Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the Government is committed to the elimination of all forms of child labour in Jamaica.
He informed that this objective is anchored on the recognition that the eradication of abuse against children is directly linked to the development of a safe society for all citizens.
“Our determination in this goal is unshakable and we will remain engaged with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the European Union, and other international and local partners in this endeavour,” he assured.
The Minister was presenting the keynote address at the World Day Against Child Labour 2013 forum, held at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston, on June 12. The day was observed under the theme: ‘No to Child Labour in Domestic Work’.
Child labour, as defined by the ILO’s Minimum Age Convention of 1973, is a form of abuse, which refers to any work done by children which is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to them and interferes with their education.
Under the country’s Child Care and Protection Act, it is an offence to employ a child under 13 years old. The law, however, makes an exception for children 13 to 15 years old to be employed, but only under circumstances where they are allowed to do only light work.
Minister Kellier further pledged that children in hazardous work – one of the worst forms of child labour – which either threatens to harm the health, safety, wellbeing or morals of the children involved, will not be condoned in Jamaica “in any shape, size or form”.
He pointed out that in this vein, the Ministry has increased its capacity to introduce, implement and enforce new legislation for this purpose.
“(Our country) programmes, among other things, seek to strengthen the capacity of national and local authorities, social partners and civil society in the formulation, implementation and enforcement of policies to fight the scourge of child labour,” he said.
The Ministry, he informed, has also achieved the integration of child labour education in various relevant national plans.
Mr. Kellier also pointed to the work of the Tackling child labour through education (TACKLE/ILO) project office, which he said, continues to work to increase the ability of a range of social partners to play an integral role in policy dialogue and practice in their own organisations.
He said all Jamaicans also have a role to play in the fight against of child labour, noting that many culturally accepted practices and perceptions must be overcome in order to eradicate the practice.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Advisory Board, TACKLE Project, Errol Miller, informed that approximately 16,000 children are involved in some form of economic activity in Jamaica.
He noted that the figure is contained in a survey carried out by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica in 2002. The study revealed that the chief child labourers were street children, including market vendors, mainly in urban areas; commercial agricultural workers; urban formal sector workers, and domestic workers.
“The message is apt for Jamaica – we are also guilty of child labour,” he said. Mr. Miller therefore called on all Jamaicans to say a resounding “No, to child labour!”
For her part, Head of Delegation, European Union, Paola Amadei, pointed out that the closest ally of child labour in the developing world is poverty.
She noted that, as such, the EU is engaged in combating the root causes of the problem through a number of programmes, including the Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP).
Ms. Amadei also informed that as a main supporter in the rural sector, the EU hopes that by improving the conditions and prospects for rural farmers, there will be a run-on effect on improving the conditions which allow child labour to fester.
She noted that the data on child labour in Jamaica is over a decade old, and called on the Ministry of Labour to embark on research, which will provide new statistics in this area. This, she said, will assist in strengthening the government and other stakeholder efforts in fighting the problem.
The ILO estimates that children make up nearly 30 per cent of the world’s estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers.
June 12 was designed World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 by the ILO, with the objective of focusing attention on the extent of child labour globally and the efforts being made to eliminate the problem.
Contact: Athaliah Reynolds-Baker