No more child labour
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No more child labour

Today is "World Day Against Child Labour", reminding Thailand once again of the need to intensify efforts to eradicate the horrors of this scourge.

Thailand signed the ILO Convention to end the worst forms of child labour in 2001. The country also endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, committing to end all forms of child labour by 2025. To reiterate Thailand's commitment, Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn launched a campaign urging all sectors to eliminate child labour by next year.

Despite concerted efforts to end child labour, much more needs to be done to fulfil these promises.

The goal remains out of reach due to inconsistencies in labour laws. For example, the Labour Protection Act prohibits the employment of children under 15, thus allowing 15-18-year-olds to work under certain conditions. Also, children under 18 can be employed as long as they are compensated directly. Migrant kids over 15 can also be employed in non-hazardous work.

While gaps in labour laws need to be resolved, the best solution to end child labour is ensuring every child receives an education which will keep children in school until they are 18.

Thailand has mandated 15 years of free education, covering three years of kindergarten, six years of primary school, and six years of secondary school. The support also includes learning materials, uniforms, and school activities. Additionally, every child in the country, regardless of identity documentation and nationality, has the same right to education. This law has been in effect since 2005.

Despite these policies, the Equitable Education Fund (EEF) found over one million children aged 3-18 were not enrolled in the education system in 2023, prompting the government to launch the "Thailand Zero Dropout" initiative to bring them back to the system by 2027.

The problems are both financial and bureaucratic. While many schools demand additional expenses from parents, making education for their children unaffordable, several Ministry Education's regulations hinder access to education, particularly for migrant and refugee children.

For example, the free school lunch programmes only support primary students, leaving high school students from poor families struggling. Additionally, undocumented children no longer receive state educational support if the schools are not state-run, under new regulations from the Office of the Private Education Commission (Opec). The Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) also requires Thai nationality to enrol in the home school system. The Regional Education Office in Tak province even prohibits schools from admitting undocumented children and those displaced from wars.

These discriminatory rules lead to drop-outs and force them to enter the workforce, where they often find themselves prey to all forms of exploitation.

To truly honour our commitments and safeguard the future of our children, Thailand must move beyond rhetoric and take decisive action. The path forward is clear: close legal loopholes that permit child labour and ensure every child, regardless of their background, has access to a free, comprehensive education. Only through unwavering dedication to these principles can we hope to see Thailand free from the scourge of child labour by 2025.

Let this be a call to action to create a society where every child is given the chance to learn, grow and thrive in a safe and nurturing environment.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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