by Wilsen Widal Kho – Human Rights Education Facilitator
Child labor comprises work that children are too young to perform and/or work that, by its nature or circumstances, is likely to harm children’s health, safety, or morals. Being in labor increase the vulnerability of children; they might face layers of exploitation and are at risk of occupational-related diseases. Child labor needs to be combatted as it affects many of their rights, most notably their right to health, protection from abuse and exploitation, and their right to education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to put the elimination of child labor progress off track, and it continues doing so unless urgent mitigation measures are taken. According to ILO and UNICEF, the rising poverty driven by pandemics will estimately put 8.9 million children in labor by the end of 2022 . Meanwhile, Indonesia has committed to eliminate all forms of child labor by 2022 . Therefore, this article will highlight where we, Indonesian, are at right now on this issue.
Child labor has always been a problem then and now. In Indonesia, the economic crisis in mid-1997 was the first to put child labor into the spotlight. During that time, the Indonesian economy contracted, and many families were forced to find ways to supplement their falling income. Withdrawing children from school and sending them to work was one of the scenarios feared, but the emerging evidence didn’t support this hypothesis. This hypothesis is not staggering, as child labor is strongly linked with poverty . In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic presents dual challenges for children, pushing more people to poverty  and limiting their access to education due to school closures. School closure denies children the logical alternative to working to support their families[1[. The pandemic highlighted the problem that has always been there, and it serves as a reminder for all of us, as eliminating child labor is a task too big for anyone to solve alone.
The government published the Indonesian Children Profile Report in 2019, which provides the public with data regarding child labor in Indonesia. The report shows an increase in labor inspectorate funding, including specific funds allocated to enforce child labor regulation. On the other hand, this report also points out the reality in which Indonesian children were the subjects of the worst form of child labor, and they are given dangerous tasks, especially in the agricultural sector which accounts for 61,6% of Indonesian working children in 2018 . To provide you with perspective, children working in the agricultural industry have to deal with extreme heat and be exposed to harmful pesticides. Not to mention the long working hours and obligation to meet harvest quota, which often leads to children dropping out of school and the violation of the right to rest and leisure.
In terms of the legal framework, Indonesia has ratified all key conventions concerning child labor. Moreover, the government also established several laws and regulations on child labor, covering standards from age for work, the age for hazardous work, Identification of hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children, prohibition of forced labor, child trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation of children, and many more. Most of these laws and regulations meet international standards, except the prohibition of child trafficking. To enforce these laws and regulations, the government has established several institutional mechanisms, ranging from agencies responsible for child labor law enforcement, labor law enforcement, and criminal law enforcement. However, many gaps still exist within the operation, for example, insufficient training, insufficient number of inspectors, etc.
Multisectoral and multilevel collaborations and coordination are needed to address child labor. Therefore, the government creates bodies at the national level, provincial, and district level, even created task forces to coordinate efforts on child labor. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) is an example of these bodies. You guys might have heard KPAI effort in stopping the controversial series “Zahra” showcasing child marriage among other measures. Several gaps have been identified to effectively coordinates the efforts, one of them is (unsurprisingly) funding issues.
The government also developed many policies to address child labor, such as the National Plan of Action for the elimination of the worst form of child labor, the National Action Plan on Preventing Trafficking in Persons, and The Roadmap Toward a Child Labor-Free Indonesia in 2022.
To evaluate where we are right now, let’s work together! Through this [link] you can access the “Program Aksi Menuju Indonesia Bebas Pekerja Anak Tahun 2022” specifically phase 3 (periode 2020-2022). You can then evaluate the indicator and provide inputs to the documents!
This may get you asking, “What is needed to achieve child-labor-free Indonesia by 2022?” A study conducted by Gunarto et al. found that harmonizing laws and regulations and their enforcement is needed because of the multisectoral nature of the issue. Moreover, the findings emphasize the need to expand and increase compulsory education and training . Furthermore, this study also highlights the importance of social protection. Even now, social protection is more important than ever as the actual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child labor depends on the policy responses most notably social protection coverage . To address this issue, we also need to look at the broader policy imperatives to end child labor; from guaranteeing that every childbirth is registered to promoting decent works with fair income in young people, from promoting adequate livelihoods and resilience to addressing gender norms and discrimination. To put it in one word child labor is a complex issue. In order to find the “benang merah” and end child labor by 2022, we need stronger commitments and work together to fulfill the ambitious goals and statements we made.
 UNICEF & ILO. 2021. Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and The Road Forward. [online] Available at:<https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_797515.pdf > [Accessed 24 July 2021].
 UN News. n.d.. Indonesia commits to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2022. [online] Available at: <https://news.un.org/en/gallery/535372> [Accessed 24 July 2021].
 Priyambada et al., 2005. What Happened to Child Labor in Indonesia during the Economic Crisis: The Trade-off between School and Work.[online] Available at:<https://smeru.or.id/sites/default/files/publication/whchildlaborrevisedeng.pdf>[Accessed 24 July 2021].
 Suryahadi et al., 2020. The Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak on Poverty: An Estimation for Indonesia.[online] Available at: <https://smeru.or.id/en/content/impact-covid-19-outbreak-poverty-estimation-indonesia> [Accessed 24 July 2021].
 Bureau of International Labor affair.2019.Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports [online] available at<https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/indonesia> [Accessed 24 July 2021]. Gunardi et al., 2021. Policy Implementation of the Elimination on Child Labor: Could Indonesia Be Achieve of Free Child Labor in 2022? [online] Available at:<https://wseas.com/journals/ead/2021/a805107-1280.pdf > [Accessed 24 July 2021].