Labour Day address by the Hon. Gabriel Martinez Minister of Labour
It is my privilege, on this first day of May in the year 2010, to address the nation of Belize and all workers, in particular, on this Labour Day. Productive work is the means by which we attain our livelihoods and is the bedrock of our country’s existence. Without productive work we cannot speak of a labour market and there can be no labour market without those who labour. And so it is fitting that, on this Labour Day, we pause from our labours to enjoy rest and relaxation and bask in the recognition afforded to all workers - men, women and young people, for their invaluable contributions to the progress of our country.
And even as we celebrate our workforce, we are sobered by the knowledge that there still remain too many persons in our country who are unemployed and whose lives are a constant struggle for survival. We cannot but be disturbed at the recently concluded Country Poverty Assessment which reveals that our women and youth continue to be constrained from participation in the labour market: that our women make up only 39.5% of the work force and our youth up to the age of 25 years, only 19.5 %.
This state of affairs MUST engage our time and efforts. We must remain determined to reverse what have become well known but unacceptable facts under the rubric “statistics” but which, in reality, means hardship for unemployed men and women and for families. And by ‘we’ I refer to the Social Partners – Government, Employers’ Representatives and Workers’ Representatives. A strong and vibrant social partnership is a critical response mechanism for the creation of decent work and the alleviation of poverty in our society.
And for this reason, Belize’s Decent Work Country Programme, signed by the social partners exactly one year ago, in May 2009, will be pursued with all determination until its second priority, that is, the Improvement of Skills and Employability of Women and Youth, is accomplished to an acceptable level.
I am pleased to be able to say that much work is underway, through an inter-agency approach with the World Bank, to develop a Social Protection Programme and an intensive, output oriented Apprenticeship Programme. The aims of these programmes complement each other: The first seeks to fashion a strong safety net to ensure that the most economically vulnerable of our citizens do not fall through the cracks; while the Apprenticeship Programme aims to take people, particularly our women and youth, to the next level of development by giving them the tools they need to acquire a decent livelihood.
Work is also ongoing, through a multi-sectoral National Child Labour Committee, to eliminate the scourge of Child Labour from our society and to ensure a secure and productive future for our children.
Along with the many other worthy initiatives being undertaken by our Government to relieve the hardship of our people on a daily basis, we can guarantee a competitive workforce and an improvement in the way of life of our people in the short to medium term.
And so, as we celebrate this Labour Day, the last in the first decade of the 21st Century, I extend to every working man, woman and youth, my best wishes for a safe and enjoyable day.
A HAPPY LABOUR DAY 2010 TO ONE AND ALL