A senior official of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said on Wednesday that around 30,000 Cambodian children had been rescued from the most serious forms of hard labour in the Kingdom over the past five years.
A further 180,000 had been prevented from being used as child workers and provided the opportunity to access education and skills training.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance this year provided the budget to directly help at least 400 children a year in efforts to end child labour by 2025, he added.
Veng Heang, the director of the Ministry of Labour’s child labour department, was speaking on Wednesday as June 1’s International Children’s Day was marked on World Day Against Child Labour.
The days were jointly celebrated at the ministry under the theme Children Have to Achieve their Dreams, Not Become Child Labour at Workplaces and was attended by children, parents and guardians, and 400 other relevant guests.
“Over the past five years, some 30,000 Cambodian children had been saved from the most serious forms of hard labour, while 180,000 had been prevented from being used as child workers,” he said.
Prevention had focused on two targets, altering the attitude of parents and guardians in using child labour and lifting people out of poverty and increasing job opportunities.
Heang said significant measures to prevent child labour included regular inspections by local authorities, with the practice now almost non-existent as employers became aware of the crackdown and stopped using underage workers.
“[The scheme] is targeted for this year too. Every year, we liberate 400 children who receive direct benefits from the scheme through the ministry’s budget."
“Meanwhile, we have prevented another 26,000 children or so from being forced to work. Overall, we have directly rescued some 30,000 children. We encourage all children to receive at least a Grade 9 education and receive skills training. If this is achieved, child labour will decrease.
“Child labour seriously affects the health and perverts the mind, spirit and development of the children forced into it."
“Children working at brick kilns, for example, are often disabled in accidents and those who carry heavy loads on their shoulders face stunted growth. Children working at salt fields can be affected by chronic illnesses in the long-term,” Heang said.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) national coordinator Tun Sophorn told The Post on Wednesday that the decrease in child labour showed Cambodia was achieving success in eliminating the practice.
However, he encouraged the government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, to continue to pay attention to the issue, especially child labour in its most serious forms, as it still poses a problem.
“We have seen that the most serious forms of child labour have decreased, but it has only declined a little in regard to brick kilns and in the agricultural sector, on sugar cane plantations and fishing,” Sophorn said.
Survey data from 2017 said the number of children involved in economic activity had declined from 1.5 million in 2000 to 750,000 in 2013, decreasing further in 2017 to 430,000.
National Institute of Statistics figures showed that around 330,000 children had been rescued from child labour from 2000 to 2013, with some 2,000 families saying they had changed their attitude to the practice.