MANILA, Philippines—Catholic leaders on Thursday said irresponsible parents and the government are to blame for the rising number of child laborers in the country.
Borongan bishop Crispin Varquez said many children are forced to work because their parents do not look for jobs or are addicted to gambling, according to a report from Church-run Radio Veritas.
“(Some) parents ay really irresponsible. That is why children help in keeping the family afloat,” Varquez said.
“Others no longer go to school. It because of the poverty and irresponsibility of other parents that’s forcing children to work,” he added.
According to the National Statistics Office, there were around 5.5 million child laborers in the Philippines.
Fr. Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Youth, said the increasing number of child laborers in the country was a symptom of the widespread poverty in the country. Government estimates a third of Filipinos live below the poverty line.
“So, government should come out with programs that will address this situation of children. The Church will continue to be a voice that would remind everyone that this should not be the ordinary situation of our young,” Garganta said.
“We should not expect them to go to work and give up their education. They are enticed to work because of poverty or the situation of their family,” he added.
Garganta also criticized President Benigno Aquino III for claiming that the economy was improving when this has not been felt in the grassroots.
“It’s a big lie for government to say that our economy is improving when many continue to make sacrifices, like our children,” he added.
The 2011 Survey on Children conducted by the National Statistics Office showed that out of the 29.019 million Filipino children aged 5-17 years old, about 18.9 percent or 5.59 million were already working.
This is higher than the four million Filipino working children registered in a 2001 survey conducted by the International Labor Organization and the US Department of Labor.
Of those 5.59 million children at work, 3.028 million were considered as child laborers and 2.993 million were reported to be exposed to hazardous child labor, the NSO said.