Child Labour in Indonesia


A. Preface

Child Labour’s Issues has seized world’s attention since few decades ago. International Labour Organization (“ILO”) as an international organizations concern on labour issues has issued a number of convention and recommendation related with rights and protection for child labour.

Child labour has a different meaning with child work (in bahasa Indonesia these terms give the same meanings). UNICEF defines Child Work as:[1]

“Children’s participation in economic activity that does not negatively effect their health and development or interfere with education can be positive. Work that does not interfer with education (light work) is permitted from the age of 12 years under the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 138”.

While the definition of Child Labour:

“This is more narrowly defined and refers to children working in contravention of the above standards. This means all children below 12 years of age working in any economic activities, those age 12 to 14 years engaged in harmful work, and all children engged in the worst forms of child labour.”

ILO defines Child Labour as:

“Children who lost their childhood and future, prematurely leading adult lives, working long hours for low wages under conditions damaging to their health and their physical and mental development”.[2]

In the terms of child work, children are doing light works which are not endangered their health. Such work is permitted by ILO Convention No.138 for children over the age of 12, for example are children in USA who are doing part time job as servant, babysitter, etc, to get some extra money. Whereas, the term of child labour refers to children under the age of 12 year or in the age of 12-14 year who engaged in various economic activity and doing dangerous work that can be harmful for their safety and health

Several factors urge the existences of child labour among other are poverty, serious economic crisis, natural disaster, armed conflict, and HIV/AIDS Epidemic (which cause the death of adult person in the family which force the children to take adult’s role to earn money)

B. ILO Convention No. 182/1999

On 17 June 1999, in ILO’s annual Convention, by unanimous votes, 174 member countries adopted the ILO Convention No.182 “Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of Child Labour”. This convention is a following step of Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (Minimum Age Convention 1973), and also based on Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.

ILO Convention No.182/1999 valid for persons under the age of 18 and effectively regulates to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour. This Convention is accompanied by Recommendation No.190 which obligated the ratifying states to immediately stipulate laws and sanction for any person who has involved in taking the children to the worst forms of child labour.

As ILO’s member, Indonesia has ratified this Convention by Law No.1 of 2000. The aforementioned Law requires the ratifying state to draft an action plan to implement concrete actions. Then the President issued a Presidential Decree No.59 of 2002 on National Action Plan on the Elimination of Worst form of Child Labour, which mention various works that can be classified as the worst forms of child labour as follows:

  1. Child Prostitution;
  2. Child work in the Mining Sector;
  3. Child work as Pearl Diver;
  4. Child work in Construction;
  5. Child work in offshore fishery;
  6. Child work as trash collector;
  7. Child involved in the production an activity using explosive materials;
  8. Child work in the street;
  9. child work as domestic servant;
  10. Child work in home industry;
  11. Child work in the plantation area;
  12. Child work in a woodcutting, wood processing and wood transportation industry;
  13. Child work in an industry and activity using dangerous chemical material

C. Protection for Child Labour in Indonesian Laws and Regulations

As a ratifying state, Indonesia is obliged to provide the provisions regarding child labour in its laws and regulations. It is reflected in Law No.13 of 2003 on Manpower (“Manpower Law”), Law No.39 of 1999 on Human Rights (“Human Rights Law”) and Law No.23 of 2002 on Child Protection (“Child Protection Law”). The elaborations are as follows

  • Manpower Law

In Manpower Law the term child is mentioned under Article 1 number 26 as quoted, “Child is every person under the age of 18 (eighteen) year”. Provisions regarding children can be found under Chapter X Articles 68 to 75. Pursuant to this regulation Entrepreneur is prohibited to employ children, but this provision can be exempted for children in the age of 13 to 15 year, where they are permitted to do light works as long as it do not interfere their physical, mental and social condition.

The worst forms of child labour are stipulated under Article 74 of Manpower Law which prohibited anyone to employ children in the worst forms of child labour. Article 74 Par.2 mention that the worst forms of child labour include as follows:

  1. All kinds of job in the form of slavery or practices similar to slavery;
  2. All kinds of job that make use of, procure, or offer children for prostitution, the production of pornography, pornographic performances or gambling;
  3. All kinds of job that make use of, procure, or involve children for the production and trade of alcoholic beverages, narcotics, psychotropic substances and other addictive substances; and/or
  4. All kinds of job harmful to the health, safety and moral.

