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.