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Child workers

Individual Documents

Title: FEELING SMALL IN ANOTHER PERSON’S COUNTRY - The situation of Burmese migrant children in Mae Sot Thailand
Date of publication: February 2009
Description/subject: "...There are an estimated 200,000 Burmese children living in Thailand, many of whom are working, with 20% of the migrant workforce thought to consist of children aged 15 to 17 years of age. It was seen to be a standard practice for parents to send children out to work, especially once they have reached the age of 13 years and seen to be physically capable of bringing in extra income for the family. Children may voluntarily leave or be taken out of school to work alongside their parents in the factory or fields, as domestics or as service workers in shops and restaurants. Researchers have found that children working in Mae Sot factories and the agricultural area are subject to the worst forms of child labour, working long hours and being exposed to hazardous chemicals and conditions that are in direct violation of Thai labour law. The difficulty of obtaining registration and the work permit makes for a tenuous existence. Consequently, young people can be coerced or forced into bad employment situations... As parent’s lives are consumed by the need to work and make money, children can be denied the love, care and guidance essential to their healthy growth and development and may be separated from or even abandoned by parents. Some parents abuse and exploit their children by telling them not to come back home if they cannot earn a fixed amount per day. Consequently these children go out on the streets looking for daily work to survive; this can include begging, collecting recyclable rubbish and carrying heavy loads. This pressure is seen to change the moral character of children with some turning to stealing. Children who are unemployed, neglected, abandoned, or orphaned can end up permanently on the streets. Being out of school and on the streets increases the risk of being trafficked and recruitment by gangs, who physically threaten and may even kill children who try to escape... Statelessness is a real risk for children who are unable to receive identity registration in Burma and for those born in Thailand of migrants, especially unregistered parents. Despite the ratification of conventions, such as the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that stipulate birth registration of all children born in Thailand, in reality only registered migrants who hold a work permit can register their child’s birth. A change in the Civil Registration Act, effective from the 23rd August 2008, will allow all children born on Thai soil, regardless of their status, to register their births and obtain a birth certificate; however it remains to be seen how this will be implemented. In the meantime the Committee for Promotion and Protection of Child Rights (Burma) (CPPCR), a Burmese CBO established in 2002, provides a registration service for children from Burma that in some cases, has been recognized by some Thai schools and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Committee for Promotion and Protection of Child Rights (Burma)
Format/size: pdf (3.4MB)
Date of entry/update: 23 November 2009

Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked : The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand (Volume 1)
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: "...Thailand has emerged as the number one destination in cross-border trafficking of children and women. Many children and young women from Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR migrate to Thailand in search of better life. Often their journey leads them to a life of exploitation. A significant percent of these young migrants work in four employment sectors; agriculture, fishing boats and fish processing, manufacturing and domestic work. While they become an integral part of the economy, they remain invisible and face exploitation. Exploitation is widespread and ranges from non-payment or underpayment of wages, a requirement to work excessive hours sometimes involving the use of hazardous equipment - to even more serious violations of forced labour and trafficking..."
Author/creator: Elaine Pearson, Sureeporn Punpuing, Aree Jampaklay, Sirinan Kittisuksathit, Aree Prohmmo
Language: English
Source/publisher: Mekong Sub-regional Project to Combat Trafficking in Women and Children, ILO
Format/size: pdf (English - 2.5MB, 5.23 MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/asia/whatwedo/publications/WCMS_BK_PB_67_EN/lang--en/index.htm.pdf
Date of entry/update: 12 April 2008

Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked: The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand: Vol. 2 (1) - The Agriculture Sector
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: Conclusions: 4.1 Indications of labour exploitation Although forced labour is negligible in Nakhon Pathom's agriculture sector, migrant workers faced several forms of labour exploitation, particularly a lack of freedom of movement, and regular days off. Also, many were not in possession of their identification documents, while they do not receive paid leave... 4.2 Legal status and registration Although the registration of workers provides some legal protection and minimizes the exploitation of migrant workers, over a third of workers in agriculture are not registered. Approximately two thirds of registered workers who had their registration costs paid by the employers were in effect bonded labour and were required to pay back the costs via deductions from their wages. Nonetheless, the majority of workers expressed positive attitudes towards registration, particularly with regard to job security, safety and health insurance. A lack of time to register and lack of information regarding the registration process were the main reasons why some migrants did not register... 4.3 Working conditions The challenges facing migrants in terms of working conditions included very low pay, restricted freedom of movement, long working hours without overtime pay and not having possession of their original ID documents. The average daily payment of 100- 150 baht per day for agricultural workers is below the minimum wage. Low wages is one reason why migrant workers switch farms in search of higher wages. A high turnover of workers is of great concern amongst employers. Yet perhaps if they were willing to pay rates equal to or above the minimum wage, the migrant workers would not be in such a hurry to leave. Nearly all migrant workers live on the site of their workplace. Workers are isolated from the local community and seldom integrate with the community. None of the employers speak the language of their migrant workers and at the same time the majority of workers have little knowledge of Thai. However, given the nature of farm work, there seems little that can be done in this regard, except perhaps consider more mobile services, which could visit migrant workers living on farms... 