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Jul 18, 2022

GOB Launches National Child Labour Policy and Strategy 2022-2025

Approximately five thousand children are engaged in some form of work that presents a real danger to their physical, mental, and moral well-being, according to studies done in 2013. The Government of Belize is now moving towards strategically addressing the scourge of child labor across the country. Today’s launch of the National Child Labour Policy and Strategy 2022-2025 paves the way for such an approach.  The policy document seeks to bridge key legislative gaps over the next three years, and increase penalties, while providing children with the necessary educational and financial support required.  News Five’s Paul Lopez was at the launch ceremony in Belize City. He filed the following report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The Ministry of Labour in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO) today launched its National Child Labour Policy and Strategy 2022-2025. Within the pages of the document are key data on the child Labor situation in Belize based on surveys conducted over the last two decades. Minister of Labour, Oscar Requeña, was the keynote speaker at today’s launch.


Oscar Requeña

Oscar Requeña, Minister of Labour

“The policy speaks to what is considered safe work for children, because let’s be real, our children need to be taught to value work, they need to be taught to value the ethics of work, because it is important. The only we are going to build a nation is to build strong healthy children who also have a good work ethic, but for children the policy distinguishes what is light work, safe work, that children can do.”


In Belize, children above the age of fourteen can be legally employed, but they must only engage in light work. This is defined as work that is not likely to be hazardous to their health or development, and work that does not prevent their attendance at school. The International Labor Organization defines hazardous child labor as work which is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children.  In 2013 ILO found that approximately five thousand children between the ages of five to seventeen years old,in Belize, were engaged in some form of labor. Of that number, close to four thousand were engaged in hazardous labor. UNICEF Belize has played a key role in the development of this policy.

Enkhnasan Nasan-Ulzii

Enkhnasan Nasan-Ulzii, Programme Coordinator/Deputy, UNICEF Belize

“The consequences of child labor on children are devastating with lifetime effects. It compromises children’s education and limits their future opportunities, depending cycles of poverty. Child labor violates the rights of every child to be a child and to grow up free from exploitation, abuse and violence.”


Concerning ethnic groups, in 2015 ILO estimated that the Mennonite community has the highest child labour rate, followed by children who were of Mayan decent and Hispanic decent.  ILO’ s 2013 Child Activity Survey found that boys who were subjected to hazardous laborin Belize worked as divers or fishermen, gas pump attendants, farmers or farm helpers, carpenters, construction workers, and operators of heavy equipment, to name a few. Girls who were subjected to dangerous work were occupied as kitchen helpers, poultry slaughterers, and farm laborers, the study found. And, according to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams catching the perpetrators of these crimes comes with its challenges.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“It is extremely difficult because of the situation that normally surrounds these incidents. People have found ways to make it seem as if it not child labor, when infact it is child labor. If you put lipstick on a pig dah still a pig. That is why I am so grateful for the policy, because the policy will now guide investigators, guide the different agencies so that we know what to look for and whatever situation may confront us.”


So what are the issues potentially impacting incidents of child labor in Belize? Consultations with stakeholders in developing Belize’s Child Labor Policy has brought to the fore, among other  issues, gaps in legislation, barriers to accessing education, undocumented migration, and elements specific to the Mayan and Mennonite communities, as the drivers behind this growing atrocity.


Oscar Requeña

“We do have certain industries that require migrant labor and a lot of times we have migrants who come bring their children and because of their situation in their country they take every opportunity to ensure that they can earn as much as they can, sometimes to the detriment of their children and that matter have to be addressed.”

The overall goal of the Belize National Child Labour Policy and Strategy is to reduce the incidence of child labor in Belize by addressing information and legislative gaps, increasing compliance with labor laws, by reducing existing barriers to school attendance, and by providing adequate support and economic resilience for children and their families.


Oscar Requeña

“We have a duty by virtue of our commitment to international conventions that protects the rights of children, to ensure that our children are safe, they go to school, are afforded good health opportunities and they are not deprived of their opportunity to be children.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez


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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