SEVEN in 10 street children, aged four to nine, in two first-class urbanized cities were found working, mostly in eateries or shops, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed.
The findings, presented in a press briefing in Quezon City on Tuesday, came from a commissioned survey of 1,169 children in Iloilo City and 1,349 in Cagayan de Oro (CdO).
Further, over nine in 10 of street children in the 10 to 14 age bracket in both cities were also child laborers.
The study, commissioned by Iloilo-based Lifebank Microfinance Foundation (LMBF), identified its respondents using the definition of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) for street children, also called Children in Street Situations (CiSS).
There are two types of CiSS based on CWC: “children on the streets,” or those who work on the streets but do not live there, and “children of the streets,” or those from street families or abandoned children.
CiSS is a term adopted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
CWC Policy and Planning Division Head Maria Consolacion S. Salcedo, who was also at the presentation, said there is a need to further probe which kind of employment the children are involved in.
“If it is employment that is supervised by parents and relatives and they are not deprived of their rights to schooling, they are not exploited, we call that child work,” she said.
“But if that exposure will distract them from schooling, [and] will do harm to them in terms of their health and moral values, that is child labor,” she added.
The International Labour Organization defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”
According to Article 139 of the Labor Code, children below 15 years old shall not be employed, unless under the direct supervision of their parents. They are also not allowed to work for jobs that are “hazardous or deleterious in nature,” and to work for more than eight hours.
LBMF, a microfinancing company which currently has 461 branches nationwide, including six in CDO, is funding non-government organizations (NGO) focused on street children in the Visayas and Mindanao through its Street Children NGO Support Project.
“Currently, we are financially supporting two street children NGOs, plus [the SWS study],” LBMF Board Chairman Geert van der Linden said.
The results of the study came along with the SWS report that there are 369,242 out-of-school children aged zero to 17 years old from poor families living in cities across the country in 2015, the latest available data on CiSS since 2002.
This was out of the 12,335,663 children in the same age band from poor households recorded in the same year.
In Iloilo City and CdO, there were 1,878 and 4,478 street children in 2015, respectively.
In a separate press release, CWC Executive Director Mary Mitzi L. Cajayon-Uy said there would be a push for evidence-based policies and plans following the latest CiSS study.
“[I]t is a welcome development that the SWS and LBMF had published a long overdue updated estimate on the number of children in street situations which will lead to evidence-based policy and plans programming both by the government and civil society,” she said.
In 2015, 62.9% of the 66.6 million Filipinos aged 15 and above were in the labor force. — Adam J. Ang