Việt Nam strengthens legal framework on child labour

June 13, 2024 - 09:10
To address child labour, Việt Nam has enacted various regulations to strengthen the legal framework protecting children's rights and preventing child labour.
Ethnic minority children approach tourists to sell products. VNA/VNS Photo Quốc Khánh

HÀ NỘI — Đặng Hoa Nam, General Director of the Department of Children’s Affairs under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has noted that over the past decade, Việt Nam has established a robust legal framework on child labour that aligns more closely with international standards.

This will help Việt Nam achieve significant progress in reducing child labour and ultimately eliminating child labour in the near future, he said.

The 2020 National Report on Child Labour by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs indicated that over one million children were engaged in labour, primarily in agriculture, construction and services.

Child labour is particularly prevalent in rural and mountainous areas in the northern regions, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta, where economic conditions are less developed and access to education is limited.

According to a report by UNICEF in Việt Nam, the child labour rate in rural areas is nearly four times higher than in urban areas.

The ministry's report also revealed that 70 per cent of child labourers come from poor or near-poor families, and most children are unable to continue their education because they need to help their families earn a living.

To address child labour, Việt Nam has enacted various regulations to strengthen the legal framework protecting children's rights and preventing child labour.

The 2016 Law on Children and the 2019 Labour Code contain strict rules on child labour. The former explicitly defines children's rights, including protection from child labour and other forms of exploitation and proposes severe penalties for violations.

The 2019 Labour Code completely prohibits the use of child labour for those under 15 years old, except for certain light tasks that do not affect the child's health and education. For children aged 15 to 18, the law also includes strict regulations on working hours, types of work and working conditions.

The Vietnamese Government has signed and ratified several international conventions on children's rights and the prevention of child labour, such as International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 138 and 182. Additionally, the 2021-2025 programme for the Prevention and Reduction of Child Labour is being implemented to address this issue. This programme includes measures to support education and vocational training and to improve living conditions for poor families.

The Government has also run numerous educational support programmes for poor children, especially in remote areas. Every year, thousands of disadvantaged students, including orphans, receive scholarships and tuition assistance, enabling them to continue their education.

In 2023, the Việt Nam Children’s Protection Fund provided 13,877 scholarships worth VNĐ9.4 billion and supported 17,800 children in special circumstances with total funding exceeding VNĐ20 billion.

Furthermore, many schools, especially in rural and mountainous areas, have been newly built or upgraded. The National Target Programme on Education and Training has contributed to improving learning conditions for hundreds of thousands of students. In 2023 alone, 272 facilities for children were newly constructed or upgraded.

Currently, the education sector aims to ensure that by 2030, at least 95 per cent of lower secondary school-age students and at least 75 per cent of upper secondary school-age students are enrolled, ensuring all children have the opportunity to study at least until the end of lower secondary education.

Livelihood support

International cooperation is one of the most effective measures to address major causes of child labour.

International projects have focused on providing livelihood support to vulnerable families, ensuring that children can work safely and legally.

The ENHANCE project, a technical assistance initiative aimed at preventing and reducing child labour in Việt Nam, has been implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs since 2015. This project has brought positive results in three localities: Hà Nội, HCM City and An Giang.

Đặng Văn Huy, a sixth grader from Châu Phú District in An Giang Province, helps with household chores and is proficient in assisting his mother with growing oyster mushrooms. Huy’s family is one of 13 households supported by the ENHANCE project.

Nearby, seventh grader Nguyễn Thanh Nhân also benefits from the project. His father, Nguyễn Minh Hùng, said: “I find this project very practical as it provides stable income support for our family. Oyster mushrooms can be harvested multiple times, are easy to grow and maintain. After deducting initial costs, the income is around VNĐ12 million per crop.”

“Thanks to the project's support, my child can continue his education,” he said.

Võ Quang Huy, a child protection officer in Châu Phú District, said that the ENHANCE project has yielded very positive results. In addition to supporting children's education, skills and awareness, it also helps families stabilise their livelihoods for the long term.

In Thạch Thất District in Hà Nội, Đặng Thị Thúy Hiền, 45, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Her husband worked temporary jobs at construction sites, while Hiền, due to her illness, was unable to work, making it challenging to support her children's education and medical expenses.

Hiền’s family was among a group of 11 families selected to join the 'OCOP 4-star Potato Journey'. Starting last September, these families were allotted a total of 19,800 square metres of land for potato cultivation.

They received technical support and 90 per cent of the financial support needed for planting, seeds and fertilisers. They were trained on organic potato farming methods and household financial management and received support in promoting agricultural products as well as designing packaging, flyers and product samples for suitable markets.

Hiền said: “Income from potato farming has helped us a lot. I have additional income to support my children's education. I am very grateful for the project's and cooperative's support.”

Over eight years, nearly 6,000 children have received educational and vocational training support, 1,600 households have improved their livelihoods and almost 550 children have received additional support such as health insurance and assistance for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For ethnic minority children, especially girls at high risk of dropping out due to early marriage, the Ministry of Education and Training and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, in cooperation with UNESCO, have launched the 'We Can' project in Hà Giang, Ninh Thuận and Sóc Trăng provinces, with plans to expand to Cao Bằng and Kon Tum provinces.

After more than two years, over 16,000 ethnic minority students have continued their education and 4,500 parents have become more aware of the importance of education. — VNS