I. UNDERSTANDING CHILD LABOR
"There is one dream that all Filipinos share: that our children may have a better life than we have had . . . there is one vision that is distinctly Filipino: the vision to make this country, our country, a nation for our children."
Jose W. Diokno
II. WHAT IS CHILD LABOR?
Before one can even begin to grasp the issue of child labor, its definition should first be examined to acquire a better understanding of the problem. In the Philippines, a child is defined as a person below the age of emancipation which is 18 years. As soon as a person reaches 18 years of age, he/she is no longer considered a child and becomes automatically entitled to do all acts of civil life, such as contracting marriage or transacting business deals with corresponding legal effects. The term "child" recently acquired a new meaning upon the enactment of R.A. 7610 in 1992, otherwise known as the Child Protection Law. The new law, which devotes an entire chapter on working children, expanded the definition of children to mean "persons below eighteen (18) years of age or those over but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition." While there is a clear-cut definition of the term "child", the same cannot be said about "child labor" which has been defined and interpreted in many different ways. Child labor, in its general sense, is the participation of children in a wide variety of work situations, on a more or less regular basis, to earn a livelihood for them or for others. There is a need, however, to distinguish "child labor" from "child work". Not all types of child work are considered child labor. Child labor refers only to economic activities or "those activities which are socially useful and remunerable, requiring manual and/or intellectual effort, which result in the production of goods or performance of services." The Department of Labor and Employment, defines "child labor" as "the illegal employment of children below the age of fifteen (15), where they are not directly under the sole responsibility of their parents or legal guardian, or the latter employs other workers apart from their children, who are not members of their families, or their work endangers their life, safety, health and morals or impairs their normal development including schooling. It also includes the situation of children below the age of eighteen (18) who are employed in hazardous occupations."10 This definition was taken from the existing child labor statutes of the country and clearly pertains only to the work situations of children which under Philippine laws are considered illegal. Accordingly, children above 15 years old but below 18 years of age who are employed in non-hazardous undertakings, and children below 15 years old who are employed in exclusive family undertakings where their safety, health, schooling and normal development are not impaired, are not considered as "child labor" under the law.
In this paper, unless defined by the law presented, the term "child labor" shall be used in its strict sense as defined by the ILO-IPEC. On the other hand, the terms "child worker" and "working children" shall be used in their general sense to refer to all children below 18 years old who are engaged in an economic activity on a more or less regular basis to earn a living for themselves, for their families, or for others, whether or not such children work in the formal (or informal) sector of the economy, and whether or not such children are legally (or illegally) employed Children living in the poorest households and in rural areas are most likely to be engaged in child labor. Those burdened with household chores are overwhelmingly girls. Millions of girls who work as domestic servants are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Child labor often...