Children in Plantations

The Forest Trust (TFT) wishes to correct inaccurate news coverage

The Forest Trust (TFT) wishes to correct inaccurate news coverage reported through Bernama entitled, “Child Labour in Sabah: Children Only Accompanying Elders at Work” – stating that “… the Labour Department, Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) in collaboration with TFT in several districts in Sabah found that children and youths were only accompanying their elders who worked as farm labourers.” We wish to inform that TFT has not conducted any field assessment and/or verification visits with any Labour Department offices in Sabah.


 Additionally, the statement quoted as “… children and young persons are only seen to be helping their parents at work, and not viewed as child labourers” – does not accurately reflect TFT’s understanding and position on this matter.


TFT wishes to clarify that child labour is not solely defined by compulsion of children to work. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), child labour refers to work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development; work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling (ILO Minimum Age Convention C138). 


When companies and smallholder farmers are sourcing children and young persons as seasonal and irregular workers, coupled with the absence of policy commitment and procedures to prohibit child labour on site, we are of the view that these practices would contribute in the actual incidence of child labour.


For the record, TFT has been undertaking field assessments in collaboration with our Members in the plantation sector in Sabah since 2013. In September 2017, TFT held a Consultation on Children in Plantations in Sabah where company representatives shared their concerns and challenges relating to children living in or near plantations. The findings of the report are available here.


TFT acknowledges the complexity of the issues of child labour, stateless and undocumented children, family work and the work of young persons in many countries around the world, including in Malaysia. Hence, we encourage relevant authorities to address this matter seriously. Moreover, it is imperative that there are clear policy and legal guidelines for businesses and the community to know what child labour is, so as to avoid it. This includes having a list of hazardous work that no child or young workers under 18 can engage in. 


TFT is a non-profit membership based organisation that works with companies for the benefit of people and nature. TFT believes that long-lasting solutions can only come about with the collaboration of government, civil society and businesses.