From left: Shelley Stinelli; Cao Thi Thanh Thuy, deputy director general, International Cooperation Department, MOLISA; Joe Narus, labor officer, U.S. Embassy Hanoi; MOLISA Vice Minister Dao Hong Lan; ILO Country Director Chang-Hee Lee; Vu Thi Kim Hoa, deputy director, Department of Child Care and Protection, MOLISA; Minoru Ogasawara, chief technical adviser, ILO Country Office for Vietnam.
“This event marks the beginning of a new chapter,” U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius announced at the launch of a new collaborative project to prevent and reduce child labor in Vietnam. I had the honor of joining Ambassador Osius; Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Hong Lan; and the International Labour Organization’s Vietnam country director, Chang-Hee Lee, in Hanoi at the event on Nov. 20.
When children are learning rather than working, families flourish, economies grow, and nations prosper. Giving kids the opportunity to learn and grow helps address a root cause of poverty by investing in the growth and development of tomorrow’s workforce.
Yet, despite a broad consensus on these principles – and recent progress – the ILO estimates there are still 168 million child laborers worldwide and 1.75 million in Vietnam. One in three child laborers in Vietnam works more than 42 hours per week, and few of those children get the chance to see the inside of a classroom
Through our bilateral engagement with the government of Vietnam, the department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs has seen 15 years of collaboration and progress. In that time, the government has made meaningful strides. It also recognizes it has further to go.
This new project aims to increase the capacity of national institutions and stakeholders to identify, respond to and raise awareness of child labor at all levels of Vietnamese society. The project will provide direct support to children in need to increase their participation in schooling, and to families to help them overcome the need to rely on children's labor to meet basic needs. It will help prevent children from entering the worst forms of child labor and withdraw children now toiling in agriculture and fisheries in An Giang province, garment production in Ho Chi Minh City, and handicraft production in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Looking around the room, I was struck by the diverse range of attendees committed to this cause, from national policymakers and international nongovernmental organizations to labor rights advocates and industry representatives. That broad coalition represents the strong and shared commitment it will require to ensure that more children have the chance to spend their childhoods inside a schoolhouse instead of working in a factory or a field.
Speaking at the event, Ambassador Osius recognized the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor’s efforts, saying, “I am happy that MOLISA is working so hard to protect children, and I know this project will help create a better future for the children of Vietnam.”
This project is one example of our commitment and dedication to addressing child labor around the world. We look forward to doing our part to help bring about a brighter future for the children and families of Vietnam.
Shelley Stinelli is an international relations officer in the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking at the department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.