Child Labour campaign launched
- Mandatory listing of employees’ ages imminent
Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Mohamed Akeel has said that the Ministry of Labour plans to make it mandatory for employers to register the ages of persons in their employ.
He emphasised that this is to prevent the possibility of children being drafted into the workforce of employers who claim to be oblivious to their ages.
Akeel was speaking at the World Day Against Child Labour launch of a campaign to eradicate commercial child exploitation. The venue was the Hotel Tower in Georgetown.
“The Ministry will make it compulsory for employees to register the date of birth to verify the ages of employees. Most of these employers claim that they were not aware of the age of the person,” Akeel stated.
He mentioned that the labour laws allow youths from the ages of 15 to work but not to the detriment of their education.
“The ILO says children should not do any type of work. They can work but the work must not endanger their health, safety, wellbeing or moral development,” the Labour Officer said.
He pointed out that the Education Ministry will ensure that children are in school while the Labour Ministry ensures that no child is on the worksite.
“They can work but it must never be at the expense of their schooling. We will intensify our efforts to ensure these conditions are met,” Akeel assured.
The Labour Officer lamented that over 450 million children worldwide make up the workforce.
He stressed that many are recruited as child soldiers in the sweatshops of Asia and the coalmines of Africa.
“Those employees who feel they are doing the family a favour by providing economic support, they are harming that child and should find some other way to help,” Akeel remarked.
The CLO said child labour is an age-old phenomenon but has now attracted attention because of its physical and psychological harm.
In 1973, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Minimum Age for Employment Convention Article 138 which states that 15 years and under is the age of compulsory schooling.
This, Akeel said, did not come into force until 1976 when it was ratified by only eight countries.
By the 1990s, the world began to change economically with the advent of Free Trade and the World Trade Organisation, Akeel related.
He said that industrial developed countries became threatened by the growing incidence of child labour.
“Industrialised developed countries felt threatened because of the large scale production of cheaper goods in countries that encourage child labour.”
In 1999, the ILO adopted another convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour Article 182 which was enforced within a year. Akeel noted that by 2001, that convention was ratified by 113 countries.
He explained that there is international haste to eradicate child labour since it provides a huge quantity of commodities at much cheaper prices.
Akeel issued a reminder to parents that they can be disciplined under the Education Offences Act for forcing children into the workforce.
Permanent Secretary within the Labour Ministry, Trevor Thomas said that local child labour interventions are nothing new and there is an increased focus on all related issues.
“We are giving greater focus to make everyone aware that it is against the law and is harmful to our children…The future of every child is at risk and we are moving to stamp out all forms of child labour,” Thomas stated.
Citing an EDUCARE report, Thomas disclosed that Guyana does not have a high incidence of commercial child exploitation or children involved in the illicit drug trade.
“The Ministry has dedicated its energies to ensuring the industrial climate is free from unrest and conducive but we need to do much more,” Thomas remarked.
He stated that children’s development must not be hampered and they must be given an opportunity to realise their full potential.
“For any child labour intervention to be effective it must be cross-sectoral since the challenge of keeping children in school must be targeted from the perspective of the Education Ministry,” Thomas stated.