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Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles, has emphasised that the Government is resolute and committed about reducing child labour, and has warned persons of the consequences of employing children.
Speaking at the launch and agreement signing of the Ministry of Labour’s US$1 million child labour project, TACKLE, today (February 5), at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston, the Minister said he is concerned about children who work fulltime.
“We at the Ministry of Labour are concerned about underaged children who are sent out by their parents to work fulltime.those who are advised that they are now 12 years old and they should go and work. It must stop now,” he asserted.
In addition, the Minister said that educating the population about child labour is critical, but if there is no compliance, the law will take its course.
“We prefer to use education to invite parents and employers to do the right things… to expose to you the danger to our children. But we have to advise you that sanctions are available to parents and employers who assault our children by employing them and denying them the right of development in our educational institutions,” Mr. Charles said.
He further noted that while the Government is aware that poverty is one of the causes, it has put things in place to mitigate the effects of poverty.
“We are aware that poverty in the home is a great cause. However, the Government has made it possible for children to go to school free from tuition and those who can’t, can get assistance from the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), up to the age of 18,” he outlined, adding that education is the most powerful tool and should be a priority at all times.
The Minister explained that the Government is in full support of the Child Care and Protection Act, and as such, would be working assiduously to ensure that it works.
“This Government will do everything to see that it [the Child Care and Protection Act] is imposed at all levels. We will support it, fund it and put all the necessary programmes in place, to ensure that our children will not be abused and turned into criminals,” he assured.
The Child Care and Protection Act, Section 33 states that: “No person shall employ a child under the age of 13 years in the performance of any work.”
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), some 218 million children below the age of 18 are involved in child labour, the majority of them being out of school. Jamaica accounts for approximately 16,000; 7,000 of whom are said to be in the worst form of labour.
Jamaica is one of 11 countries across Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean, participating in this new project initiative, aimed at tackling child labour through education. Some key objectives of the TACKLE project are: the reduction of poverty by providing access to basic education and skills training; and strengthening the capacity of local authorities to implement and enforce measures to tackle child labour.
TACKLE is being implemented under the auspices of the ILO, with financial support from the European Commission, and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, including Jamaica. The project will last for three years.

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