Children of the Sunshine Industry: Child Labor and Workers’ Condition in Oil Palm Plantations in Caraga
Twenty-four percent of the workers in the Philippine palm oil industry are children. Only five to 17 years of age, they work for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, carrying on their backs more than their own weight in palm fruit. Clad in threadbare, tattered clothing and rubber slippers, they cover on foot around eight hectares of hilly palm oil plantations each day. In the past year, nearly half of them experienced minor injuries on a regular basis, while five percent suffered from fractures due to work. These children form part of a workforce plagued by slave-wage, measly benefits and a lack of job security, yet together they produce one of the most useful oils in the world: palm oil, a key ingredient in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals production both locally and overseas.
The local palm oil industry is more than 30 years old, but it only gained momentum in the last decade. Now one of the nation’s priority industries, the Philippine government has dubbed it “the sunshine industry.” Yet it fails to shine on these children and other workers.
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