12 June 2013: Press Conference and Launch of the Regional report on child labour in tobacco cultivation in the ASEAN Region

10:30am, Hotel Atlet Century Park, Jl. Pintu Satu, Jakarta, Indonesia

Child labour in the cultivation of tobacco is a major problem in the ASEAN region. Activities children perform in tobacco farming, as well as related risks and deprivation, violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out rights of children to attain the highest standard of health (Article 24) and education (Article 28) and to protect them from commercial exploitation (Article 32).

In Indonesia a case study by Dr. Priyo Adi Nugroho on tobacco cultivation in two districts in East Java found children below 15 years carried out a variety of activities in tobacco growing, working from 3 to over 7 hours a day and earning between IDR15,000 to 25,000 daily.  Activities carried out by children include planting and watering tobacco seedlings, transplanting seedlings, applying fertilizers, weeding, harvesting, hanging tobacco leaves from poles in drying sheds, and folding tobacco leaves.

Tobacco growing is a labour intensive activity, and child laborers are exposed to the elements and are vulnerable to physical and chemical injuries.  Children working with tobacco are also denied recreational activities for their emotional wellbeing and educational opportunities that could lead them out of poverty. Indonesia has the largest acreage under tobacco cultivation (216,000 ha) producing the largest quantity of tobacco (136,000million tons) in the ASEAN region. Hence it is important for Indonesia to address child labour problem immediately.

Corporations generally have a very clear policy on child labour – they abhor it and do everything possible to ensure their products do not use child labour. When their products are exposed as being made using child labour, companies condemn such activity, conduct an immediate investigation, and often immediately terminate their contracts with the implicated producers.

Unlike other industries that have a zero tolerance for child labour, the tobacco industry has set no such polices or target date for complete eradication of child labour. The tobacco industry, while publicly condemning child labour, continues to purchase and use leaves that are produced by child labour and profits from them. The tobacco industry’s small contributions through so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities are a whitewash of a problem, which is not being eliminated. In fact the tobacco industry hides behind its CSR activities to deflect attention away from a serious and chronic child labour problem that plagues tobacco cultivation.

Recommendations:

  • Set a definitive deadline, e.g. 2015, to completely halt child labour in tobacco farming and apply a phase-out plan at national level;
  • National governments must take responsibility to end child labour in tobacco production and set up  disincentives for the tobacco industry to profit from tobacco leaves produced with child labour such as paying a bond;
  • Ban so-called CSR activities conducted by the tobacco industry directed at farming communities.

Ms. Joy F. Alampay, Communications Manager, Email: joy@seatca.org, Mobile:  +639175326749