WASHINGTON — U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on Wednesday said the federal government will commit $60 million this year for programs aimed at curtailing exploitative child labor.
“Many challenges remain in the fight against child labor, but the department is committed to raising awareness, improving the quality of, and access to, education and building the capacity of governments and civil society organizations to address the issues of children in need,” she said.
Solis made the announcement during a roundtable discussion with representatives of U.S. companies, labor unions, employer groups nongovernmental organizations and academics as part of a week of events leading up to the 2009 World Day Against Child Labor. The annual event, set for Friday, was launched by the International Labor Organization.
The programs will be administered by the Labor Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
The Bush administration tried to put the bureau on the chopping block in its fiscal year 2008 budget, proposing a $66 million cut to $15 million. Congress later approved a budget of $91 million for that year and then gave it $86 million in fiscal year 2009. President Obama’s budget request asks for an increase of $6 million in the division’s budget to $92 million for fiscal year 2010.
The Labor Department funds 220 projects in 82 countries to combat child labor abuses. Child labor is still found in some countries that produce apparel, according to the U.S. government. Two nations, Kenya and Indonesia, have been cited as employing child labor in the apparel and footwear industries. The Labor Department said it has allocated $5 million for Kenya to help limit child labor in the garment industry, as well as tobacco and tea harvesting, and $6 million for Indonesia in sectors such as footwear, fishing and mining.