The development of the country in the future always depends on the protection, care and education of children today. This is a job that requires the combined efforts of families, schools and society at both the national scale and the international scale. In order to have success in doing this work, the right policies at the macro level is very necessary and the implementation at the grassroots level also plays an important role.
Child protection and education is an important part in human development strategy of Vietnam. The Government and Communist Party has placed great importance on child care and protection after the August Revolution in 1995, when Vietnam reclaimed its independence. During his lifetime, President Ho Chi Minh was always bothered by how to create conditions which allow children to play, study, be well-fed and become healthy people of morals, talents to help Vietnam keep pace with other developed countries. This ideology prevailed throughout his entire life, even in his will: “it is necessary and important to nurture future generations of Revolutionism”.
Therefore, Vietnam’s Government and Communist Party have devoted to child protection, care and education, which is demonstrated through the Communist Party’s documents, the Government’s decrees and circulars and most outstandingly Law on Child protection, care and education approved by the National Assembly on 15th, June, 2004. After being taken into practice, the law has helped child protection, care and education make significant progresses in terms of people’s awareness and implementations and obtain some encouraging achievements: the material and spiritual life is improved; universalizing primary education has achieved certain accomplishments; free healthcare services are offered to children under 6 years old, indexes on child health have increased; lots of progresses are made in the protection and care of children under special circumstances.
On the international scale, Vietnam eagers to learn from developed countries’ experiences and actively participates in child care and protection forums. To demonstrate this, Vietnam is the first country in Asia and the second in the world to ratify Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). Having ratified this Convention, Vietnam has made noticeable efforts in cooperate internationally to implement and supervise the progress of CRC implementation. The national action program on child care and protection in 1991 emphasized that: “Children must be treated as special citizens of the society, be taken care of by the government and other citizens, given priorities and offered conditions for complete development of physical health, intelligence and morals. This is Vietnam government’s consistent policy”.
Adults need to strive and take on the responsibility of making sure that children are healthy, well-fed and well-cared-for. The right to development includes conditions which entitle children with complete development of spirits, morals and intelligence, specifically: having agreeable living standards so as physical, intelligent, moral and social development can take place (Article 27); the right to free universal primary education; having advantages to pursue high school, secondary school and vocational education, being encouraged to regularly attend classes, not to play truant (Article 28); being offered maximum development of morality, talents, psychological and physical capabilities, being respected in terms of cultural identities, languages, values of themselves and of the countries they are from… (Article 29). Being more vulnerable than adults, children need to be given the rights to be protected, thus families, communities, society and the Government need to protect and care for children in an appropriate way, specifically: Children has the right to be protected from situations and factors threatening to their physical, moral, psychological and social developments, not be separated from parents and families (Article 20). Children need to be shielded from any forms of corporal or spiritual violence, insulations, abandonments, ignorances (Article 19). Children need to be protected against illegal use of drugs and sedatives, sexual violation, prostitutions, rapes or uses of sexual literature… (Article 33, 34). The right to participation means that all children are free to express their viewpoints about issues related to themselves such as studies, families, selections of family environment, healthcare. However, level of adults’ consideration on children’s opinions depends on their maturity, to be specific: Children are entitled with religious freedom, with the right to to voice their own opinions, gather with people, participate in activities, be protected from violation of personal issues, correspondence and honors. (Article 12; 13; 14; 15; 16). It can be said that Vietnam Communist Party and Government have proposed multitude of policies with the aim to protect, take care of and educate children most efficiently.
2. Bringing policies and laws into life
The approved child law in 2006, which is the amended version from 2004 Law on Child Protection, Care and Education, including 7 chapters, 106 articles has covered relatively full basic rights and duties of children, responsibilities of families, state agencies and all citizens for ensuring that child basic rights are exercised. The law reaffirms the basic rights stated in the international convention of the rights of the child and its contents are mostly about responsibilities of the society towards children. The child law regulates that: Children are people aged under 16.
Article 4 in Child law (2016) regulates: Child abuse is the act of forcing children into taking on labor that goes against the labor law; into erotic performances or pornographic producing processes; organizing, supporting tourist activities with the aim to sexually violate children; giving away, receiving or providing children to serve prostitutional purposes and other activities to make profits from using children.
The child law also provides regulations on the Government’s policies and organizations’ responsibilities towards children with difficulties, specifically ones who are abused, sexually harassed or victims of trafficking…
Besides, Criminal Code, Marriage and Family Law, Civil Code, Labor Code, Universal primary education law…also include separate articles concerning children. Life demands flexible applications of legalized articles on a daily basis.
We need to focus on one thing: Labor is characteristic of humans. Giving children education so that they can love labor and participate in labor which is suitable for their ages is a part of our educational program. One of the five lessons by President Ho Chi Minh for children is “loving labor”. Therefore, we need to differentiate between forced labor to earn livings with children’s volunteering to do work which is suitable for their health and domestic conditions. In order to achieve this, we need to understand law thoroughly. Vietnam Labor Code of Law has established the conditions for children’s entering the labor force, for example the labor age: Employees are people who are at least 15 years old, have abilities to work and have signed labor agreements. Labor users must be enterprises, companies or individuals who must be 18 years of age, who hire, use and pay for labor (Article 6). With regards to the age for receiving vocational education, the law regulates that: Vocational centers’ attendants must be 13 years old and over, except for some vocations regulated by the MOLISA, and are healthy enough to meet the demands of the vocations. Underage labor is the one who is below 18 years old. Employers of this labor must keep a notebook which has the child’s full name, date of birth, current job and results of periodical health examination and submit the notebook to labor investigators when requested. Strict prohibition of underage labor abuse (Article 119).Prohibition of employing children under 15, except for some jobs and work regulated by the MOLISA. For these jobs, admission and use of these children’s labor must be under their parents or guardians’ consents and monitorings(Article 120). This regulation shows its superiority and creates opportunities for young people to have their talents, which are suitable for their ages, nurtured at early stages, it also does not free managers from implementing mechanically due to other policies.
