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Jun 11, 2021

Talking About Child Labor: What Jobs Can Children Do, and Which Jobs Put them in Danger?

When we hear the term “child labour” many envision children in sweatshops or doing hazardous mining. Or they think that child labour laws prohibit children from doing all jobs. To clear up the misconceptions and look what is—and isn’t—considered child labour in Belize, today the Ministry of Labour observed World Day Against Child Labour. Government officials got together with students at the Center for Employment Training in San Ignacio for some special events. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was there.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

“Act Now – End Child Labour” – it’s a global call that the Ministry of Labour has joined for World Day Against Child Labour.


Oscar Requeña, Minister of Labour

Oscar Requeña

“Belize is proud to join forces with the international labour organization and all its members to put the spotlight on our children. Do you know of a child in the community who is under the age fourteen who is not in school and is involved in hazardous work, gang violence, prostitution or commercial sexual exploitation? Let us do something now, today, to stop it.”


And so to take action, the day is used to bring stakeholders together to highlight the plight of child laborers and what we can do to help them. The Center for Employment Training in San Ignacio is one technical vocational partner that plays a crucial role in eradicating child labour:


Edilto Romero

Edilto Romero, Principal, CET San Ignacio

“Approximately fifty percent of Belize’s labour force is comprised of primary school graduates or lower qualifications. So, that is supposed to really be shocking. If you stop and think about it, what does that mean? At what age does someone complete primary school? I remember leaving at the age of twelve and maybe some people at the age of thirteen. But imagine now if you are saying that they have less than a primary school qualification that means it is less than twelve years old and so if we analyze that, that is kinda scary. It could mean that some children are being exploited and taken advantage of. And that is why it is institutions like these and the concerted effort of all our government agencies that can come together and do our part. Our part will be instead of having child labour or small children employed against their will, let them come and get an education here; let them learn a trade, skills so that they are productive and with the proper certification then enter the work force.”


It is important to note that not all work done by children is classified as child labour.  The work that harms children mentally, physically, socially and morally is the kind of labour that is targeted for elimination:


Ann Marie Thompson, Labour Commissioner

Ann Marie Thompson

“That is the message we want to put there. It cannot be that children can’t work because you and I have worked but we do light work and work that is under supervision and work that is done in a safe environment because doing light work you learn new skills, you learn work ethics, you learn how to cooperate and collaborate and contribute to nation building. So, it is not that children can’t work; it is let’s protect the rights of our children and have them in schools so that they can be the best that they can while we honour our international obligations.”


Andrea Polanco

“What do we know of these worst forms of child labour in Belize?”


Ann Marie Thompson

“We do labour inspections, and we go around and travel the length and breadth. There are construction sites where you see young children on ladders; you see children in agricultural field without protective gears doing dangerous jobs; and we know of cases in the tourism sector where children are engaged in prostitution. Now, if it is one child, it is one child too many and that is something we need to do. So, even though the problem may not be as worse as it is in some countries, so even if it is one child engaged in child labour, it is one child too many.”


And that awareness begins with those who are susceptible to the hazardous forms of labour – our Belizean children. To engage them, the Ministry of Labour hosted a debate competition where the CET students if we can end child labour:


Student, CET San Ignacio

“Every child learns differently. Many times children are unable to problem solve especially in subjects like mathematics or other life related topics. Resources required to trigger an individual’s education are not provided in those classrooms.”


Student, CET San Ignacio

“Although children have many rights, in some developing countries these rights are not always protected. Older, manipulative adults are taking advantage of children to make a profit for themselves. This is known as child labour and it happens more frequently that people realize.”


Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.


World Day Against Child Labour is officially celebrated on June twelfth.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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