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.