4.4 Employers' attitudes Some negative attitudes towards migrant workers exist among employers. Well over two thirds felt migrant workers should be locked up at night to prevent them escaping. This view was particularly prevalent among by livestock farmers... 4.5 Support mechanisms Social networks play a significant role in terms of support for migrant workers in the agricultural sector, and family and friends provide this. More than two thirds turn to their relatives when facing problems or when they are in need of healthcare. This reflects the fact that most child migrant workers reside with their relatives or parents. None of the workers referred to NGO staff for support. The only chance workers had to make contact with people was with government officials from the MOL during the registration period. Monks or religious leaders and employers were relatively important to the workers. The fact that child workers rely on their social network because they are more likely to live with family and friends on site could perhaps help safeguard them from exploitation in this sector... 4.6 Child labour Under Thai law, children under the age of 15 are not permitted to work. Although a few were interviewed, the agriculture sector in Nakhon Pathom province employs a greater number of children aged 15 and up. Employers seem to regard children as being more obedient. Children under the age of 15 were all unregistered and underpaid when compared with workers in other age groups. The violation of the law and exploitation of child labour requires particular attention.
Language: English, Thai
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (English - 354K; Thai - 369K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/vol2-agriculture-...
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked: The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand: Vol. 2 (2) - The Domestic Work Sector
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: Conclusions: 4.1 Indications of labour exploitation The findings illustrate a clear pattern of severe labour exploitation of migrant domestic workers, and in various cases evidence of forced labour. Domestic workers surveyed in Chiang Mai and Mae Sot reported being locked in the house unable to readily communicate or contact the outside world. This combined with widespread verbal and physical abuse, extremely long working hours, a lack of adequate rest days and non-payment, under-payment or delayed payment of wages shows how easily substandard working conditions can turn into working situations tantamount to forced labour. Some domestic workers were forced to work with other workers in other businesses, and some didn't have any choice in the type of jobs they performed. Some domestic workers worked for free for extended periods of time as a result of their debt bondage to employers or recruiters. As "live-in" workers, employers often expected domestic workers to be available to work at all times. Migrant workers can't freely change employers since they lack control over their documentation as examined previously in greater depth. Domestic workers, like other workers, have the right to hold onto their original ID card. However, only half of the registered domestic workers manage to keep hold of their original card. Socio-cultural values and attitudes of employers often play a role in justifying control over domestic workers' freedom of movement. Employers don't recognise that they have no right to keep hold of their workers' documents. Employers may be well-meaning and do this in the name of "protecting" domestic workers from dangers outside the household, but such "protection" violates the workers' basic rights to freedom of movement... 4.2 Legal status and registration Possession of legal working documents can partly protect domestic workers from harassment and reduce the risk of arrest or detention while they are in Thailand. However, it has been found that even registered migrant workers continue to live in fear of deportation. The majority of both employers and domestic workers have positive attitudes toward Thai policy on registration. Despite this fact, it was pointed out that the registration process is too complicated, is not clearly explained to those who need to understand it and that the timeframe for registration is too short. The registration policy, in turn, encourages employers to take more control over, and diminish the rights of their workers. Not only do many employers keep their worker's original ID card, but some also refuse to allow their domestic workers to register. Many domestic workers can't afford the registration costs, which can be equal to several months of their salary, or end up being in debt to their employers who pay for them. This becomes a reason for employers holding their worker's original work permit. There is no mention of whether or not the workers receive their original ID back once the debt to an employer is repaid in full. Non-registered domestic workers are more likely to face a greater degree of oppression in terms of constraints on leaving their employment, and with regard to payment and days off permitted than registered migrant workers... 