- A new report by trade unionists on Congo Brazzaville (ROC) released today claims that the practice of child labour still is widespread in the country. Despite the ample legislation against child labour, law enforcement was close to absent in that aspect. In particular foreign children were falling victim to harsh conditions.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today released a report on core labour standards in Congo Brazzaville, coinciding with the country's trade policy review at the WTO this week. The report draws attention to infringements of all the core labour standards in Congo.
"Even though there are laws aiming at protecting children against exploitation at work, child labour is still a problem," IFCTU holds, adding that child exploitation was "widespread throughout the country." Under the law, children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work, "but this law is not generally enforced, particularly in rural areas and in informal activities in cities," the unionists had found.
Children often worked with their families on farms or in small informal businesses without government monitoring or supervision, ICFTU said. "The Ministry of Labour, which is responsible for enforcing child labour laws, concentrate its limited resources on the formal wage sector where its efforts generally are effective," it added.
Especially foreign children were exploited in the harshest way, given Brazzaville's unwillingness to prohibit trafficking in persons, ICFTU said. There were many unconfirmed reports of trafficking of children by West African immigrants living in the country. "Children from West Africa have been discovered working in fishing, shops, street selling, or domestic service. There are reports some were physically abused," the report said.
Similarly, although national and international laws bans forced labour, "reports show that these practices persist," the trade union confederation holds. There was further no indication that the government repealed a 1960 law, which allows for persons to be requisitioned for work of public interest, and if they refused they could be imprisoned.
Also union rights were very restricted in Congo Brazzaville, the report criticises. "Despite the fact that the law in Congo allows unions to strike, there are still occupations where workers are preventing from doing so. A ban on anti-union discrimination in the law does not stop it taking place," ICFTU said.
The study finally pointed out that although Congo had ratified the main international labour instruments on discrimination, and national legislation bans discrimination on grounds of gender, these instruments were not enforced in practice. "Women are underrepresented in formal employment and thus tend to lack access to employment benefits," the report said. Also the Batwa "Pygmies" were strongly discriminated against regarding employment, education and health care.
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