Child labour highlighted in new report

Children working in Indonesia’s tobacco fields are being exposed to acute nicotine poisoning and serious safety hazards as child labour continues unabated according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The world’s fifth-largest tobacco producer, Indonesia has more than 500,000 tobacco fields supplying the national and international tobacco markets.

While international and domestic laws prohibit minors from performing hazardous work, thousands of children continue to work in tobacco fields says Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 130 children about working conditions on small-scale farms across the country.

Indonesia’s national labour laws prohibit children under the age of 15 from working and children under 18 from performing hazardous work, including work where they might be exposed to harmful chemicals.

Despite this, Human Rights Watch says that its researchers found children as young as eight being routinely exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, extreme heat and other dangers as a result of their work cultivating and harvesting tobacco leaves.

Children interviewed for the report in four of Indonesia’s tobacco growing regions complained of vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness – side-effects that the group says are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.