The government should step up enforcement of child labor laws and amend these laws to include protection of children who do hazardous work for their family or are employed as domestic servants, a US Labor Department report released last week said.
The department’s annual report investigated child labor in 125 countries in 2009 and said in Cambodia the worst forms of child labor occurred in sectors such as agriculture, brick-making, salt production, fishing and domestic service.
The report recommended the government increase the number of child labor inspectors and the resources at their disposal, and switch from random spot-check inspection to routine inspection of industries where hazardous child labor occurs.
This was necessary, the report said, as currently “enforcement actions are rare and punishments are light.” The report noted that in 2009 there had been only one documented child labor violation.
Veng Heang, director of the Labor Ministry’s child labor department, dismissed some of the report’s criticism and said Cambodia had good child labor policies in place.
He acknowledged, however, that more funds were needed to implement routine labor inspections and that it remained difficult to prevent child labor on the farm, in some informal sectors, or when children are employed as domestic servants.
“Of course, they’re right that we need budgeting,” he said.
Mr Heang said 37 child labor inspectors were currently employed nationwide.
The International Labour Organization estimated that in 2008 about 313,000 Cambodian children worked at the worst forms of child labor.
Sous Vannak, coordinator at the children’s rights office of Licadho, said the report rightly pointed out the weaknesses in child labor prevention in Cambodia, as there was a lack of provisions in the Labor Law to cover certain forms of child labor and accidents that occurred during child labor, while inspection often remained ineffective.
Mr Vannak said many labor inspectors were susceptible to bribes from employers hiring children.
“They don’t care about this, and the families don’t know” about child labor laws, he said.