Nearly 1.5 million Cambodian children between the ages of 7 and 17 are engaging in child labor, while another 1.4 million aged 7 to 14 are engaged in work, according to a report by the UN on child labor in Cambodia.
According to the report, the 1.5 million child laborers represent an estimated 40 percent of the country’s 7- to 17-year-olds. It also notes that this estimate is probably on the low side. The 1.4 million working children represent an estimated 52 percent of all children between 7 and 14.
Ninety percent of all economically active children work for their families as unpaid labor, according to the report.
The report, which is dated December 2006 but has been available since June, was compiled by the Understanding Children’s Work project, a cooperative initiative between the International Labor Organization, the UN Children’s Fund and the World Bank.
The report is based largely on an extensive 2001 survey by the Ministry of Planning’s National Institute of Statistics, officials said.
MP Joseph, chief technical adviser for the ILO’s International Project on the Elimination of Child Labor for Cambodia, said that there is a distinction to be made between child work and child labor.
Work becomes labor if it “interferes with schooling or if it interferes with a child’s physical, mental or moral development,” he said.
Cambodia’s Labor Law, adopted in 1997, only outlaws children working as paid employees in formal entities.
MP Joseph said that the Labor Law is not enough to deal with most child labor arrangements in Cambodia, but that the government is making a serious effort to update the law. The Ministry of Labor has also produced a comprehensive draft national plan of action for 2006-2012 to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, he said.
Increased school enrollment, focused government initiatives against child labor and global economic growth in general have probably done much to lessen child labor since 2001, MP Joseph said, but no comprehensive data has been collected to verify it.