02/15/2018, 16.33
UZBEKISTAN
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Child labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields has come to an end, says UN agency

Concrete measures have also been taken against forced labour. There is greater awareness of the problem and more freedom to criticise. The authorities have boosted wages, and taken steps to protect at-risk groups. Still, reforms by central authorities are lagging in terms of local implementation.

Geneva (AsiaNews) – A new report released on Tuesday by the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that the systematic use of child labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest has come to an end, and that concrete measures to stop the use of forced labour have been taken.

Under the late President Islam Karimov, entire schools were forced to close in October to send students to pick cotton under tight controls, with scarce food and low wages.

The report, which looked at steps taken to end child labour and forced labour in cotton fields in 2017, is based on 3,000 unaccompanied and unannounced interviews with a representative sample of the country’s 2.6 cotton pickers.

The study shows that the vast majority of the interviewees engaged voluntarily in the annual harvest, and awareness about the unacceptability of both child and forced labour has increased.

It confirms earlier findings that the systematic use of child labour in the cotton harvest has ended, though continued vigilance is required to ensure that children are in school.

In September 2017, the authorities ordered the withdrawal of certain risk groups (students, education and medical personnel) from the harvest at its early stage, and increased wages to attract more voluntary pickers.

“The 2017 cotton harvest took place in the context of increased transparency and dialogue,” said Beate Andrees, head of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch.

“This,” she noted, “has encompassed all groups of civil society, including critical voices of individual activists. This is an encouraging sign for the future.”

“However, there is still a lag between the sheer amount of new decrees and reforms being issued by the central government and the capacity to absorb and implement these changes at provincial and district levels,”

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