CHILD labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking in the Pacific could grow to epidemic proportions if not addressed effectively and immediately.
This is the view of David Lamotte, the director at the International Labour Organisation's Office of the South Pacific.
He said there was no common solution to child-related issues for all Pacific Island countries and that there was a need to address the issue with urgency in a cohesive and integrated manner by all agencies and stakeholders involved.
"Given the economic climate in the Pacific and shrinking labour markets — especially employment opportunities for young people — it is possible that without seriously addressing issues of poverty, education and decent work, more and more children will fall into the worst forms of child labour becoming what the ILO has termed, a scarred generation," he said.
"This generation of workers will face a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world."
Mr Lamotte said there was no one-size-fits-all solution to the child labour problem in each Pacific Island country including Fiji.
However, International Labour Standards provided a base platform to formulate effective strategies and policies to address child labour, exploitation and trafficking.
"To be effective, the eradication of child labour has to come from public policies that empower parents and children to choose an education over employment. Expanding the real choices available to parents gives them other alternatives, so they are not forced to withdraw their children from school and send them to work," he explained.
Speaking to stakeholders attending a three day National Child Labour Forum in Cuvu, Sigatoka, Mr Lamotte urged government,community and employer representatives to continue a developmental partnership with the ILO and the European Union and work towards identifying, monitoring and eradicating child labour, exploitation and trafficking in the Pacific.