Child labour rife in tobacco farming

Child labour on the rise.

childlabourChildren are being used to grow tobacco and the practice is thriving in the Asia Pacific region.

This is according to a new report, launched today (June 12) to coincide with World Day Against Child Labour.

The Report on Child Labour in Tobacco Cultivation in the ASEAN Region (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), launched by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), revealed details on child labour activities in tobacco farming in the region.

Labour activities performed by children in tobacco farming, as well as related risks and deprivation, violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out rights of children to attain the highest standard of health and education and to protect them from commercial exploitation.

In Indonesia, a case study by Dr Priyo Adi Nugroho on tobacco cultivation in two districts in East Java found children below 15 years carried out a variety of activities in tobacco growing, working from three to over seven hours a day and earning between IDR15 000 to 25 000 (about R15 to R25) daily. Activities carried out by children include planting and watering tobacco seedlings, transplanting seedlings, applying fertilizers, weeding, harvesting, hanging tobacco leaves from poles in drying sheds, and folding tobacco leaves.

The report further states that tobacco growing is a labour intensive activity, and child laborers are exposed to the elements and are vulnerable to physical and chemical injuries. Children working with tobacco are also denied recreational activities for their emotional wellbeing and educational opportunities that could lead them out of poverty.

Indonesia has the largest area under tobacco cultivation (216 000 hectares) producing the largest quantity of tobacco (136 000-million tons) in the ASEAN region. Hence it is important for Indonesia to address child labour problem immediately.

“Unlike other industries that have a zero tolerance for child labour, the tobacco industry has set no polices or target date for complete eradication of child labour. The tobacco industry, while publicly condemning child labour, continues to purchase and use leaves that are produced by child labour and profits from them,” reads the report.

“The tobacco industry’s small contributions through so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) are insufficient to eliminate the problem. In fact the tobacco industry hides behind its CSR activities to deflect attention away from a serious and chronic child labour problem that plagues tobacco cultivation,” says the report.

The SEATCA report also made recommendations to combat the scourge of child labour in this industry:

  • Set a definitive deadline, eg. 2015, to completely halt child labour in tobacco farming and apply a phase-out plan at national level;
  • National governments must take responsibility to end child labour in tobacco production and set up  disincentives for the tobacco industry to profit from tobacco leaves produced with child labour such as paying a bond;
  • Ban so-called CSR activities conducted by the tobacco industry directed at farming communities.

Author

  • Health-e News

    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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