Message from the FTUC Youth Committee –
FTUC Youth Committee members with Board Member & Vice President, Mr Semisi Turagabaleti and Executive Officer, FTUC Programmes, Ms Jotika Sharma
The Fiji Trades Union Congress Youth Wing says the rights of children should not be regarded as tokenism but taken seriously by all stakeholders in the country.
As we observe World Day Against Child Labour today, the FTUC Youth Wing urges all stakeholders, mostly parents and guardians to be vigilant at all times against any practice of child labour.
While we are fortunate to be living in a country with strong laws strictly prohibiting child labour and with the focus being on providing quality education to our children, we still see cases of school-age children not attending school due to many circumstances.
And as Fiji braces itself for a slower economic growth, clearly indicated by the substantial slashing of spending in the 2019-2020 National Budget handed down on 7th June, incidents of child labour are bound to surface with parents being forced to make ends meet due to rising cost of living and likely job losses.
As it is, currently there are no actual statistics of how many children are not able to afford education despite the systems in place like tuition-free education, books and free school bus fares for children from a certain family income threshold. We read of reports by the Ministry of Women stating that four years ago, poverty ratesin Fiji stood at about 28.1%.Not withstanding the credibility of this statistic, 28.1% is still a figure that is a matter of grave concern to us.
In Fiji we still see children at odd hours selling goods or even asking for money. We also see that some workplaces also employ children below the age of the 15 for odd jobs. As workers and as union members, we do not support or condone any employment for children below the age of 15, that is detrimental to their development and educational well-being. We call upon all employers to refrain hiring cheap labour in the form of desperate children who wish to earn a few dollars and can be vulnerable to exploitation. As young workers, we understand that children need to be at school during the first 15 or 16 years of their life, particularly in Fiji where without proper education or training you cannot find decent jobs. The rate for unskilled workers and in some cases skilled workers in also not sufficient to put food on the table, and to sacrifice education or wages at such young age will lead to long term negative effects in the future.
On this special day where we campaign to eliminate employment of children, as the youth members of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, we are thankful to be aware of our rights as young workers and able to promote these in our daily work. We encourage every worker to be vigilant at the workplace and report any incidence of child labour. We must all join hands to protect our future generation from exploitation and ensure that they follow the right path, which is being at school during school hours.
FTUC Youth Committee on behalf of FTUC Youth Committee