Research Paper in Child Labor in the Philippines

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Child Labor in the Philippines:
A Review of Selected Studies and Policy Papers(

Rosario del Rosario and Melinda Bonga

Office of the Chancellor for Research and Development, University of the Philippines; Australian Agency for International Development and United Nations Children’s Fund E-mail: / /

A. Synthesis and Conclusions

On the whole, the decade brought forth a rich and comprehensive body of literature on child labor. These studies cover Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; the three major industry sectors of agriculture, manufacturing and service, and a whole array of subtypes of work in the formal and informal sector. They give us a more or less in-depth picture of child workers’ personal characteristics, the kind of households they belong to, the kind of work they are involved in and in what manner, the profile of some of their employers, and the sort of communities they live and work in. One study recounts the historical experience of child labor in the Philippines and shows that children’s labor had been utilized and exploited in the Philippines since Spanish colonization. Some of the case write ups of child workers enable us to feel, in more intimate terms, the disadvantaged situation of individual children who work.

1. Definitions
In terms of approach, some of the studies energetically discussed the definition of child, work and child labor, but came to no definitive conclusion.

Most agreed that a child is one in a dependent position vis a vis adults, and is vulnerable. What is work? Some said it is any form of compensated activity, while others specified that compensation could be in cash or kind. There was an issue as to whether unpaid child work was child labor. In general, many agreed that child work is remunerated work (in cash or kind), done by children 15 years old and younger, while child labor implied work characterized as detrimental to the child. What characterized work detrimental to the child and whether employment of children in the home was child labor, remained issues. One clear indication was that the Philippine government had as yet not signed ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum employable age.

It appeared that in the cultural context of the Philippines, where it was common to see children involved in adult work in practically all industry sectors, including in unpaid family labor, domestic work and homework, several opinions varied regarding child labor. Some opined that not all child work was child labor (or that not all child labor was hazardous). Others felt that child labor by definition was exploitative and detrimental to the child worker. Still others believed that even if child labor was exploitative and detrimental to the child per se, action programs should, nevertheless, prioritize helping the child in the more hazardous circumstances.

2. Framework and Approach

Most studies except for Camagay’s historical research, which used archival scrutiny, required being present in the field. Both survey and case methods were commonly used. To a lesser extent, participatory and action-oriented research and process documentation were practiced. Analysis of surveys, case studies, drawings, songs, drama, and all sort of documentation was resorted to. In other words, both qualitative and quantitative ways of data gathering were utilized.

Research experiences in the field, however, were plagued with the problem of the invisibility of child labor. Some studies pointed out that child labor indeed, tended to be hidden, seasonal, multiple, changing, and migratory. Some took issue that survey approaches based on preconceived generalized notions of the nature of child labor were proven inadequate given the actual situation of child workers in specific contexts.

Thus, the incidence of child labor (a common interest and a main concern of surveys) remained elusive. Even the 1995 national NSO survey...
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