This study is motivated by the fact that amid the Government of Indonesia’s efforts to eliminate child labour, there is very limited information regarding the condition of child labour in the country, especially in the tobacco sector. Against this background, this study investigates the condition and root causes of child labour in two of the largest tobacco producing kabupaten (district) in Indonesia—Jember and Lombok Timur. This study collected information from children, parents, and related stakeholders in relation to activities and work in tobacco growing. It adopts a mix method of quantitative and qualitative approach through a household survey that covered 1,000 households in a total of 10 villages, as well as in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and photo elicitation interviews.
This study found a high prevalence of child labour in tobacco growing, and most child labourers are exposed to hazardous works with only a very small proportion of them using protective equipment. They are mostly still enrolled in school, although the proportion of early school leavers tends to be higher in the older age group. However, child labour in tobacco growing is a seasonal phenomenon, and it reaches the peak during the harvest season. The probability of becoming a child labourer is significantly higher among older children, children from farm labour households, and those living in dusun (a dusun is an administrative area within a village, consisting of a number of RT) with a high prevalence of child labour. Meanwhile, neither land ownership nor contract status significantly reduces the probability of children’s involvement in tobacco growing.
A deeper contextual analysis has uncovered that the high prevalence of child labour in the study villages is rooted in the local norms and customs which perceive child involvement in tobacco growing as a positive and necessary part of educating children about farming and about taking responsibility. On the other hand, the existing regulations also lack a detailed description about the types of works in tobacco growing that are considered hazardous. In addition, a combination of the following factors pushed children to become child labourers: (i) the lack of awareness and knowledge of the negative impact of becoming a child labourer and exposure to hazardous works, (ii) the lack of facilities which provide children with the opportunity to engage in other activities, and (iii) the economic benefit for the household and the children themselves. Meanwhile, the excess demand for labour during tobacco harvesting season has also attracted many children to work.
The series of interviews and discussions throughout this study have identified existing resources which can be used to develop and implement a more sustainable effort to eliminate child labour in rural agriculture area, particularly in tobacco growing. Based on all the findings, we recommend measures to improve the national policy for the elimination of child labour in tobacco growing, and a pilot programme that can be initiated in Lombok Timur and Jember.
Keywords: child labour, tobacco growing, Jember, Lombok Timur.