Key Facts and Figures

Today at the Jaguar Auditorium of the University of Belize, Belmopan Campus, the Statistical Institute of Belize and the International Labour Organization officially launched the findings and final report of a 2013 National Child Activity Survey. Interesting findings came out of the survey.  Corozal has the highest employment rate for children, and the larger the household, the more likely children will have to find jobs, but still yet, the number of children employed has dropped significantly. Duane Moody reports.

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Labour

“I charge and challenge you with the responsibility to be cognizant and vigilant with respect to child labour and to report it and to intervene where you see it happening.”

Duane Moody, Reporting

As defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, a child is someone under the age of eighteen. Children constitute over forty-two percent of the Belizean population and just a little over fifty percent are boys. In 2013, a national child activity survey was sanctioned by the government of Belize; the previous study was done in 2001. The main focus was on the child and employment. Under the laws of Belize, a child can legally work from the age of fourteen but any child between the age of five and eleven, who works,  is involved in child labor.

Santiago Castillo

Santiago Castillo, Minister of State, Finance and Economic Development

“The study of 2013 was most timely and long overdue. The last study of this type was conducted in 2001 and the launching of this report today is an important milestone in coming to grips with the realities of being a child in our society. A cursory glance at the report confirms the scope magnitude and importance of child activity in Belize.”

According to the survey, four point seven percent; that is five thousand one hundred and eighty-eight children are employed in Belize. Corozal has the highest employment rate of nine point one percent followed by Orange Walk and Toledo. Cayo, however, has the highest number of children employed at twenty-three point six percent, followed by Corozal. While the survey did not take into consideration factors that influence the numbers, the level of poverty could not be divorced from the issue. So is child labour preventable?

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse

“We have to be careful of how we walk the thin line between working a child and developing a child; and it is an extremely thin line. And I know the experts have done all their work. I know there is a lovely book that they’ve prepared and I will read it from cover to cover; I can assure you. But here’s the intervention I want to highlight. When I took the ministry, I said to the Labour Commissioner, I did not, do not and will never believe in the employer/worker concept.  When the process started, So I said to labour commissioner and everybody else that there is this fine line, but we need to get that fine line clear because what we don’t want is to be so guarded and so careful that we think that the first time we have our child doing something in the field or in the home or something, some police man or some immigration man or somebody come and say aha, I got yo. That’s what you don’t want.”

The 2013 survey provides data that can be used by several agencies, including the Department of Human Services and N.G.O.s that work with children. The report revealed that seven in every ten children, who are working, do not go to school and most have only a primary school education; that the larger the household is, the more likely the children will be working. While not every child who is employed is involved in child labour, sixty-eight percent of working children are doing child labour. But all is not bad says Demographer, Jacqueline Small, because employment rate of children has dropped by fifty percent in twelve years.

Jacqueline Small

Jacqueline Small, Demographer, Statistical Institute of Belize

“The children employment rate has gone down since 2001, buy about a half. While four point seven percent of children are employed, when in 2001, about nine percent of children were employed and the same is true for children in child labour as well. So it is very important that we recognize that there has been progress in reducing the number of children who are working and the number of children who are in child labor. Nothing is wrong with children being employed if they are employed under the right conditions, they are not exposed to harm and their development is not being adversely affected because children need to do some work in order to learn responsibility. I think that parents on a whole if they knew that they were exposing their children to danger, they wouldn’t. So we have to tell them that these things can hurt your children. Like we said, not every child that is working is in child labour. If your child is working, we want to ensure that this doesn’t interfere with their education. They have to go to school, they have to have enough time to do their homework, they have to have leisure time.”

The technical and financial support for the survey was provided by the International Labour Organization through the United States Department of Labour Funded Project, Global Action program Under the Elimination of Child Labour 2011.

Bijoy Raychaudhuri

Bijoy Raychaudhuri, Project Director, ILO Geneva

“The main aims of ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work related issues. Given its mandate, the ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of conventions and recommendations, setting minimum standards of basic labour rights; that is freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, abolition of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment and other standards, regulating conditions across the entire spectrum of work related issues.”

In looking ahead, Labour Commissioner, Ivan Williams, says that they have a plan to develop a national strategic programme with stakeholders and with oversight from the Ministry of Labour.

Ivan Williams

Ivan Williams, Labour Commissioner

“You can’t divorce child labour, particularly hazardous child labour with poverty. So I can see people having a challenge because in many respect, they might see the children as a source of assisting them…they are also contributing to the economic value of the family. What do you do now if you are taking away that person that is assisting? I can see where we can have some issues there. From my knowledge most of the child labour is not happening in respect of a direct employment within an employer and an employee; it is happening in other areas.”

Duane Moody for News Five.

Another interesting find from the Survey is that the Mennonite community has the highest number of children employed. 

Channel 5