4.3 Working conditions The risk of labour exploitation is high in light of the fact that the majority of domestic workers don't know about their working conditions until they arrive at the home of their employer. Employers determine working and payment conditions. A third of domestic workers have to do both household chores and work relating to the employer's business. According to the Thai LPA (1998), this means they should no longer be referred to as "domestic workers", and they should be protected under Thai labour law. Almost all (98%) the domestic workers surveyed worked more than a standard eight-hour day. About two thirds work more than 14 hours a day. It is worth noting that they have to be available for work at any time, whether it is inconvenient or not, based on the needs of the employer. In general, the amount earned by a manual worker varies depending on the number of hours worked, but this is not the case among migrant domestic workers. Migrant domestic workers earn less than workers in other sectors. About 40% receive a monthly salary of less than 1,000 baht, while only 11% receive more than 3,000 baht per month. This is well below the Thai national standard minimum wage, with most Thais earning at least 4,500 baht a month depending on their workplace. Nobody involved refers to overtime payments. The situation is even worse when considering that only a small proportion (7-17%) of domestic workers receive regular weekly, monthly or annual leave. Younger and unregistered domestic workers, on average, work longer hours, receive lower pay and receive less or no regular day off. Employers perpetuate a number of myths to justify the long working hours, lack of regular days off and low wages of domestic workers. Firstly, it is widely thought that domestic workers are able to relax while employers are not at home. The current study debunks this myth since many domestic workers were overworked, working in more than one workplace, with many different tasks to do and rarely any time alone in the house. The second myth is that domestic workers are able to take rest days whenever they want. Most domestic workers were unable to take leave and didn't receive the minimum number of annual days off, to do so would risk them losing their job or having their pay reduced... 4.4 Child domestic labour In-depth interviews were held with two extremely young domestic workers, aged 9 and 10. In the survey of domestic workers, 20% were aged under 18. Employers suggested they like to hire children as domestic workers because they are easy to control, more obedient and diligent. Recruiters cited similar reasons for recruiting children. Domestic work is sometimes seen as work that is considered more "appropriate" for children, however, child domestic workers worked longer hours under worse conditions for lower wages, in a "worst form" of child labour under ILO Convention 182. Employers indicated in the in-depth interviews that they treat migrant domestic workers, particularly child domestic workers, as family members. Child domestic workers also pointed out that they are often seen as part of the family. While this may sound warm and friendly, in fact it can increase the children's vulnerability to abuse. Child domestic workers may be treated worse since they can't complain or resist because they feel they are facing a "family" obligation. Moreover, it becomes more difficult for outsiders to intervene in "family" matters... 4.5 Support mechanisms Since domestic workers are isolated in their employers' residences they lack the usual mechanisms of family and friends as support mechanisms for work-related problems. Recruiters, who are sometimes relatives or friends of the migrant, offer a key support structure for domestic workers as they live in Thailand, have the ability to visit the domestic workers regularly and speak the same languages. Recruiters at least offer domestic workers some contact with the outside world and may be a starting point for possible future interventions. As live-in migrant domestic workers, contact with the outside world is limited. However, mobile phones now help many workers feel less isolated so they can talk to other people, even if they can't meet with them. The migrant domestic workers express their willingness to meet and share their experiences with others. And some of them are interested in studying or continuing their studies in order to create a better future for themselves.
Language: English, Thai
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (English - 314K; Thai - 312K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/vol2-domestic-tha...
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked: The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand: Vol. 2 (3) - The Fishing Sector
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: Conclusions: 4.1 Indications of labour exploitation The findings clearly show that being forced to work is not uncommon in the fishing sector. About a fifth of migrants have either previously experienced being forced to work or are currently being forced to work. Migrants working on fishing boats, female workers in fish processing and children tend to experience forced labour more than male workers in fish processing and adult workers in general. The findings show that employment aboard fishing vessels often means working in extremely poor conditions, far worse than those in the fish processing sector. It is no surprise that migrant workers who are being forced to work are more likely to end up working aboard fishing boats. Being undocumented makes migrants even more vulnerable to forced labour. Physical and verbal abuse by employers is common in the fishing sector, and alarmingly this seems to be more commonly faced by child workers (aged under 15). While migrants work under poor conditions, almost half of them feel they can't leave their job because of certain constraints, mostly relating to fear of arrest by the police. Migrants under 15 years of age pointed to such constraints to a greater degree than adult migrants. Somewhat surprisingly, registered migrants feel there are more constraints preventing them from leaving their current employment than unregistered migrants. About two fifths of registered migrants fear arrest by the authorities if they leave their job. This implies that being registered does not help all migrants feel any safer. The fact that up to two thirds of registered migrants do not have control over their documents explains in part why registered migrants are still worried about getting arrested. Keeping hold of the originals of migrants' documents not only reflects a means through which employers can prevent workers from switching jobs, but it also highlights employers' ignorance of the right migrants have to hold onto their own documents. Some employers who keep migrants' documents openly said they did not want migrants to act, "as if they were Thai nationals who could independently go anywhere, or leave their jobs if they are not happy with them". This clearly shows that many employers feel migrants should not be treated the same as Thai nationals. It is consistent with the results from the survey, which show that only half of the employers surveyed agree that migrants should have the same rights as Thai workers... 