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Amend Act 350 to prevent child labour abuse, says Suhakam

KUALA LUMPUR: The government must amend the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 (Act 350) to protect children from exploitation if there is a necessity to employ them, said the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

Children’s Commissioner of Suhakam Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said the Act defines children as those below the age of fifteen and allows them to work under several circumstances by virtue of its Section 2 (2).

“The Movement Control Order (MCO) may have driven many children to take up employment to assist their parents financially. They may also be exploited by some employers due to the extraordinary circumstances of MCO.

“Child labour is a form of child abuse and exploitation. Otherwise, the government must continue to provide financial assistance to underprivileged families in order to avoid child labour. Both primary and secondary education must be made free to ensure that parents have no excuse not to send their children to school,“ she said in a statement today in conjunction with the 2020 World Day Against Child Labour.

She also urged the government and all stakeholders to materialise the National Action Plan on Child Labour, which was launched by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Malaysian Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) on Oct 1, 2019.

“This year, the theme is ‘Covid-19: Protect children from child labour, now more than ever!’ and it was purposely created in this manner to reflect the current pandemic and its frightening impact upon children especially child labourers as they belong to the most vulnerable group.

“According to the latest report on Global Estimates of Child Labour (2017) by ILO, across the globe, it was estimated that there were 218 million child labourers with age range between 5 and 17 years old,“ Noor Aziah said.

She although there is no proper data on child labour in Malaysia, it did not mean that the problem did not exist in the country.

“Under international laws, child labour is prohibited pursuant to Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), and ILO instruments, mainly Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, 1973 and Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999, both of which Malaysia ratified in 1997 and 2000 respectively; and the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29),“ she said. - Bernama