11 Aug 2004

ILO says child labour needs to be taken seriously in Fiji

2:23 pm on 11 August 2004

There's a call in Fiji for the issue of child labour to be taken seriously after a survey showed that children as young as twelve were working on tobacco farms.

Abu Zakaria, the director of the South Pacific's International Labour office, or ILO, says there's a general perception that child labour doesn't exist in the region but he says this report shows it isn't true.

He says the survey, sponsored by British American Tobacco Fiji, found there were 83 children working on the farms.

Mr Zakaria says while some of the group are up to eighteen years old, there are younger children working, who not only miss school but face dangerous conditions.

"They are working in the tobacco field on the cultivation of tobacco. They are also exposed to chemicals which can be hazardous like spraying the insecticides and all that. The concern of the ILO has is whether they are duly protected."

Mr Zakaria says a national survey of child labour needs to be undertaken because nobody knows how many children are in the workforce.

He says a committee, called the Elimination of Child Labour, has been set up and plans to meet next week.