The Ministry of Labor in collaboration with the US Department of Labor, has been working to curb the incidents of child labor under the CLEAR II project. Today, there was a ceremony to mark World Day Against Child Labor and to look at the achievements under the CLEAR II project, which is coming to an end. Anne Marie Thompson, the Labor Commissioner, said that research has shown that child labor is most prevalent in the north of the country.
Anne Marie Thompson – Labour Commissioner: “Through strengthening institutional capacity, through rehabilitation programs and legislative reforms the ministry has been able to work with different stakeholders to address the issues. You may recall that in 2000 one of the most important conventions ILO Convention 182 was ratified. The aim of this convention is to prevent the worst forms of child labor. Child labor is everyone’s business, it is multi-faceted, it is complex. I don’t think anyone in this room can say I fully understand because it keeps moving, it keeps changing but our commitment should never change. There is a common term, it is probably overused, zero tolerant. I think that is the stage that we want to get, to be zero tolerant when it comes to child labor.”
Leidi Urbina, the Country Coordinator for the CLEAR II Project says that under the project, legislation which relates to child labor has been reviewed and amendments were recommended to the labor advisory board.
Leidi Urbina – Coordinator for the CLEAR II Project: “When we looked at the revision of these existing pieces of legislation we try to align a lot of these pieces with several international obligations and commitments that Belize has ratified. A couple of these are the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age for employment, also the ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor and so a couple of the recommendations or some of the key recommendations that have been submitted includes looking at the age of a child under the Labor Act. Presently the age of a child is fourteen, minimum age for full time employment as it is fourteen so the recommendation submitted by the LRC is to increase it to sixteen and so that also has to be aligned with the compulsory age of education so it was also proposed to increase the compulsory age of education to sixteen.”
Johnelle Mckenzie: “Now that the project is coming to an end do you feel that it has put a dent in the fight against child labor and two is there a road map to guide the government moving forward?”
Leidi Urbina – Coordinator for the CLEAR II Project: “Definitely it has put a dent and the first dent that it has put is raising awareness on the issue. Child labor has never been an issue that you hear much about but I think that under the Clear 2 Project and several outreach programs that we have done, you know just talking to different stakeholder groups it has raised awareness on the issue, it has raised the awareness on the importance of the issue and what each stakeholder group can do in the fight against child labor. We keep emphasizing that it’s a joint effort, it must be collaborative, each stakeholder must play a role in doing what they can to prevent and ultimately eliminate child labor. As it relates to the roadmap we have the commitment of the Government of Belize and we are working closely with the Labor Advisory Board. That is the body that advises the Minister on any legal changes.”
Urbina added with the implementation of the amendments to the legislation inspection agents will have a better understanding of what is child labor and as such will be better able to identify child labor in order to eliminate it.