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Cablegate: Rescuing Children From Labor

VZCZCXRO8594
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #1617/01 2390741
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 260741Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9890
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5331
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2949
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1230
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2151
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2411
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 2990
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1202
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 3944
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 1073
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 2912
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001617

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, G/TIP, EAP/RSP, DRL/ILCSR
(MMITTELHAUSER)
NSC FOR EPHU
DEPT OF LABOR FOR BSASSER, SHELLER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ELAB ID
SUBJECT: RESCUING CHILDREN FROM LABOR

REF: A. JAKARTA 1345
B. MEDAN 1248
C. JAKARTA 1097

JAKARTA 00001617 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This message was coordinated with Consulate Medan.

2. (U) SUMMARY: A half dozen child and labor protection
advocates in Medan in western Indonesia recently recounted to
Labatt the extreme difficulties they face in saving child
workers from unhealthy work conditions. Sometimes when
children are rescued from harsh labor conditions, the whole
rescue effort is foiled when the children are then trafficked
to other jobs, largely because their parents are powerless
and poor. The only solution is to provide sustainable
education and other opportunities for children in order to
help families cope with poverty, the child protection
advocates said. USDOL projects are helping in this effort.
END SUMMARY.

MEETING IN MEDAN

3. (U) Labatt recently reviewed trafficking-related issues
during a stop in Medan in North Sumatra. A half dozen child
and labor protection advocates in Medan recounted to Labatt
the extreme difficulties they face in saving child workers
from unhealthy work conditions. Trapped in an environment
where parents expect and need children to work in order to
make ends meet--exacerbated by the families' inability to pay
school fees--many children work long hours in unhealthy
conditions. Public education is free through grade eight
under Indonesian law but fees are charged for high school.
Many elementary and junior high schools charge fees despite
the law. Unofficial fees can be as high as USD 170 a
semester, several months' salary for poor families. The
situation in Medan is a microcosm of conditions nationwide
(Ref C).

TO WORK OR TO BE TRAFFICKED

4. (U) In the past, North Sumatran NGOs have reported child
labor activity to police, only to see the children sometimes
fired from their jobs and trafficked, child welfare advocates
told Labatt. The same employers later hire other children.
Traffickers prey on children who are desperate for income and
accustomed to working. Oktoviana (one name only), head of
the influential child advocacy NGO Yayasan Pondok Rakyat
Kreatif (YPRK), said she has been working for nearly 20 years
to stop child labor in the local shrimp packaging industry
(Ref B) but has yet to arrive at a solution which will
protect children's welfare. Children in these factories rise
at dawn to be bused to work and do not get to bed until
around midnight. These conditions are classified as the
worst forms of child labor because of the long hours and the
fact the children have no opportunity to pursue any kind of
education.

5. (U) The only solution is to provide educational and job
training opportunities for children, to help families cope
with poverty, and to educate parents of the dangers of child
labor and trafficking, child protection advocates said. The
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) funds many projects
nationwide, which have succeeded in keeping children in
school by defraying costs of education, providing vocational
education and educating communities on the harm caused to
children who forego education in order to work (Ref A). A
commonly held perception in poor Indonesian communities is
that child labor is positive because the children are helping
their families.

6. (U) Another obstacle in rescuing child workers in North
Sumatra and elsewhere--mostly aged 15-17 but some under age
15--is the fact that they have false documents raising their
ages and that they conspire with employers to lie about their

JAKARTA 00001617 002.2 OF 002


age. Sometimes local officials in Indonesia readily comply
by issuing false documents which allow children to work.

WORKING TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM

7. (U) Over all, the child protection advocates painted a
picture of an ongoing problem, which the GOI is working to
deal with. USG programs to prevent child labor are leading
the way to find solutions. The GOI will need to make huge
investments in education to help overcome this problem.
Still, the GOI is increasingly addressing child employment
through innovative education programs, following the models
of USG-funded projects, such as those sponsored by USDOL.
Political awareness of the child labor problem has greatly
increased in recent years largely because of these USG
efforts.

HUME

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