4.2 Legal status and registration A migrant worker's legal status does not fully guarantee his or her safety from exploitation at the destination, however, it does, to a large extent, reduce the possible scope of exploitation. Being undocumented, for example, appears to increase the chance that a migrant worker would be exploited at work. Studies reveal that compared to registered migrants, unregistered (undocumented) migrant workers tend to receive lower wages, work for longer hours, start work earlier and have less rest time than their documented counterparts. A far higher proportion of migrants employed on fishing boats are unregistered than those employed in fish processing. They live and work in vulnerable conditions party because of their undocumented status. Although both employers and migrants in general have positive attitudes regarding registration, there are a number of difficulties. Migrants cross the border into Thailand all the time, however, the registration period is fixed. Therefore, hiring undocumented migrants is still common since employers need to hire workers and migrants are readily available to work, no matter what their legal status happens to be. Although arranging for registration is the employers' responsibility, some employers seem to be ignoring this important step. As for migrants, it is not clear whether migrants are fully aware that this step is the responsibility of their employers. Nevertheless, knowing their rights and the employer's responsibility does not guarantee that migrants' rights will be fulfilled as the migrant workers are unlikely to act without strong support from the Thai government... 4.3 Working conditions Most migrants work in very poor conditions. They work for 12 hours on average, start working early, even before 4 am on days when there is a heavy workload, and almost half only get half an hour or less break time per day. While almost 80% have regular days off per month, less than a tenth are paid for these days off. Given the nature of the work in the fishing sector, it is understandable that some migrants may need to start working very early, however, working such long hours should be deemed unacceptable, as should night work for children. About a fifth of migrants work over 15 hours a day, which is intolerable for a normal person. As well as long working hours, evidently the minimum wage is not commonly applied when hiring migrant workers. In addition, if migrant labourers work for more than eight hours a day, this does not guarantee they receive wages at a rate above the minimum. More than half the migrant workers who work for more than eight hours a day still receive less than the minimum wage. Migrant workers employed on fishing boats receive particularly low rates of pay. Most jobs for migrant workers in the fishing sector are insecure due to variable work schedules and pay methods, such as profit-based systems or piece rates. Most migrant workers are treated the same as casual workers with no benefits. Migrants employed on fishing boats clearly work in inferior conditions, in nearly all aspects, when compared with migrants employed in fish processing. Jobs on fishing boats are less attractive than in fish processing factories because the nature of work is tough, dangerous and it is lonely being far away from family. Fishing boat employers explained that they often had to take desperate steps to try and recruit workers, despite offering incentives, such as payments in advance. Despite such incentives, it still seems as though jobs aboard fishing vessels are the "last resort" for migrant workers. In light of this, migrants working aboard fishing vessels may be those who have nowhere else to go, or those who have fewer job opportunities, such as unregistered migrants or child workers. This could easily force these workers into more vulnerable situations than other migrant workers... 4.4 Child labour Most of the children in this survey seem to be working under the "worst forms" of child labour. Work on fishing boats by its very nature may be considered a worst form and therefore should not be performed by children under the age of 17 years in accordance with ILO Convention 182. In fish processing, where children work for long hours or start before 6am, this might also be considered a worst form of child labour. Otherwise, under regulated conditions, children aged 15 and over may work in fish processing factories. Addressing the worst forms of child labour in the fishing sector needs an immediate response. Migrants under the age of 15 made up 15% of the fishing sample despite the fact that this contravenes Thai labour law (and the ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age which Thailand has ratified). Although very few employers openly admit they prefer to employ children, employers implicitly expressed a preference to hire children because they are fast workers, obedient and cheaper than adult migrants. While employers see the benefits of hiring younger migrants, they do not fully see the responsibilities. Some employers do not view child workers as "real" workers, but more as children simply helping out their parents. However, the migrant survey clearly shows children are not simply acting in support roles. In fishing, children are working even longer hours than adult workers whilst receiving less support and lower pay... 4.5 Support mechanisms At destination, family and relatives are central support figures for most migrants, this is especially the case for child workers and migrants employed in fish processing. Migrants employed on board fishing boats depend more on their workmates and friends and less on family members and relatives. This is due to the unique physical environment of working on fishing boats and spending long periods at sea. Attaining a better education may help reduce the risk for migrants of being trafficked. However, migrant children have few prospects to attend school while working in Thailand given their long daily working hours. Very few migrants currently attend school and less than a fifth of migrants reported that their employers permit child workers to attend school. In Thailand, part of a solution to address the isolation facing migrants has been for NGOs to tap into and strengthen migrants' sense of community.40 However, very few migrants working in the fishing sector currently participate in any type of group in their community. Encouraging migrants to be part of a community organization might be worth further exploration because most migrants express an interest in joining a group or club, particularly with regard to the subject of health issues.
