Jamaica is proud to once again join the global community in observing World Day Against Child Labour as we take a concerted stand against the unacceptable abuse of the rights of our children and barrier to their proper development.
Child labour is not about children doing light chores assisting around the home, helping one’s parents or learning some valuable skill from watching or engaging in safe activities for a limited time. That is all well and good and can indeed help their responsible development. Child labour is work that is harmful to a child’s development. It is about engaging children in hazardous and unhealthy work, often of an exploitative nature and which interferes with and denies them the opportunity for an education.
(Related Story: Jamaica Marks World Day Against Child Labour)
Under the theme ‘human rights and social justice…let’s end child labour’, this is an appropriate time to focus national attention on our responsibility to nurture our children and protect them not only from the abuse of child labour but all forms of violations of their fundamental rights.
As a signatory to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Conventions that seek to eliminate child labour, Jamaica supports the view that whatever their circumstance, wholesome childhood experiences must not be burdened with hazardous, unhealthy engagement in work that denies children the opportunity of an education.
With an estimated 16,000 cases of child labour in Jamaica compared with the global estimates of 215 million, there is a sense in which it could be argued that the plight of Jamaica’s children is not as severe a problem as in other parts of the world. But, in the words of Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, we believe that “a child in danger is a child that cannot wait."
My Administration supports the view that when children enter the labour market prematurely and are deprived an education and training, we are exposing them to situations which will affect their childhood thus creating little or no possibility of them in later years to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Children must enjoy their childhood; they must be nurtured and protected; they belong in school NOT at work.
Jamaica, through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and its various agencies will continue to address the issues affecting children through the National Plan of Action on Child Labour. We will also be increasing public education to parents and employers. Our education policy stipulates that children should remain in school until age 17 and parents, guardians and employers should not abuse our children by engaging them in work below this age.
On this World Day Against Child Labour, let us take a stand against this abuse of our children and all the children of the world. Let us all play our part to make Jamaica child labour free and a place where every child has a chance to go to school and be educated, so that they can achieve their full potential in decent work, when they come of age.
Contact: Communications Unit-OPM