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Indonesia aims to pull out 11,000 child laborers

The Indonesian government is targeting to withdraw around 11,000 children from child labor in 11 provinces this year and send them back to school.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said here on Wednesday that his office was cooperating with the International Labor Organization and regional administrations in the 11 provinces, and had deployed labor supervisors and social workers to detect child laborers.

According to him, all governors, regents and mayors have been instructed to revitalize all regional committees assigned to phase out the worst forms of work for children (PBPTA), and to deploy 1,800 labor inspectors and 380 public investigators to save around 11,000 children who being exploited by industries.

“Child laborers aged 7-15 will be accommodated in 306 shelters where 503 social workers will provide them with free counseling before they are sent back to school,” he said, adding that the child laborers would be sent to schools adjacent to their homes at the government’s expense.

The government has said that West Java, East Java and Central Java were home to more than 6,000 child laborers who voluntarily dropped out of school to work to support their poor families. “Besides, we are also concerned with other provinces such as West and East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra, Papua and Maluku,” said the minister.

Muhaimin said the program was proof of Indonesia’s strong commitment to ILO Conventions No. 138 on minimum age of employment and No. 182 on phasing out the worst forms of work for children.

The government has already ratified the convention through Presidential Regulation No. 59/2002 on withdrawal of child laborers, which instructed provincial and regional administrations to take an active part in the national program.

Since the launch of the national program in 2008, the government has withdrawn a total of 21,963 child laborers, all of whom were sent back to school.

Muhaimin said he was optimistic that the government would reach its target, which was higher than the government’s achievement of 10,750 child laborers in 2012. “The government has made it a top priority to pull out children employed in the worst and most hazardous forms of work, including in parlors, bonded zones, offshore fishing and illegal drug syndicates,” he said.

The minister said the National Committee for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Work for Children had also launched a national campaign in industrial areas, through which it called on parents and families to send their children to schools and for employers to stop employing child laborers.

“In cooperation with the National Commission for Child Protection, the national committee will report to the police any recalcitrant parents and employers who continue to employ child laborers, as employing child laborers is actually in violation of the 2003 Child Protection Law,” he said.

Separately, Dede Sadono of the ILO said that his organization had assisted provincial and regional administrations in designing programs to influence child laborers to go back to school.

“The ILO has launched two programs to withdraw child laborers in Lampung, South Sulawesi, Jakarta and surrounding areas. More than 22,000 child laborers have been netted in the program and most are now enrolled in A, B, or C education programs at junior high schools and tsanawiyahs,” she said, adding that many others have enjoyed free education at junior high schools in their villages.

She also said the ILO had also forged cooperation with the East Java and South Sulawesi provincial governments, providing them with technical assistance and counseling to design attractive educational programs for child laborers.

By Ridwan Max Sijabat

(The Jakarta Post)