Language: English, Thai
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (English - 524K; Thai - 554K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/vol2-fishing-thai...
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked: The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand: Vol. 2 (4) - The Manufacturing Sector
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: Conclusions: 4.1 Indications of labour exploitation While there are few outright cases of forced labour, 10% of migrant workers in manufacturing feel the fact their employer holds their documents is a constraint preventing them from leaving their job, while 9% feel the threat of the employer reporting them to the authorities also acts as a constraint preventing them from leaving their job... 4.2 Working conditions The most common form of abuse of migrant workers employed in manufacturing is working extremely long hours. A total of 7% of migrant workers have faced physical abuse from their employers. The average migrant worker employed in manufacturing is paid only about half of what they are entitled to when considering the standard minimum wages under the LPA and according to the time they actually work. Migrant workers often feel unable to bargain with their employers effectively or even know whom to contact to inform them about their rights at work because they do not speak Thai. Employers' associations and officials should address the issue of language barriers faced by migrants. Many employers do not take responsibility for workers who are badly injured on the job on the basis that the worker does not have a contract of employment. A major concern and challenge for the labour movement concerning migrant workers is the fact that they are not permitted to form unions, and in effect it is difficult for them to join Thai unions or to see the value in joining Thai unions which currently do not protect migrant workers' rights... 4.3 Legal status/Registration Employers highlighted a number of problems with the registration process, including the fact that officers responsible for the registration process are ill-prepared and the number of available officers is insufficient. The registration period of one year is viewed as not being long enough. Dissemination of information about the registration process by the Ministry of Labour is not sufficient. Employers waste a lot of their time and their workers' time going through the registration process. Many migrant workers continue to fear harassment or be actually harassed by the police even though they have a valid work permit. Employers faced corrupt police officers and in some cases paid up to 10,000 baht per undocumented migrant they hire to police officers in order to avoid prosecution... 4.4 Support mechanisms Many migrant workers are less likely than Thais to access state-healthcare services due to their isolation, language barriers and a lack of information.
Language: English, Thai
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (English - 289K; Thai - 301K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/vol2-manufacturin...
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: The Mekong Challence - Working Day and Night: The Plight of Migrant Child Workers in Mae Sot, Thailand
Date of publication: 2006
Description/subject: "Migrant children in Mae Sot are faced with excessive working hours, lack of time off, and unhealthy proximity to dangerous machines and chemicals. They also endure the practice of debt bondage and the systematic seizure of their identification documents. Indeed many of these children in Mae Sot can most accurately be described as enduring the "worst forms of child labour, prohibited by the International Labour Organization's Convention No. 182 - a Convention that the Royal Thai Government ratified in February, 2001. These child workers reported that they were virtually forced to remain at the factory due to restrictions placed on their movements by factory owners, and by threats of arrest and harassment by police and other officials if they were stopped outside the factory gates. Put succinctly, Mae Sot has perfected a system where children are literally working day and night, week after week, for wages that are far below the legal minimum wage, to the point of absolute exhaustion..."
Author/creator: Philip S. Robertson Jr., Editor
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (4.45MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/workingdayandnigh...
Date of entry/update: 04 April 2007

Title: Migrant Children in Difficult Circumstances in Thailand
Date of publication: 1999
Description/subject: * Summary of report; * Chapter 1: Migrant Children in Thailand - a Result of Globalisation... * Chapter 2: Migrant Child Labor in Thailand... * Chapter 3: Migrant Children in Prostitution in Thailand... * Chapter 4: Migrant Street Children in Thailand: * Indicators of Migrant Children in Thailand; * Links to organisations working with Migrant Children in Thailand.
Author/creator: Premjai Vungsiriphisal, Siwaporn Auasalung, Supang Chantavanich
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Asian Research Center For Migration (ARCM), Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Format/size: pdf (147.99 KB)
Date of entry/update: 17 July 2010