Sunday, August 14, 2011
Monitoring hazardous child labour in Tajikistan
Would like to highlight the plight of migrant workers which very common around the globe.
Labour inspectors often find it difficult to reach out to informal economy workplaces where hazardous child labour occurs most frequently. According to this year’s ILO report for World Day Against Child Labour, child labour monitoring (CLM) systems are a powerful means to support labour inspectorates. Olga Bogdanova, ILO press officer in Moscow reports about child labour monitoring in the Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan.
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (ILO Online) – On 1 September, Tajik schools will open their doors wide for almost 1.7 million children in the country. But the teachers who will welcome them in their classes know too well that many of their pupils will quit school at the age of 13 or even earlier to work in various hazardous sectors, including local markets, cotton and tobacco fields.
According to estimates of the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC), there are almost 200,000 working children in Tajikistan, and 10 per cent of them have never attended school. What’s more, working children are becoming younger. Today it is no longer a surprise to see working children aged five or six.
Like 98 per cent of these working children, 12-year-old Safar works in agriculture. He is a herd in his home kishlak (village) 50 km outside the capital city of Dushanbe. His is responsible for all cattle in more than 160 households in his village. Every day, whatever the weather, he runs his cattle to the mountain pasture (one and a half hours one way) and stays there for 7 hours. Needless to say that with such a work schedule Safar has dropped out of school. His mother does not object at all: “Our school is small and understaffed, and classes last only two hours a day instead of six. What’s the point for my son to go there?”
“I’d better work and support my family”, Safar says “We are six, and without my salary we will simply not survive”. Meanwhile his salary is miserable, even by Tajikistan’s standards, and there is always a risk that one of the animals gets lost or gets injured. In that case Safar will have to reimburse the owner up to USD 100.
Safar took over this job from his elder brother after he had fallen from a mountain scarp and broke his legs. He was lying there helpless until he was rescued by his home-folks who were alarmed when the cattle did not return to the village. Now Safar’s brother is disabled and can only sell vegetables at the local bazaar. “I pray nothing like that happens to me up in the mountains”, Safar says.
Safar became the main breadwinner for the family a year ago when his father went to work in Russia and completely abandoned his family back home. This is the tragedy of many broken families in today’s Tajikistan, where the number of external migrants is estimated between 500,000 and 800,000 people – in a country with a population of 7 million.
“80 per cent of working children come from a one-parent family or from a family where the father is a migrant worker”, explains Muhayo Khosabekova, national coordinator of the German-funded ILO-IPEC project.