Far from the urban industrial sweatshops, child labor remains widespread in rural parts of the developing world.
In the Philippines, advocates say tens of thousands of children are working on farms, in mines, and even in deep-sea fishing.
The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, in a press release late last month, claimed to have rescued 76 children under age 15 from working at a single sugar plantation.
The agency plans to send the children back to school, and also to provide them with medical care and economic assistance.
Wire services reported last month that the United States has promised $5.5 million to the Philippines to help it with a stepped-up campaign to combat child labor.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-based advocacy group World Vision announced a plan to rescue as many as 30,000 children it says are illegally working in the Philippines.
Daphne Culanag, the World Vision project’s director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that children as young as 9 work in sugar cane plantations, deep-sea fishing, mining and other industries in the islands’ rural areas.
The new program, which focuses largely on education, follows a four-year project that ended in March 2007, during which World Vision claims to have taken 31,000 Philippine children out of work and sent them back to school.
The Philippines is far from the only nation to struggle with rural child labor.
Forbes magazine last month ran an article about India’s cotton plantations where the U.S. agricultural powerhouse Monsanto is growing hybridized cottonseed.
Much of the manual labor is performed by children who are paid 20 cents an hour to stoop over cotton fields from dawn to dusk.
Some of them work near a sign which declares “Monsanto India Limited Child Labour Free Fields,” the article said.
Forbes cites one study that found that 420,000 children under the age of 18 were employed by cotton plantations in India, with 54 percent of that number under the age of 14.
An executive from Monsanto later wrote a response to the article saying, “I’m optimistic that, 10 years from now, Monsanto will be viewed as the catalyst that initiated and helped achieve the elimination of child labor in India.”
— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org
“Child laborers rescued, seek gov’t aid”
Philippine Information Agency, February 22, 2008
“NGO hopes to rescue 30,000 child workers in RP”
Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 20, 2008
“US Aid to Fight Philippine Child Labor”
Associated Press, February 6, 2008
Forbes, February 25, 2008
“Reader’s Response: Executive Responds To Child Labor Story”
Forbes, February 22, 2008