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Jun 10, 2005

Labour report: Child labour common in Belize

Child Labour: it’s a subject that most of us read about or watch on television, and tend to believe is about abuses in far away places. But Belize is very much a part of this global phenomenon. In preparation for “World Day against Child Labour” on Sunday, the Labour Department has released a statistical digest that does not paint a pretty picture of the nation’s youngest citizens. The Central Statistical Office reports that five thousand boys and girls, or six percent of our children, are involved in child labour. Even worse, the report says over half of them are engaged in hazardous work. According to Labour Commissioner Paul Williams, this means that while children should be in the classroom and enjoying the joys of childhood, they are instead doing work that harms or exploits them in some way physically, mentally or morally, or by blocking their access to education. While children are employed in virtually all sectors of the Belizean economy, the Labour Department says over half of them find employment in agriculture, including the citrus and banana industries. A further analysis of the situation shows that the vast majority of child labourers are boys who live in rural areas. Mestizo children are the most affected, as forty-two percent of child labourers countrywide belong to this ethnic group. Toledo leads the way as the district with the highest percentage of child workers. While the other five districts show less than six percent, Toledo accounts for a whopping twenty-two percent of all children who work. There is no special activity or ceremony planned for the observation of ?World Day against Child Labour? in Belize, but a release from the Labour Department says a multi-sectoral committee has been established and tasked with seeking ways of addressing the growing problem of child labour in the country.

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