The politics of Child Labour in Indonesia: Global Trends and Domestic Policy

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    In Indonesia, as in many countries, work is a way of life for a significant percentage of children. National legislation throughout this century has not sought to prohibit children's involvement in economic activity completely, an approach that has some merit. Yet successive Indonesian governments have failed entirely to introduce and implement policy initiatives capable of protecting children who do work. At the international level, a framework of norms and standards designed to end child labour has been developed throughout this century. During the past decade, international pressure and efforts to eradicate children's involvement in the labour force have intensified. Yet these efforts have also been limited in terms of the benefits to working children. This article examines the ways in which ideas, norms and standards that have their genesis in the international sphere interact with domestic discourse on child labour in Indonesia. At particular junctures, the influence of international pressure has been particularly heightened, and there is considerable potential for such pressure to shape domestic policy and legislation. Yet for the most part, working children in Indonesia have not experienced positive changes in their lives, largely because international pressure has been ill-equipped to secure their best interests. In sum, this article contends that neither international pressure nor domestic policies have brought about sustained, positive outcomes for working children in Indonesia. Indeed, such positive outcomes can only be achieved if policies, both internationally and domestically, are rethought to identify and prioritize the needs, interests and realities of working children.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)353-372
    JournalPacific Affairs
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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