DAK LAK (VNS) — Camouflaging as recruiters looking for potential vocational students, many factory owners in HCM City lure children from remote areas in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak into child labour.
A vocational training contract signed between Nguyen Van Tien, a manufacturer in HCM City's Binh Chanh District, and an ethnic minor Y Kieu K'Buor from the mountainous commune of Ea Phe, clearly stated that the young boy will have to work for at least 13 hours a day at Tien's factory.
His working time was divided into three shifts: from 7 in the morning to mid-noon, continuing for another five hours in a row resuming at 2 in the afternoon. The last shift started at 8 o'clock after dinner and continued till 11 at night.
The boy was spared a night off only on Sundays.
Despite working day and night, the total salary that Y Kieu K'Buor received for the whole year was as low as VND 12 million (US$558), or approximately VND33,000 ($1.5) for a full working day.
"I worked from morning till midnight for three months and I only received VND500,000 ($23) when I left," Y Thoang Buon Ya, who still has a baby face, told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.
Besides harsh and illegal working conditions, such ‘vocational training contracts' also denied wages for child labourers who decided to run away.
Another young boy Y Phin Kbuor's contract with an HCM City manufacturer Le Xuan Ly said that if Y Phin left without the owner's consent, he will not receive a single coin and his family will have to compensate for Ly's transportation expenses that the company paid for his first trip to Dak Lak earlier.
An incomplete report of the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs shows that at least 137 minors in the age group of 9 to 16, mostly ethnic minorities, have been taken to work at manufacturing units across Tan Binh, Binh Tan, Tan Phu and Binh Chanh districts in HCM City since the beginning of this year.
The lost kids
Many youngsters left behind their families and did not have any means to contact them far away in the city. With no address or phone number of workplaces available, parents cannot go find their children and bring them back.
H'ong K'Cam could not hold her tears when she talked about how her 7th grade grandchild was persuaded by a woman to quit school and follow her to work in HCM City.
"My granddaughter H'Hang K'Cam lost parents at an early age. I don't even know whether she is still alive," the old woman said.
The provincial Department's Children Protection and Care Division Head Tu Thi Khanh noted that those children who left to work in HCM City had been exposed to social problems such as drugs, sex abuse, and child trafficking, not to mention labour exploitation and denied school education.
Ea Phe Commune, where about 15 minors under 15 were working outside the province, tried to ask the children's families to bring them home as soon as possible, for fear of child abuse.
Many parents felt hopeless as they had no means to contact their children, while others expressed annoyance at the suggestion.
H's Dliu Ayun, the mother of a 15-year-old boy who had gone to work in HCM City some three years ago, said she will not call him back.
"I will take the responsibility, even if what I do is illegal," she added.
She was not the only one who detested the authorities' efforts.
The father of H'Glen Nie in Ea Kar Commune even said he had the right to do whatever he wanted with his daughter, and that included sending the young girl to work far away from home.
"She is my daughter, and it is my right to let her go or not," he said.
The Children Protection and Care Division Head Tu Thi Khanh acknowledged it was very difficult to persuade families to save their children from being abused at work.
"Most of those families are very poor and have little awareness, so they are easily tempted to send their kids away to earn money," Khanh remarked. — VNS