Legal experts are urging stronger law enforcement to eradicate child labor.
Recent scandals involving forced child labor have been reported in the media.
The latest involved hundreds of underage workers abducted to work at brick
kilns in Shanxi and Henan provinces.
"The police are quite negligent in their investigations their conclusions are
quite irresponsible," Chen Wei, a lawyer in charge of a child labor case in the
scandals, said yesterday.
of minors (under 16) engaged in labor was estimated to be about 2-3 million by
the end of the 1990s. No official figure for the present is available.
Loopholes in law enforcement are the major reason for the recurrence of child
labor, Tong Lihua, director of the minor protection law committee of the All
China Lawyer's Association, said.
However, he stressed that China has a developed legal system in cracking down
on child labor.
Relevant laws stipulate that companies using child labor for a month can be
fined between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan ($650-1,300). Their licenses could be
withdrawn, and they could face up to seven years in prison.
"But local law enforcement staff are quite lenient with rule breakers, and
most cases end up with a light fine," Tong said.
The staff and police allegedly also impose a lot of red tape and some receive
bribes to cover up child labor crimes.
China has already seen a decline in the number of child laborers due to
strict regulations and crackdowns, Lu Shizhen, expert with the China Youth
University of Political Sciences, said.
Most victims are employed by small private workshops. But market competition
has helped phase out many of the small firms competing with cheap labor, she
However, she said the child labor problem remains complicated given the
social circumstances - an imperfect compulsory education system and emigration
of rural residents to the urban areas.
Many rural children give up schooling due to poverty or fear of a bleak
future, Tong said.
A survey last year by the minor protection center in Zhejiang found 98
percent of child labor stemmed from poor families. Most families had more than
one child and most children do not finish their compulsory nine-year education.
"Between dropping out of school and becoming eligible workers at 16, most
children do not receive sufficient supervision," Tong said.
He said the compulsory education system should be strengthened to cover all
school-age children. A network should also be established to help and educate
(China Daily 07/06/2007 page3)