Article 75 states that the Government is under an obligation to make efforts to overcome problems concerning with children who work outside of employment relationship. The terms of children outside the employment relation can be illustrated by children work in informal sectors. Mostly child labours are found in informal sector.

  • Human Rights Law

In this Law, it is provided under Article 64 that every child is entitled to be protected from economic exploitation and protected form every works that can be harmful for him/her and may interfere their education, moral, social and spiritual life.

  • Child Protection Law

In this law, protection for children from the economic exploitation is provided under Article 13 and 59.

D. International Programme on The Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)

Since a decade ago, in order to eliminate child labour, Indonesia has begun its cooperation with International Programme on The Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). The cooperation was started on 1992 when Indonesia signed an agreement with ILO to start the IPEC. IPEC in Indonesia has supported approximately 67 actions programme and 26 mini programmes which conducted with its partners.[3] ILO and Indonesian Government then established National Committee for Child Labour to ensure that child labour activities are in line with national policy and to coordinate various different programmes.[4]

In the first five year, main purposes of the National Action Plan are:

  1. Increase people awareness that the worst forms of child labour must be eliminated.
  2. Mapping the existence of elimination the worst forms of child labour and the efforts to eliminate it.
  3. Developing and conducting the of the worst forms of child labour programme with the main priority in particular field as follows:
    · child trafficking for prostitution ;
    · child engagement in offshore fishery activity (known as Jermal) ;
    · work in Mining Industry;
    · work in Informal Shoes/Slipper Industry ;
    · children work in illicit drugs trade/industry

Such priority was made after conducting a rapid assessment (kajian cepat)[5] on what kind of works mostly involved children and need to be handled immediately. In conducting the programmes, Indonesian Government is in cooperation with ILO-IPEC. IPEC[6] offers technical assistance to the member countries to support their policy and Laws reformation and encourage them to conduct concrete actions as the implementation of law and regulations regarding child labour.[7]

For the implementation of its programme in Indonesia, IPEC is having cooperation with the Government (Department of Manpower, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare), Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Labour Organization, Entrepreneur Organization and University.

E. Time Bound Programme

Time Bound Programme (TBP) is a term initially used by ILO in the year 1998-1999 in the International Labour Conferenfe (ILC). TBP is a part of IPEC programme. TBP is a comprehensive and time bounded programme to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. In respective ILO’s member countries various terms can be used to refer TBP.

In Indonesia TBP is formed by the National Action Plan (as elaborated in the Presidential Decree No.59 of 2002). ILO deemed the National Action Plan (“NAP”) as Indonesia’s TBP, based on the following reasons:[8]

  1. NAP is based on a unequivocal commitment (through various laws and regulations);
  2. NAP stipulates few sectors that would be the main priority to be intervened;
  3. NAP uses many focused strategies;
  4. NAP involves many stakeholders;
  5. NAP has a distinct time frame.


At glance, Indonesia has provided sufficient Laws and Regulations to handle Child Labour’s issues. In cooperation with ILO-IPEC and Non-Governmental Organization, numbers of efforts has been made. The problem is the implementation of sanction, where the sanction for employer who engaged children in the worst forms of child labour has not been strictly imposed, since the society itself is not enough ready to receive such sanction. In many place, child’s decision to work is fully supported by their parents and family in order the release them from poverty and to reach a better life. However, a strict legal process and sanction has been rendered to Employer who has engaged children in an offshore fishery, while in other field like manufacturing industry such sanction has not been imposed yet.


[1] “Child Labour, ” , accessed 30 June 2005.

[2] Andri Yoga Utami et al., Pekerja Anak di India (Jakarta: JARAK, 2002), P.10

[3] International Labour Organization, Paket Informasi Kampanye Bentuk-Bentuk Terburuk Pekerjaan untuk Anak; Pekerja Anak, Apa yang Dapat Kita Lakukan, (Jakarta : ILO, 2001), P.6.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Rapid Assessment was conducted by SKEPO Foundation in Bandung, with the assistance of ILO-IPEC. SKEPO Foundation is a foundation who has deep experience in the field of research.

[6] International Programme on The Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) was established by ILO in 1992, it is a programme under ILO who aimed to eliminate child labour in the world, with specific purpose to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

[7] International Labour Organization dan Depnakertrans RI, Panduan untuk Pengawas Ketenagakerjaan, (Jakarta : ILO, 2002), P.ix.

[8] Based on information from Mr.Abdul Hakim, National Programme Officer ILO Jakarta.


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