Child Labour in Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the largest and most culturally diverse Pacific country. With an estimated population of 6.25 million in 2007, lives about 88% of the population in rural areas. The life expectancy is approximately 56 years and 76% of the total population is 34-years old or younger. Although education is seen as a road to a good future the number of children going through primary education has decreased. Consequently this lack of education implies poor employment opportunities and hence poverty. For many young people work was an indispensable condition for their survival and that of their family, and the street had sadly become their home, their place of work, and their “school of life”.

The rising costs of goods and services caused by the economic crisis negatively affected the income earning capacity and contributed to conducive to child labour. Sometimes these children worked under very harsh conditions and circumstances in order to feed their families.

Between December 2010 and January 2011 the ILO´s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) funded a survey over child labour in Port Moresby the capital of PNG. The study was concentrated on two target groups of child labour:

  • Children in commercial sexual exploitation of children
  • Children working on the street and

showed that child labour exists in Port Moresby, PNG.

Children from different sectors of the community are engaged in the worst forms of child labour including commercial sexual exploitation, namely child prostitution, illicit activities and hazardous work. Many of these working children are out of school or have never been to school.

The survey found out that most of the child sex workers lived with their families and some children had started getting involved in the trade from as young as 10 years of age. They also found incidences of child trafficking involving guardians and parents who sold their children.

Many of the working street children had never been to school what indicates that basic education in PNG was not universal. These children classified stealing as a type of work and they follow informal rules, learning from older children from the street. After passing the age criteria they would graduate to the next level or to a senior position on the street, for example to became professional pickpockets.

It is really humiliating that this is part of the normal business in PNG and without education these children won´t find a way out of this horrible situation.



6 thoughts on “Child Labour in Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby

  1. For me it is just unimaginable that so many children in the world are forced to work. In normal every-day life the awareness of the problem of child labour is very low. But they are everywhere but invisible: behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in plantations or even as domestic servants in homes. How is it possible that grownups force children to work under miserable and hazardous conditions, such as working in mines or with dangerous machinery, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture? But the “worst of the worst” is child prostitution.

    I totally agree with the article that it is not enough to stop and ban child labour because the ultimate cause, which is poverty, still exists. So it is necessary to fight against poverty and offer children a solid education in their countries. Every child in the world should have a fundamental right to education. It secures the future and many children’s life…

  2. For me it’s hard to believe that in 21th century something like that continue to happen even if we have a lot of money and posibilities, but I aware that level of poverty in third countries is critical and crutual and don’t come brighten. This situation put me realise, that for somebody one of only way how to get food and money is working in this conditions. Unbelievable, but it’s real life. It’s hard to accept that childrens have to deal with it. I agree, that way how to cope with issue is complicated, otherwise it would be already solved. But I hope that one day everything will become better.

  3. This is just a horrible situation. That children are being forced to work, in the worst kind of conditions, is unacceptable. That people are so poor that parents actually remove their children from school to work on the street or “selling” their children shows that there are no options. Something has to be done about this huge poverty. If children never get to go to school they will never have the chance of getting a job and create another kind of future for themselves. This creates a chain that will be passed on to their children. People need education to get ahead in life but therefor everybody must afford to put their children in school. Ofcourse banning child labour is good but poverty need to be fought so that this will be possible. Its not an easy task but something has to be done.

  4. It is sad to know that these children end up their childhood in such a horrible conditions. Civil societies in Papua New Guinea should come together and ignite a mass movement as was ignited by Bachpan Bachao Andolan 30 years ago in India.

  5. This horrible phenomenton has place also in other place in the world. In third world countries this situation is “normal” and goverments don’t do almost anything. Punish the small child who is starving and tries to survive is not solution. I agree with others that education will be very helpful and country should garant access to school. Only this way these children can be get out of poverty and gain their childhood.


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