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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child labour force set to rise

Child labour force set to rise

Fifteen-year-old Dara works under the hood of a car in a mechanic’s shop in Phnom Penh.

The impact of the global economic crisis in Cambodia threatens to push more children out of school and into the workforce, child welfare advocates warn.

THE number of children in Cambodua forced into labour will rise as the recession tightens its grip on the local economy, child welfare experts warned.

"The global economic downturn threatens to put more children at risk of dropping out from school or being sent to work," Bill Salter, director of the International Labour Organisation's subregional office in East Asia, said on Tuesday.

"The trend threatens to push 200,000 people back into poverty and erect new financial obstacles in front of children trying to access education."

Speaking at the launch of a national workshop investigating the impact of the global economic crisis on child labour, Salter said the ongoing decline in garment exports would have a profound impact. Garment industry analysts suggest that more than 70,000 workers have been laid off since the crisis began, Salter said. At least 100,000 more jobs are expected to come under threat over the next two years.

As family incomes continue to dwindle, more parents will resort to sending their children to work in order to earn enough money for food and other basic necessities - to the detriment of the children's health, nutrition and intellectual development, he warned.

"The current economic crisis can push back our achievements on many fronts," he told the attending delegates.

"The decline in wage employment in Cambodia's garment, construction and tourism sectors will put much financial pressure on poor households.

Parents unable to feed their children will likely view expenses on transportation, books and uniforms as a burden, hence pulling their children out of school. With these consequences in mind, we must consider how we can urgently tackle the challenges ahead."

Veng Heang, director of the Ministry of Labour's Department of Child Labour, decried the lack of scientific research on the subject, but said the government has so far removed 22,000 of the total 253,000 children involved in the worst forms of child labour in Cambodia.

It is hoped a further 12,000 children will be helped this year, he added.



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