Efforts made to eliminate all forms of child labour

Vietnamese Law has regulations that prohibit the employment of children. Which activities are prohibited under Vietnamese Law?

Many humanitarian provisions on child protection can be traced back to the Hong Duc Penal Code under the dynasty of Emperor Le Thanh Tong on the handling of juvenile delinquents. Article 17 of the Code stated: “When a minor commits a crime and such commission is detected only when he/she has matured, such person shall be punished according to the law applicable to minors.”

The Code also contained other provisions on the protection of orphans against infringements and of girls against sexual abuse. According to Article 404 of the Code, “Those who have sexual intercourse with a girl under 12 years, even with her consent, shall be punished like rapists.”

Nowadays, Vietnam has also laid the foundation for effective and sustainable action against child labour by ratifying International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and has gone through several revisions of national child labour laws to address remaining issues. 

On 14 March 2014, Vietnam’s first National Child Labour Survey was launched in Hanoi. The survey found that 9.6 percent of children in the country are aged between five and 17. That is the equivalent of 1.75 million Vietnamese children – with two in every five of them under 15 years of age – working in situations that fit the definition of child labour.

However, Vietnam has made significant strides to eradicate child labour.

In chapter XI of Vietnam’s Labour Code dated 2012, there are separate provisions for minor employees- who are defined as employees under 18 years of age.

Employment of minors is prohibited in heavy, toxic and dangerous jobs or in workplaces or jobs which may adversely affect their personalities, as determined in a list issued by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs in coordination with the Ministry of Health.

The working time for minors aged from full 15 to 18 years must not exceed 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. The working time for employees aged under 15 years must not exceed 4 hours per day or 20 hours per week and employers may not employ minors to work overtime or at night.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Vietnam had laid the foundation for effective and sustainable action against child labour.

Vietnam was the first country in Asia and second in the world to ratify the United Nations’ International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In November 2000, the Government of Vietnam ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No.182), and in 2003 the Government ratified the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No.138).

Ratifications signalled to the international community Vietnam’s commitment and determination to urgently undertake time-bound measures for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour in the country.

In 2016, the Government launched a programme on the prevention and control of child labour from 2016 to 2020.

According to Save the Children, Vietnam has cut its child labour rate by 67 percent – from 28 percent of children aged five and 14 working in 2000 – to nine percent today. 

Vietnam’s successful work in poverty reduction has improved living conditions for many families and this has indirectly resulted in fewer children having to work. The country has invested heavily in education, ensuring high enrolment rates, with a particular emphasis on ethnic minority children and children in remote mountainous areas.

ILO estimates there are about 152 million child labourers in the world at present. Working at an early age causes serious consequences, including affecting children’s physical and mental development and preventing their access to suitable education. It also harms socio-economic development, especially the quality of future human resources.

Phuong Nguyen