Today, June 12th 2019, Barbados and the international community observes World Day Against Child Labour under the theme ‘Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!’

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

Research conducted by the ILO has shown that child labour has been closely associated with poverty, the lack of decent work for adults, the lack of social protection measures and a failure to ensure that all children are attending school through to the legal minimum age for employment.

Child labour has not been a problem in Barbados. Despite this, in an effort to ensure it does not become a problem, successive governments have sought to address the issue and in 2000, Barbados ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age and No. 182 Worst Forms of Child Labour. The worst forms have been identified as:

  • all forms of slavery including human trafficking and debt bondage
  • illicit activities such as prostitution, pornography and drug trafficking
  • work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children

Worldwide there has been a sustained global movement involving a multiplicity of actors that has seen significant gains being made in eradicating child labour. There is still however much work to be done. Experience and research have shown that much of the decline in child labour can be attributed to policy choices and investments in education and social protection.

Under the Education Act, Cap. 41, it is compulsory that children be in school between the ages of 5 and 16. Moreover, several opportunities are available for young persons on leaving school at age 16 or 18 to access tertiary-level education.  Investments such as these reduce the likelihood of children being involved in exploitative or hazardous employment. 

The Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations remains committed to the promotion of decent and productive work for all persons in the work-force. A key element in achieving this is the education of workers, and by extension the wider public, on issues impacting the workplace such as child labour. We cannot be complacent on this issue.

As we observe World Day Against Child Labour, we encourage all persons to join us in our commitment to protecting and ensuring the best quality of life for our future-our children.  Let us help them to work on their dreams.

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