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Tanzania Vows to Eliminate Child Labor

The International Labor Organization says progress in eliminating child labor is being made in countries that have the political will to get rid of it. Delegates attending the ILO's annual conference have been assessing the situation in a special daylong discussion on child labor.

A recent report by the International Labor Organization finds child labor, especially in its worst forms, is declining. ILO Executive Director Kari Tapiola says between 2000 and 2004, the number of child laborers worldwide fell by 11 percent from 246 million to 218 million.

"And, of course, these figures show that there is political commitment," Mr. Tapiola said. "There are more coherent policies in the areas of poverty reduction, basic education, human rights and all these are central to combating child labor."

In the early 1990's, the ILO began an international program for the elimination of child labor. Tanzania was one of the first countries to join up. IPEC, as the program is called, helps governments enact the laws and the projects needed to get children into school and out of the workforce.

Tanzania's minister of labor, Jumanne Maghembe, says the government has been working with the country's strong network of trade unions, with employers associations, private organizations and local communities to change attitudes toward child labor.

Four years ago, he says, Tanzania started 11 pilot projects targeting the worst forms of child labor. These include children working in commercial agriculture, commercial sexual exploitation, mining and domestic work.

He says that since then the government has enacted a new labor law, which prohibits child labor and criminalizes the employment of children in some forms of labor.

"The law provides for minimum age for entry into employment at 14 years, where a child has to do light work," he said. "And it prohibits engagement of children of less than 18 years in hazardous work. Further, the law prescribes a minimum fine not exceeding the equivalent of five-thousand U.S. dollars or imprisonment for a term of one-year or both penalties to any person convicted for engaging a child in hazardous work."

Maghembe says the government of Tanzania has set a target of reducing child labor to 10 percent from the current 24 percent by the year 2010. Since the 11 pilot projects started, he says 15,000 children out of nearly 60,000 are no longer employed in hazardous jobs.