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US sees progress in global fight against child labor

02 october 2013, 10:55
0
The United States hailed "significant advancement" in 10 countries, mostly in Latin America and Asia, in combating the worst forms of child labor, AFP reports according to the report published Monday.

Three countries -- Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Uzbekistan -- were cited for government complicity in forced child labor.

But in a 826-page report, the Department of Labor said half of the 143 developing countries and territories it surveyed had made at least "moderate" progress towards eradicating child labor.

Ten countries made "significant advancement," including three Southeast Asian nations (Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand) and five in Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru).

Ethiopia also made the grade, as did Gibraltar, one of several British overseas territories lumped together with developing nations for scrutiny by the Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

In a first, the Department of Labor also removed three goods -- charcoal from Namibia, diamonds from Zimbabwe and tobacco from Kazakhstan -- from its running list of products made with child or forced labor.

"We're moving in the right direction, but we have a lot more work to be done," said newly-appointed Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in presenting the report, the 12th in an annual series.

The International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, says there are still 168 million children working worldwide, 85 million of them in conditions deemed to be hazardous.

"Nations should not build their economic futures on the backs of children," Perez told a gathering at Department of Labor headquarters. "That's categorically wrong."

In a video, University of Hawaii professor Maya Soetoro-Ng spoke of her own brush with underage labor when her mother placed her in a factory in Indonesia for a day.

"At first it was kind of fun to feel all grown up ... but by the third hour, I felt heavy with the injustice of it," said Soetoro-Ng, whose step-brother is President Barack Obama.

The report comes ahead of a major ILO conference in Brazil on October 8-10 that will take stock of international efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor by 2016, as set out in a global convention in The Hague in 2010.

It also followed an ILO report in mid-September that similarly praised an overall decline in child labor despite the global economic crisis -- and noted that the largest number of child workers were to be found in middle-income countries, rather than poor nations.

By the ILO's definition, the "worst forms of child labor" includes all forms of slavery, prostitution, drug trafficking and work that is likely to harm a child's health, safety or morals.

In his remarks, Perez singled out Thailand for praise, noting how its government has set the minimum age for domestic workers at 15 -- although the report says enforcement of Thai child labor laws overall remains weak.

The list of 62 countries seen making moderate progress ranged from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in Asia to Egypt and Lebanon in the Middle East and, in Africa, Kenya and South Africa.

Some 134 goods from 73 countries remained on the US list of items produced by child or forced labor. India led the list with 21 products as varied as bricks, carpets, textiles, bidis, fireworks and soccer balls.

Russia was cited for one product -- pornography.

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