Authorities are concerned that the use of child labor may increase in Laos during the Covid-19 pandemic as rural families struggle to make ends meet.
Director-General of the Labor Management Department under the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Mr. Phongsaysack Inthalath, says that during the Covid-19 outbreak, while schools are closed, many children are being forced to work to support their families, which is considered child labor.
Authorities have faced difficulty gathering information on child labor in Laos as some child laborers have refused to participate or are afraid to participate in surveys, said Mr. Phongsaysack.
In 2010, Laos conducted its most recent assessment on child labor across the country in cooperation with the International Labor Organization (ILO), finding that many child laborers worked overtime in the agricultural sector.
At the time of the survey, there were 265,000 children involved in economic activity, and of those, approximately 170,000 were child laborers.
According to the survey data, much of the child labor occurred in rural areas, and approximately 90% of all child laborers worked in agriculture, forestry, or fishing. Seven out of ten employees worked more than 49 hours per week.
Child labor remains an issue for Laos because of widespread poverty, with parents in rural areas often believing that education is not as important as working the fields to generate income for the family.
“Families in rural areas are facing economic difficulty during coronavirus pandemic, forcing their children to work to support their families. They may experience working overtime, and very difficult working conditions,” Mr. Phongsaysack Inthalath added.
Laos celebrated Children’s Day on 1 June, with Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh calling on society to come together in creating better conditions and opportunities for children’s development.
The PM highlighted major challenges faced by children in Lao society, which include malnutrition, low enrolment in preschools and compulsory education, and drug abuse.
He added that the continuing practice of superstitious beliefs in some rural communities hampers the development of children.