Besides, numerous sub-law documents compiled by ministries, sectors have provided detailed guidelines on how to enforce the law. For example, Circular number 21/1999/ TT – BLDTBXH on Nov, 11, 1999 by MOLISA issued a list of regulations regarding types of conditions for hiring children under 15 of age to take on different vocations and occupations which have been made clear in the Circular, namely singing, dancing, working at circuses, stage performing (water puppetry, Tuong, Cheo, CaiLuong (reformed theatre,…), working at cinematic industry, traditional handicraft such as lacquer painting, wood fine arts, gymnastics, running (except for shooting), table tennis, badminton, basketball, billiards, soccer, chess…The list can be amended, supplemented when requested to match with the socio-economic development. However, the minimum employable age of children must be at least 12 years and 8 years for those who join performing activities. Special cases involving those who are under 8 will be decided by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Therefore, the Communist Party’s law and policies on children rights are in accordance with Vietnam’s reality and UN CRC. The policy has built a legal corridor to encourage all companies, organizations, individuals living inside and outside of Vietnam to actively participate in child protection and care. However, along with socio-economic development, law and policies on this matter will be constantly supplemented and amended to correspond to Vietnam’s situations,
Child labor is a global issue and can not be addressed over night. An overall strategy is needed to prevent and solve the problem of child labor. International and national communities must cooperate to eradicate child labor.
Vietnam is imposing punishments which are too light for child labor abuse, mostly just giving warnings and fining. It is high time that we applied strict punishment on any establishments which exploit children’s labor and use it illegally based on articles in the Code of Labor.
However, it should be recognized that some families must force their children to make money to earn a living. There are families who are susceptible to famine if they do not leave the villages for a living. Therefore, a number of streets students living all by themselves or with their families, which could be seen anywhere. These subjects are highly likely to be exploited, abused or not given education.
That reality has made us, on the one hand, place great importance on enforcing law, asserting that: The law will impose strict punishment on those who abuse, exploit children and force them to overwork in toxic environment; on the other hand, create opportunities of vocational education, of working to relieve their families’ financial burdens and ensuring their own lives
Child labor is a highly controversial in Vietnam and other countries. Although Vietnam law prevents hiring the under-15-year-olds, children in both rural areas and cities still have to share working and family burdens. This has been happening in Vietnam for many years and surely continues in years to come. In 2010, the former Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said that: “Vietnam will put efforts into eradicating the worst forms of child labor”
Economies in Vietnam and other countries are now facing challenges. Poverty, rapid population increase in big cities, migration, urbanization and industrialization in urban areas are contributing to an increase in child labor employment, which should be taken into consideration when implementing policies.
First: The government needs to promote social- supporting policy, especially for children; provide vocational education and create jobs for people under difficult circumstances; tighten state administration to thoroughly eliminate child labor in toxic environment.
In local areas, it is important to set the goal of poverty reduction as the priority in planning the socio-economic development programme. Local authorities need to adopt the best policies to make sure that poor households have jobs and stable income, tightly cooperate with local enterprises to provide jobs to families who have been vocationally trained, develop sustainable business which is close connection with vocational training program 1956, guarantee children’s basic rights.
Second: The government needs to have suitable social protection policy to ensure children’s basic rights, amend and supplement the regulations which are no longer suitable with social protection for children with difficulties, increase educational financial support for poor children and households in which kindergarten and high school children are living.
Third: Enforcing propagating – educating about Child Law, Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially encouraging poor households not let their chilren drop out to make money. Emphasizing on the role of societies, groups, organizations and occupational groups, raising awareness of parents and communities about child labor prevention.Including the prevention into root-level resolutions.
Fourth: Examining and supervising implementation of child protection, care and education law, including children’s rights to education, as well was other articles related to child labor. Enforcing legislation and sanctions for violations of households to communities children’s rights.
Fifth: Strengthening and managing the role of youth unions in hamlets/villages…. to raise awareness of children and communities, this must be done in coordination with high schools , unions and associations…to cut down on child labor.
Sixth: Holding families responsible for child protection and care, but when they are not viable to take on the responsibility, communities and the government need to help. The support must be provided through policy systems and national action plans in order to address alarming issues related to child protection, priority must be given to children with difficulties, ones who are succumbed to early labor, poor and vulnerable children; create equal development opportunities for all children.
Seventh: Building up and developing child protection system must be considered the priority in the upcoming time, through completing systems of legislation, organization and child protection and care officials must be professional and the organizing network must provide 3 levels of protection (i) prevention, (ii) mitigation or risk elimination (iii) supporting reintegration into communities and creating opportunities for development.
Over the past time, Vietnam has continued to expand international cooperative relations, heading towards integration, sharing and development. This cooperation has led to a new approach in planning on the national and local level and has immense effects on so many fields in Vietnam, including the approach to child protection, the development of child protection on different levels. The National Assembly’s child protection legislation and supervision is also reinforced. UN Convention of the Rights of the Child is now being put into practice.
In today’s reality, applying those suggested solutions can limit child labor and guarantee basic rights for poor children, children succumb to early labor in poor areas, partly solve students’ dropping out to make a living and also serve as premises to motivate child rights implementation.
Quách Thị Quế, Ph.D.
Research Department for Social Protection Policy
Institute of Labor, Science and Labor Affairs