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“Child Labor” refers to any work or economic activity performed by a child that subjects him/her to any form of exploitation or harmful to his/her health and safety or physical, mental or psychosocial development.

The following are considered worst forms of child labor: 

  • All forms of slavery, as defined under the “Anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”, or practices similar to slavery such as sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and forced or compulsory labor, including recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; or
  • Use, procuring, offering or exposing of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; or
  • Use, procuring or offering of a child for illegal or illicit activities, including the production and trafficking of dangerous drugs and volatile substances prohibited under existing laws; or
  • Work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is hazardous or likely to be harmful to the health, safety or morals of children

Child work

  • Light work (children learn to take responsibility)
  • Respects right to health and education
  • Occasional
  • Legal

Child labor

  • Hazardous / exploitative work
  • Deprivation of right to health and education
  • Constant and for long hours
  • Illegal

The minimum employable age in the Philippines is 15. No child below 15 years of age shall be employed, permitted, or suffered to work, in any public or private undertaking.

Although persons 15 to below 18 years of age are allowed to be employed, they shall not: 

  • be engaged in the worst forms of child labor; and
  • be employed as a model in advertisements promoting alcoholic beverages, intoxicating drinks, tobacco and its byproducts, gambling, or any form of violence or pornography.

The following are the only exceptions to the prohibition on the employment of a child below 15 years of age:

  • when the child works directly under the sole responsibility of his/her parents or legal guardian and where only members of his/her family are employed; or
  • when the child’s employment or participation in public entertainment or information through cinema, theater, radio, television or other forms of media is essential. 

Such employment shall be strictly under the following conditions:

  • Total number of hours worked shall not be more than 20 hours a week and not more than 4 hours a day
  • Employment neither endangers child’s life, safety, health, and morals, nor impairs child’s normal development
  • Child is provided with at least elementary or secondary education
  • Work permit is secured for the child from the Department of Labor and Employment

The following hours of work shall be observed for any child allowed to work: 

For a child below 15 years of age:

  • not more than 20 hours a week
  • not more than 4 hours at any given day 
  • not allowed to work between 8:00pm and 6:00 am of the following day

For a child 15 to below 18 years of age:

  • not more than 40 hours a week 
  • not more than 8 hours a day
  • not allowed to work between 10:00pm and 6:00 am of the following day

Department Order No. 149, Series of 2016 as amended by Department Order No. 149-A, Series of 2017 (Guidelines in Assessing and Determining Hazardous Work in the Employment of Persons Below 18 Years of Age) issued by the Department of Labor and Employment enumerates the different work and activities declared hazardous for persons below 18 years of age using the industry classification under the Philippine Standard Industrial Classification and the occupational classification under the Philippine Standard Occupational Classification. 

According to the Special Release on Working Children Situation published by the Philippine Statistics Authority on 25 July 2023, there were 31.71 million children 5 to 17 years old in 2022, of which 1.48 million (4.7%) were working children. Of this number, around 828 thousand (56.0%) were engaged in child labor. This was lower than the reported working children 5 to 17 years old engaged in child labor in 2021 at 935 thousand.

Classified by broad industry group, about 68.8% of child laborers were in the agriculture sector, 25.9% were in the services sector, and 5.3% were in the industry sector.

More boys were engaged in child labor compared to girls: 548 thousand or 66.2% of the child laborers were boys while 280 thousand or 33.8% were girls.

Across age groups, the largest proportion of working children engaged in child labor were 15 to 17 years of age at 61.6%.

Among the 17 regions, child labor incidence is highest in SOCCSKSARGEN (12.5%) followed by Central Visayas (10.5%), BARMM (10.4%), Northern Mindanao (9.4%), and Ilocos Region (7.7%). Cordillera Administrative Region had the lowest incidence of child labor (1.7%), followed by National Capital Region (1.9%) and Cagayan Valley (2.3%). 

In 2002, the International Labour Organization launched June 12 as the World Day Against Child Labor to draw attention to the global extent of child labor and the efforts needed to eliminate it. The World Day Against Child Labor brings together national governments, employers’ organizations, trade unions, civil society and millions of children and adults throughout the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and advocate for its eradication.

Every year, the Philippines joins the international observance of World Day Against Child Labor to raise awareness on the plight of child laborers and to demonstrate the country’s solidarity in the worldwide campaign against child labor.

The National Council Against Child Labor and social partners conduct various awareness-raising activities, interactive activities and contests for children, gift-giving for child laborers and children at risk, awarding of livelihood grants to parents of child laborers, among others.

The Philippine Program Against Child Labor is the national program for the prevention and elimination of child labor in the country with a vision of a child labor-free Philippines.

The PPACL hopes to transform the lives of existing child laborers, their families, and communities, towards their sense of self-worth, empowerment, and development. It also works towards the prevention and progressive elimination of child labor through protection, withdrawal, healing, and reintegration of child workers into a caring society. The PPACL is guided by the principles of child-focused action, rights-based approach, results-based management, gender-responsiveness, cultural sensitivity, sustainable development, children and youth participation, good governance, decent work for all, community development, and inter-agency, tripartite and multi-sectoral collaboration. It endeavors to support the alleviation of extreme poverty which has been the main cause of child labor in the country.

The National Council Against Child Labor (NCACL) was created under Executive Order No. 92 issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on 17 September 2019 to amplify government efforts for the protection of the rights of vulnerable sectors, especially the children, strengthen related institutional mechanisms, and establish further measures to contribute to the prevention, reduction, and elimination of any form of child labor. 

The NCACL is composed of 19 government agencies with the Department of Labor and Employment as Chairperson; the Department of Social Welfare and Development as Co-Chairperson; and the following agencies as members: 

  • Department of Education
  • Department of Health
  • Department of the Interior and Local Government
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources
  • National Commission on Muslim Filipinos
  • National Economic and Development Authority
  • Philippine Information Agency
  • Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
  • Council for the Welfare of Children
  • National Youth Commission
  • National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
  • Philippine Statistics Authority
  • Philippine National Police
  • National Bureau of Investigation
  • National Anti-Poverty Commission-Basic Sector on Children

Apart from these government agencies, the Council also include as members the Alliance of Workers in the Informal Economy/Sector and Federation of Free Workers as workers sector representatives and World Vision Development Foundation, Inc. as non-government organizations representatives. Ex officio members of the Council include International Labour Organization.

#BatangMalaya is the official campaign brand for all the National Council Against Child Labor and its partners’ initiatives and activities towards a child labor-free Philippines as envisioned in the Philippine Program Against Child Labor.

The National Council Against Child Labor and its partners advocate for the rights of every child to be a Batang Malaya – malayang mag-aral, maglaro, maging malusog, malaya mula sa mapang-abusong trabaho, at malayang maging bata.