The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is intensifying efforts to curtail child labour in Jamaica through a ‘Risk Identification Model’ programme being implemented to identify communities where this illicit activity is occurring, in order to facilitate interventions.
According to Director of Child Labour in the Ministry, Sacha Deer Gordon, the initiative will entail creating vulnerability maps that highlight areas where child labour is suspected to be taking place, for monitoring and eventual action.
She was speaking at a recent labour forum at The Knutsford Court Hotel in St. Andrew.
Gordon said the system will allow the authorities to “identify the highest probability where child labour may occur, and in what sector”.
She cited a recent Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) study that revealed an estimated 38,000 children are involved in child labour locally.
The Director said once the victims are identified, “we put plans in place to interrupt that trajectory”, adding that steps are taken to monitor their recovery, because “we don’t want them to re-enter child labour”.
Gordon pointed out that business owners employing children under age 13 to work in their establishments are in breach of the Child Care and Protection Act, which stipulates that youngsters up to the age of 14 years can only be engaged in “light work” for no more than 14 hours per week.
The Act further stipulates that children, aged 15, can only engage in full employment if they have completed secondary education.
“But they cannot be engaged in hazardous work [below] age 16… and it has to be done under supervision and with proper instructions,” she said.
Gordon said the Government continues to discourage child labour, emphasising that “it is something that we are saying must stop”.
Efforts to this end include the Ministry’s establishment of a National Steering Committee, which meets monthly and utilises various mechanisms designed to promote child rights.
Child labour is a criminal offence, with penalties ranging from $250,000 or three months’ imprisonment to a maximum of $1 million.