domestic service, and work on commercial sugar cane farms. Phase I of the Timebound Program aimed to withdraw 29,000 children and prevent 22,500 children from exploitive work in these sectors and surpassed its targets. ILO-IPEC and World Vision (in partnership with Plan International, Christian Children's Fund, and Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation) implemented USDOL-funded projects to support the Government's Timebound Program to eliminate child labor in the specified worst forms. The World Vision project ended in July 2008 and withdrew 16,997 and prevented 14,312 children from exploitive labor. In support of Phase II of the Timebound Program and the PPACL, the Government is participating in another USDOL-funded USD 5.5 million project implemented by World Vision that will run through September 2011. The project targets 18,063 children for withdrawal and 11,937 children for prevention from work in the following sectors – sugarcane plantations, other commercial agriculture, child domestic work, commercial sexual exploitation, mining and quarrying, garbage scavenging, and pyrotechnics.

Additional government projects contributing to the goals of the Timebound Program include a 2-year USD 469,000 project, in collaboration with the Eliminating Child Labor in the Tobacco Industry Foundation, to combat child labor in tobacco production in Region I (Ilocos Region). UNICEF also works actively with the Government to promote children's rights, protect children from trafficking, and support educational improvements. USDOS and USAID provide support to a number of anti-trafficking projects in the Philippines, including operation of shelters in several ports, capacity building of task forces, training of law enforcement and government officials, and awareness-raising efforts. Training included specific seminars on child friendly handling of trafficking cases. In addition, the Interagency Council Against Trafficking approved guidelines for the rights of trafficked children during the reporting period.

The Philippines Education for All National Plan of Action includes child laborers as beneficiaries of education services. The Department of Education (DepEd) has policy guidance that instructs education officials at the national, regional, and local levels to intervene to reduce or eliminate child labor, as well as guidance for reporting children involved in armed conflict in order to ensure that they receive any necessary assistance. DepEd is implementing functional education and literacy programs that provide working children with basic education and skills training. DepEd's Bureau of Alternative Learning System is tasked with promoting, improving, and monitoring alternative learning interventions for out-of-school youth and groups with special educational needs, and has developed learning modules for parents of working children in areas with a high incidence of child labor.

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