Consultations held in Linden on crafting National Child Labour Policy
– Agriculture Sector has most children labouring illegally followed by the industrial sector and hospitality services
– most vulnerable are indigenous children residing in the hinterland regions
DPI, Guyana, Thursday, May 24, 2018
The Ministry of Social Protection, Department of Labour hosted its third country wide stakeholder consultation in Linden, Region Ten, on Wednesday to garner their inputs on the development of a National Child Labour Policy (NCLP).
Approximately thirty stakeholders representing the corporate community, NGO’s, public service, religious bodies and local governance, participated in the discussion which shed much-needed light on local child labour and the strides taken by the Ministry to eradicate same.
Child labour includes any child under the age of 18 taking part in the worst forms of labour and children under 12 participating in economic activities that can affect their health and wellbeing. These are detrimental to their attendance at school or vocational training.
Assistant Chief Labour Officer, Karen Corbin said that it is the Ministry’s aim to eradicate child labour in Guyana, by 2015. Corbin indicated that despite a plethora of strides made by legislation to ratify the ILO Convention Act, over 18 percent of children are involved in child labour. The Government has also amended and updated archaic 1999 laws involving child labour, she added, but there are still noticeable gaps that urgently need to be addressed. Corbin noted there has also been collaboration with national and international organisations such as UNICEF to further tackle the issue.
For this reason, an NCLP is needed and the involvement of stakeholders is pertinent to an effective crafting. “We at the Ministry of Social Protection are on the road to ensuring that all stakeholders are involved, hence your invitation here this morning,” Corbin posited.
A presentation by Dr. Quincy Jones gave the participants a better understanding of the factors involved in developing a comprehensive policy to fill all loopholes. Dr. Jones highlighted the findings of a MICS study between UNICEF and the Bureau of Statistics. This study discovered that 18 percent of children ages 5-17 years are engaged in child labour in Guyana; 10 percent are involved in economic activities above the age-specific threshold; 1 percent performs household chores above the age-specific threshold and 13 percent work under hazardous conditions.
The Agriculture Sector has the most children labouring illegally followed by the industrial sector and hospitality services. The most vulnerable are indigenous children residing in the hinterland regions, who are recruited to work in mining camps. Statistics also show that neglect is the leading cause of child labour since children are forced to fend for themselves when no one else is doing so.
In this regard, Dr. Jones encouraged the stakeholders to take these facts into consideration when crafting the policy. “Though we have made significant progress towards addressing child labour, though we have a contextual understanding of child labour in Guyana, it is hoped that a national child labour policy will be able to address the gaps as it pertains to protecting children from child labour”, he urged.
Some gaps that were highlighted showed that the legislation and various Acts that have been implemented do not adequately protect our children from child labour. It was pointed out that a policy was needed to assist in defining the scope and administration of all work relating to reduction, and eventual elimination, of child labour.
The stakeholders were urged to craft a comprehensive child labour policy with all the necessary supportive mechanism including the eradication of neglect. Dr. Jones added that the various Acts which need strengthening include Combating Trafficking in Person Act, Environmental Protection Act and Protection of Children Act. The National Policy, he emphasised, must focus on the multi-layered contextual nature of child labour in Guyana in an effort to completely eradicate child labour.
By: Vanessa Braithwaite
Image by Vanessa Braithwaite.