Clarifications by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection
of Population of the Republic of Uzbekistan with regard to
allegations on “forced child labour in Uzbekistan”
Recently some biased non-governmental organizations such as Environmental Justice Foundation (United Kingdom), Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (France), International Working Group on Peace Protection (Germany) as well as some foreign mass-media, in particular, the Swedish TV and BBC, have been disseminating false and fabricated allegations about “mass use of forced child labour in the agriculture of Uzbekistan”.
Exaggeration of this false information is a part of dishonest and unfair competition in the market of cotton producers. It pursues the aim to lower the rating and price for Uzbek cotton, which today is one of the most competitive in the world, and by that to slow down the economic growth of Uzbekistan.
Aiming to counteract the untrue insinuations and fabrications concerning the use of child labour, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of Uzbekistan clarifies:
I. Regarding the legal basis of inadmissibility of forced child labour in Uzbekistan.
1. The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan prohibits any form of use of forced labour. It constitutes a legal basis for the protection of citizens from exploitation, discrimination, and compulsions (Article 37).
2. The Republic of Uzbekistan is one of the few countries of the world that joined practically all international legal acts concerning the prevention of forced labour and use of child labour, in particular:
On forced and compulsory labour (N29) (ratified in August 1997);
On the abolition of forced labour (N105) (ratified in August 1997);
On discrimination in the field of labour and employment (N111) (ratified in August 1997);
On minimum age for acceptance for employment (N138) (ratified in March 2008);
On prohibition and immediate measures for the extermination of the worst forms of child labour (N182) (ratified in March 2008).
3. According to the Law of Republic of Uzbekistan «On guarantees of rights of a child», adopted in 2007, a person younger than 18 years of age is considered to be a child. The right to employment is exercised from 16 years, and in some cases (with the consent of parents and during the time free from the study) – from 14 years. At the same time, the state guarantees the labour right for persons younger than 18 years by providing necessary conditions for overlapping the work with compulsory education (Art.20 of the Law).
These provisions are reflected also in the Labour Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Article 7) and are fully in accordance with the international legal acts on the protection of children’s rights, in particular, the “UN Convention on the rights of children” (1989).
4. State institutions of labour inspections operate in Uzbekistan as envisaged in the ILO Labour inspection Convention №81, including, the State Legal Inspection of Labour and the State Inspection of Labour Protection under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. The functions and duties of these inspections include the prevention of illegal use of child labour.
Thus, the reliable legislative basis of protecting the rights of children in the field of labour is created in Uzbekistan.
II. Concerning the use of child labour in agricultural work, including cotton collection.
1. As a result of fundamental reform of agriculture in Uzbekistan the large agricultural manufacturers were abolished by their transformation into small private family farms (in 2005-2007 practically entire cotton crop was produced by farms), a form of labour which is based on the participation of farmer’s family members.
2. It is necessary to consider the participation of children under 18 in the work of farms which are family enterprises as a labour in the family enterprise outside the school hours, i.e. an activity to help family members. In particular, according to the ILO Convention on the age for admission of children to employment in agriculture №10 and also the Convention on the age for admission of children to non-industrial employment №60, the minimum age of employment in non-industrial enterprises (including agricultural) of the entrepreneur’s family members is not limited by the minimum age frameworks.
The practice of involving the children into the economical activity of family enterprises, first of all, of agricultural orientation, exists almost in all countries. For example, in the USA about 7% of all employed persons in farms are individuals between the age of 14 and 17.
3. The generally recognized family values and traditions of Uzbek society assume and predetermine participation of elder children in creating the family well-being. The society supports and welcomes in every possible way the labour education of children by involving them to render adequate help to elders. This feature of the mentality of people of Uzbekistan is an important factor in the social and economical development of the country and the formation of civil society.
4. The serious participants of the world cotton market demonstrate direct non-acceptance of unreasonable charges on “mass use of child labour in the cotton industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan”.
Mr. T.Townsend, the Executive Director of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), made a statement, in which he particularly noted that «The majority of representatives of the cotton business, including myself, ignore such accusations because they are at most exaggerated or absurd…». «I assume that the cotton industry of Uzbekistan can be proud of its contribution to enhancing the lives and well-being of the people». This statement has been conveyed on behalf of the ICAC to the world’s largest cotton associations and stock exchanges.
A similar position is held by the International Cotton Association, the Bremen Cotton Stock Exchange, the Agency «Cotton Outlook» and other authoritative participants of the cotton business.
Thus, at present in Uzbekistan, there are no economic and social preconditions for the mass forced use of child labour in agricultural work, including in cotton collection.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN
Everyone shall have the right to work, including the right to choose their occupation. Every citizen shall be entitled to fair conditions of labour and protection against unemployment in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law.
Any forced labour shall be prohibited, except as punishment under the sentence of a court, or in some other instances specified by law.
THE LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN ON
THE GUARANTEES OF THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN
Article 20. Guarantees of the Right of Child to Labour
Every child has the right for labour, free choice of the type of activity and profession, fair labour conditions in accordance with his age, the state of health and professional training in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law.
The application for a job is permitted upon the age of sixteen.
The persons, who reached the age of fifteen, can be accepted for a job by the written consent of either of parents or persons, who substitute the parents.
To prepare the children for a work it is permitted to accept for a job the pupils of secondary schools, academic lyceums, and professional colleges to carry out an easy job, which does not harm their health and growth, does not infringe the educational process, free from school hours – upon reaching the age of fourteen by the written consent of either of parents or persons, who substitute the parents.
The State guarantees the rights of the child to labour by providing for working persons under the age of 18 the necessary conditions for combining labour with education and other measures envisaged by the legislation.
LABOUR CODE OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN
Article 7. Prohibition of forced labour
The forced labour i.e. enforcement to work under the threat of any punishment (including as a means to ensure labour discipline) is prohibited.
The work is not considered as forced labour if it is executed:
– on the basis of legal acts on military or alternative services;
– in the state of emergency;
– upon entering the court verdict into force;
– in other cases envisaged by the legislation.