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Oct 2, 2023

2022 Findings on Worst Forms of Child Labour in Belize

The U.S. Department of Labour has issued its 2022 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, looking at children’s work and education in countries across the world. There is a section on Belize which shows that despite efforts being made to reduce child labour in the country, children ages five to fourteen are still working in three main sectors: agriculture, industry and services. There are traditional practices in remote areas and there is also poverty that factors into children actively working. And while the laws provide that a child can work at age fourteen, it cannot affect their physical and mental health. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

“Children in Belize are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Children also engage in dangerous tasks in agriculture and construction.” That’s according to the US Department of Labour’s 2022 Report on Child Labour.


Rissela Dominguez-Patt

Rissela Dominguez-Patt, Labour Commissioner

“In terms of child labour worldwide, we have one hundred and sixty-eight million children in child labour. And so that is very important for us to note and therefore we need to ensure that in Belize, we reduce child labour. In 2003, there were statistical information in terms of child labour and it was found that child labour is prevalent in the agricultural sector. And so it did identify that Belize is prevalent to child labour.”


According to the report which uses data from 2021, one point six percent of the population or one thousand, four hundred and five children, ages five to fourteen, are working. One point two percent work and go to school. They are working in agriculture, industry and services. While the report says that children over age fourteen are permitted to work in dangerous activities like mining and construction, Labour Commissioner Rissela Dominguez-Patt says they shouldn’t be.


Rissela Dominguez-Patt

“Because of the minimum age convention, you must understand at what age a child can work and what kind of work the child can do during that age. So therefore, the convention applies for different ages but in Belize, the minimum age to work is fourteen years old. But you can only work in shop; you cannot work anywhere else and you can only do light work. Also, a child can assist a parent at home. Anything that intervenes with the child’s education would be considered child labour. The agriculture sector was the one that was most prevalent, but today, we have seen that it has reduced because of fairtrade and so they have their own agreements whereby you must ensure that there is no child labour. So they are working arduously to eliminate child labour in those sectors. But definitely we can still find child labour in the agricultural sector. This is only one scenario. We could talk about the worst forms of child labour which could be human trafficking, pornography – which are the worst forms of child labour – which we might not be able to see on a day to day, but we may know that it does exist.”


Assisting your parent is not considered child labour. But if the child is unsupervised and conducting hazardous work, then that is considered child labour. Back in March of this year, a child labour training was held to build the capacity of frontline workers in an effort to eradicate child labour.


Oscar Requeña

Oscar Requeña, Minister of Labour (File: March 16th 2023)

“Whilst on a global level we see increases in child labour, for the region, particularly for Latin America and even for us in Belize, we are seeing that there is a reduction in the forms of child labour. And I want to say that as a government we are being very proactive since taking over government. In July, we developed a very comprehensive Child Labour Policy and we are working very diligently with our labour officers across the country and other stakeholders, our frontline workers. And that is why we are having this training because we want them to fully understand what is the Child Labour Policy that we have and what is their role in ensuring that the Child Labour Policy is implemented and that we reduce all forms of child labour by 2025.”


Belize has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labour. But the report says that gaps exist in the country’s legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labour, including a lack of prohibitions related to the use of children in the production and trafficking of drugs.


Rissela Dominguez-Patt

“We have ratified different conventions. Convention 138 which is the minimum age convention and we have also ratified convention 182 which is the worst forms of child labour. And so because we are a member state and we have ratified these conventions, then we must ensure that we comply by these.”


The Ministry of Labour, the Department of Human Services and the Belize Police Department are the agencies responsible for the enforcement of child labour laws.


Rissela Dominguez-Patt

“The policy was developed with consultation with various stakeholders. And so, in terms of child labour, it is not just the Labour Department, but it is different entities that are responsible to reducing child labour by 2025. And so, the policy clearly identifies which other ministries or institutions play a role in this policy to ensure that child labour is reduced by such period.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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