WHAT IS CHILD LABOUR?
Child labour generally refers to any activities that harm the physical and mental wellbeing of the child and which impedes on the child's education and development. Therefore, a child braiding hair on weekends to earn extra money would not be necessarily child labour. However, if this child braids hair instead of attending school, then this activity is child labour.
The ILO Convention No. 182 further defines the worst forms of child labour as:-
- All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom, forced or compulsory labour or the forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflicts;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
- the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
- work which, by its nature or its circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
Child labour is a social plague that can erode the moral and cultural foundation of any society. It is exploitative in nature and can have detrimental effects on a child's educational and psychological development. When a child participates in the worst forms of child labour, his/her self esteem and self confidence is damaged and the child remains vulnerable to further exploitation, even in their adulthood.
Furthermore, a child’s involvement in hazardous or sexual activities puts his/her health at increased risk. The spread of HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, mental disorders and disabilities are just a few of the health problems that can affect the children who are exploited through the worst forms of child labour.
The effects of child labour can also escalate into a continuous cycle of social problems as the children who were involved in child labour and who were deprived of a complete education would most likely participate in illicit activities. This in turn could lead to increased incidences of juvenile delinquency. Furthermore, as adults, these children are more likely to participate in criminal activities, which could lead to incarceration.
DEFINITION OF A CHILD
In relation to child labour, the international definition for a child is a person under 18 years old. However, in Barbados, child labour is labour performed by a child under 16 years because schooling is compulsory for children ages 5-16.
CHILD LABOUR IN BARBADOS
For Barbados, there was little quantitative information available that provides a measure of the number of children involved in child labour. In 2002, the Caribbean Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) embarked on a project entitled “Identification, Elimination and Prevention of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in the Anglophone and Dutch-speaking Caribbean”.
Barbados was one of the countries selected for participation in the project which officially came to an end in 2006. Other participating countries were Jamaica, The Bahamas, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize and Suriname.
An important aspect of the project was research which sought to ascertain if the Worst Forms of Child Labour existed in any of these territories. The aim of the project was to contribute to the elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by undertaking policy oriented research and awareness raising activities.
A rapid assessment was carried out by Dr. Leith Dunn, Research Coordinator, to provide a quick overview of child labour issues and identify areas for further research and action. From this research, it became apparent that there is child labour in Barbados, even in the worst forms. According to the report, which was primarily based on findings from focus groups and interviews with representatives from a number of social agencies, law enforcement and even the children themselves, there are children in Barbados involved in:
- pornography and prostitution,
- illicit activities such as drug trafficking and
- hazardous activities
For example, there were incidences where children would either stay away from school to work (such as a 13 year old boy who would assist in mixing concrete for housing construction) or where children would attend school regularly but would work part-time in jobs which would sometimes have the children working into late hours of the night. Such activities would deprive them of the time needed for homework, leisure and rest and would therefore interfere with their education and general development.
The extent of this phenomenon has not been determined. Although the Barbados report found that some children were involved in economic activities generally such activities were legitimate and generally occurred as part-time or weekend work. Generally, Barbadians adhere to the law, with children between the ages of 5 and 16 attending school as required by the Education Act Cap. 41. It cannot be said therefore that legitimate economic activity carried out by children interferes with their educational development.
THE CHILD LABOUR COMMITTEE
The Ministry of Labour intends to make every effort to eliminate all child labour activities in Barbados. Therefore, the Ministry of Labour has been actively working to eliminate child labour in Barbados through a broad based working committee since February 2004. This committee pools together the resources and expertise of social agencies, law enforcement, non-governmental organizations and other relevant agencies to tackle the issue of child labour in the country.
The Membership of the Committee is as follows:
- Ministry of Labour
- Labour Department
- Ministry of Social Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development
- Child Care Board
- Probation Department
- Welfare Department
- Ministry of Health
- National HIV/AIDS Commission
- Royal Barbados Police Force
- Department of Social Work
- Ministry of Family, Youth Affairs and Sports (Division of Youth Affairs)
- Barbados Statistical Service
- Government Industrial School
- United Nations Children’s Fund
- Barbados Evangelical Association
- Barbados Christian Council
- Parent Education and Development in Barbados (PAREDOS)
- Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados
- Barbados Employers’ Confederation
Terms of Reference
- To foster an understanding of the worst forms of child labour among interest groups;
- To educate the public about the worst forms of child labour;
- To monitor incidents of the worst forms of child labour;
- To make recommendations to relevant agencies on measures to combat the worst forms of child labour;
- To facilitate the enactment/amendment of legislation which addresses the worst forms of child labour.
Child Labour Sub-Committees
The Child Labour Working Committee has proven to be a very important vehicle in strengthening inter-agency co-operation. Sub-committees were formed and are undertaking work in a number of areas. The following is highlighted:
The Harmonization of Legislation
The Ministry of Labour, with funding from UNICEF, commissioned a legislative review which was conducted by Mr. Jeff Cumberbatch, a Consultant on Labour Law and Lecturer at the University of West Indies. The objectives of the study were;
- to examine carefully all Barbadian legislation which has a bearing on child labour;
- to identify anomalies and discrepancies in the legislation as they relate to child labour; and
- to recommend amendments to the legislation in order to harmonize the provisions of the relevant statutes as they relate to child labour.
The Consultant identified some statutes for amendment in keeping with the terms of reference of the review. The Ministry of Labour has met with the Ministries that have responsibility for implementing the provisions of the various statutes identified for amendment. Participants attending that meeting were sensitized about issues concerning child labour and were requested to undertake the proposed amendments. Some ministries cannot act immediately because they are contemplating major amendments to the legislation in question.
Development of a Questionnaire on Child Economic Activities
Members of the Child Labour Committee came to the conclusion at an early stage that a common approach needed to be developed in seeking to obtain information on the worst forms of child labour. Accordingly, the Committee developed a survey instrument to address this need. The document will be administered in all social agencies and in schools on a case by case basis.
The instrument was piloted in the school system and appropriate amendments were made to the document based on the results of the pilot.
The document was finalized and the Cabinet agreed that the instrument should be used as a tool for obtaining information on the incidence of child labour in Barbados. The Ministry met with all agencies that would use the questionnaire in order to ensure a common methodology in its administration.
Educational Programme for Child Labour
The greatest challenge in combating child labour in Barbados is that many persons do not believe that it exists and most persons do not really understand what child labour is. Therefore, a sub-committee was established to develop and implement an educational programme for selected interest groups and involved a series of workshops which targeted:
- Guidance Counsellors
- Law Enforcement Officers
- Community Groups
Mass Media Programme
The Ministry of Labour has developed a Mass Media Programme on Child Labour which aims to:
- Sensitize the public to what constitutes child labour and the worst forms of child labour;
- Help the public understand that child labour whether in its worst forms or otherwise is a violation of children’s rights.
This promotion campaign was officially launched on June 12th, 2008, which is officially commemorated by the ILO as World Day against Child Labour. The Ministry will utilize all available media and will spread the message through jingles, television promotions, brochures and posters. It is hoped that if the public understands what is child labour and the need to protect our children’s rights, then any incidence of child labour can be reported and addressed, thereby combating child labour, even in its worst forms.
Child Labour FAQs