The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is encouraging renewed urgency in tackling the worst forms of child labour, as it observes World Day Against Child Labour on Saturday, June 12.
Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday (June 10) at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Kingston, National Project Officer for the ILO’s TACKLE Project, Nasolo Thompson, explained that the organisation wants child labour to be a part of any poverty reduction, education and social protection strategy in any country.
“We would like to build political commitment to tackling child labour, with social partners and civil society playing a leading role in the advocacy efforts,” Mrs. Thompson said.
“The reality of the situation is that Non Governmental Organisations are our hands, feet, mouths and ears on the ground. We need to support them and we need to provide them with the necessary resources,” she added.
Based on Jamaican laws, it is illegal for children under 15 years old to be engaged in any form of work, but a youth activity survey conducted in 2002 by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) estimated that there were 8,600 child labourers under age 15. The research indicated that youth (under age 18) involved in economic activity accounted for 3.8 per cent of the 10-17 age group population.
Director, Elimination of Child Labour Programme, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Marva Ximinnies, holds a poster displaying the theme, ‘Go for the Goal, End Child Labour’ for the International Labour Organisation’s World Day Against Child Labour which will be observed on Saturday, June 12, at a press briefing Thursday (June 10) at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The survey also revealed that the main child labourers were: street children (including market vendors, mainly in urban areas); commercial agricultural labourers; domestic helpers; and urban formal sector workers. The larger metropolitan areas of Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay were the epicentres of commerce as well as urban child labour. Jamaica’s child labourers are predominantly male, aged 15-17 years.
“We know that boys are particularly at risk for a wide variety of stressors. So it is instructive for us that they are dropping out of school earlier and are getting into work earlier than girls are,” she noted.
The main reasons for child labour include urban and rural poverty, neglect and domestic abuse, state of education and child care facilities and peer pressure. As part of steps to tackle the problem in Jamaica, the ILO’s TACKLE project, sponsored by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Government of Jamaica will be putting on a mentorship summer camp in July.
“It’s targeting approximately 300 inner city children in Kingston and St. Andrew, Spanish Town and Montego Bay, and we are basically aiming to utilise the medium of sports to impart child labour messages to change behaviour and reduce incidences of child labour in affected communities,” Mrs. Thompson said.
The TACKLE Project aims to provide access to basic education and skills training for disadvantaged children and youth, and to strengthen the capacity of national and local authorities to formulate, implement and enforce policies to tackle child labour.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will also begin airing public service announcements to raise awareness on child labour and change attitudes toward the problem.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Errol Miller, noted that every effort should be made to eliminate child labour from Jamaica.
“I think that we have to ensure that we make even more strenuous efforts to ensure that the situation that faces us is eliminated,” Mr. Miller said.
World Day Against Child Labour will be celebrated under the theme ‘Go for the goal- end child labour’, using sports to support child labour elimination projects, including a new initiative, the ‘Red Card Against Child Labour’, using a resource kit produced in collaboration with FIFA.