US Report Alleges Improper Use Of Child Labor in Four Sectors

Bricks, salt, rubber and prawns appear to have something in common—they are the four Cambodian products listed in a new report by the US Department of Labor that alleges improper use of child labor.

The report, which was issued Thursday, calls for governments, businesses and labor unions to hold companies responsible for the production of 122 products in 58 countries accountable for their alleged offenses.

According to the report, Cam­bodia’s biggest alleged industry of­fenders with regards to child la­bor—bricks, salt, rubber and prawns—are on the “list of goods that [the US Labor Bureau of In­ternational Labor Affairs] has a reason to believe were produced using forced labor or child labor.”

“By raising awareness of harmful labor practices and funding projects to prevent children and adults from participating in the worst forms of labor exploitation, the Department has provided important tools that governments and other stakeholders can use to end these unacceptable practices,” US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in the report.

MP Joseph, chief technical adviser for the International Labor Or­ganization’s International Pro­gram on the Elimination of Child Labor, said that in Cam­bodia, about 1.5 million children out of 4.5 million are economically ac­tive. Out of the economically active children, he said, about 50 percent, or 750,000, are engaged in child labor.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that the work done by child laborers in Cambodia isn’t a violation of labor laws because the children are often helping their parents, which is necessary for the family’s survival.

“The children understand about the family’s living condition and help their parents with some small work. It doesn’t mean the children are working to be exhausted, but the children work only on what they can do. Even working to make bricks, they just do the light jobs, not the heavy ones,” he said. “We cannot do like First World countries. We need the [participation] of either the young or the old people.”

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)

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