Children forced to work in factories

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2005, 12:00am


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Children as young as 13 years old were sent to work in sweatshop factories in Dongguan , Guangdong under 'summer job' schemes backed by their parents and their schools, according to a report by China Central Television.

The report - broadcast by the popular Economic Half-Hour programme on Thursday - said teenagers in Hunan , Guangxi and northern Guangdong were bussed into Dongguan and worked for as long as 10 hours a day as 'summer job apprentices' in return for 450-600 yuan a month.

The 'apprenticeships' appeared to be technically legal because the parents signed waivers saying they would not ask for compensation if their children were injured in the workplace.

According to the CCTV report, teachers brokering the apprenticeships were paid as much as 1,000 yuan each.

It said most of the factories produced toys and had children toiling in un-air-conditioned sweatshops in the stifling summer heat alongside adult workers.

'I worked from six o'clock in the morning until midnight,' one schoolboy was quoted as saying.

Together with about a dozen other classmates, the boy was fired by the factory boss for taking an unauthorised break from work.

The boy, identified by his family name Li, said the group wanted to return home and decided to seek help from local labour authorities.

However, most students have chosen to stay quiet and complete their two-month apprenticeships. Fearing they would lose their jobs, a few even lied about their ages to CCTV reporters.

One 13-year-old boy told them he was 19 years old.

'My family is very poor,' a girl from Hunan said, 'and I had to earn 1,000 yuan to pay for my tuition next school term.'

Teachers and factory bosses interviewed for the programme claimed that they were merely helping the children financially by arranging the apprenticeships.

Under mainland labour law, employers are not allowed to hire child workers who are below the age of 16.

Dongguan labour officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.