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Half of Myanmar child laborers work in dangerous conditions for very low minimum wages as the Southeast Asian country strives to eliminate the ubiquitous practice of employing young people, the country’s labor minister said Monday.
Half of Myanmar child laborers are working in dangerous conditions, but we can’t ask them to stop immediately, Thein Swe, the minister of labor, employment and social security, said in reply to questions by reporters at a Labor Day ceremony in the commercial capital Yangon.
We now have been working on collecting data about child laborers, providing them with an education, and checking the safety of their work environments, he said.
Thein Swe also said his ministry is working with other ministries to pay current workers a minimum wage of 3,600 kyats (U.S. $2.60) per day and eventually eliminating child labor in the country.
President Htin Kyaw sent a message to the ceremony saying that the government has been working on the elimination of forced and child labor as well as workers’ rights according to the law.
Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon region along with lawmakers and representatives from labor organizations attended the ceremony on May 1, which is a public holiday in Myanmar to commemorate of the achievements of the labor movement.
Trade unions that represent the interests of workers in Southeast Asia frequently hold rallies on Labor Day to push for improved treatment and labor conditions from their employers and their governments.
The International Labour Organisation�the Geneva, Switzerland-based United Nations agency that deals with global labor problems and standards�defines child laborers as those who are either below the legal age for employment or are engaged in work requiring longer working hours than prescribed by law for their age group.
Through its four-year U.S. $5 million project, the Myanmar Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, the ILO is working to increase awareness of child labor in Myanmar, reduce child poverty in certain areas of the country, and improve the legal and institutional environment contributing to the elimination of child labor.
An October 2015 report issued by ILO on child labor in Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone, Myanmar’s largest industrial zone, situated about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside Yangon, found that half those interviewed were under the legal working age of 13 and tended to drop out of school after the fourth or fifth grade to work.
One of five children in Myanmar aged 10-17 go to work instead of school, according to figures from a Myanmar census report on employment published in March 2016, according to a report.
The children who worked in the industrial zone’s formal sector, and performed jobs such as delivering water and sewing garments, did so mainly to contribute to the incomes of their impoverished families, but also because of the lack of coherent legislation to prevent and eliminate child labor.
Those who worked informally performing physically laborious tasks in the heat and dust for long periods such as pushing and carrying heavy loads were more likely to be exposed to hazards with greater risks of illness and injuries, the report said.
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