Child Labor Still Prevalent in Laos Tourism Industry

Child labor may increase during Covid-19 pandemic (Photo: UNICEF)
Child labor may increase in Laos during the Covid-19 pandemic (Photo: UNICEF)

Authorities in Laos have admitted that child labor remains an issue for the country, with underage workers still employed in the tourism industry.

Child labor remains a problem in the tourism industry, with minors found to be working at entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses, Lao National Radio reports.

Director-General of the Tourism Management Department, under Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, Ms. Darany Phommavongsa, says that while no specific statistics on child labor in the tourism industry have been collected, the tourism industry does employee underage workers.

Ms. Darany said that her department has heard reports of Lao children working at entertainment venues serving beverages.

“Allowing children under the age of 18 to work at such venues is considered child labor and is illegal. Working in an unsafe environment endangers children’s health and disrupts their education,” said Ms. Darany.

“Coordination from all relevant sectors is needed to address this issue,” she added.

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, told the media in June 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.

Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh also called on society to come together in creating better conditions and opportunities for children’s development during a speech on Children’s Day earlier this year.

The PM highlighted major challenges faced by children in Lao society, which include malnutrition, low enrolment in preschools and compulsory education, and drug abuse.

According to a child labor survey in 2016, approximately 178,000 children in Laos were considered to be engaged in child labor – around 96,000 girls and 81,000 boys.

More than 130,000 of them, or two out of every three child laborers, were engaged in occupations considered dangerous.