With over 152 million reported cases of child labour worldwide, Minister of Social Protection, Hon. Amna Ally today said no country can achieve or sustain prosperity on the backs of children.
Guyana, the minister said, is keenly working towards the elimination of child labour by 2025; an objective of the National Action Plan’s National Child Labour Policy.
On Wednesday, social workers from across the country commenced a three-day training exercise on child labour inspection, at the Public Service Ministry.
Minister Ally said the exploitation of children should not be tolerated under any circumstance.
“When children are exploited for economic gains of others, everybody loses. Children lose, their families lose, and the nation loses. When even one child is exploited, every one of us is diminished.”
Global estimates show that 218 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are employed. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour and almost half – 73 million – work under hazardous conditions.
The Social Protection Minister said her government will continue to create conditions that will allow families to work their way out of poverty so that they will not feel compelled to expose their children to child labour.
“Child labour reinforces intergenerational cycles of poverty, undermines national economies and impedes achieving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” she told the officers.
She related that Guyana has ratified the worse form of the Child Labour Convention of 1999, the Labour Inspection Convention of 1947 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in addition to numerous domestic laws. With the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guyana now has a National Action Plan for the elimination of child labour.
Child Labour Coordinator of ILO, Resel Melville told participants that it is time the troubling issue is addressed. She said the workshop marks another important win for Guyana, advancing the progress being made toward the elimination of child labour.
“The global community are ensuring that children can enjoy their childhood and are exposed to all of the positive opportunities for self-actualisation and realisation of their potential. Your role in achieving this objective by 2025 is of utmost importance,” she said.
She reported that Guyana, has over the last six years, been leading in its commitment to address child labour. In 2014, Guyana was one of the original signatory countries to the ILO’s Regional Initiative Caribbean and Latin American Free of Child Labour.
The opening ceremony also heard from the Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, with responsibility for Labour, Hon. Keith Scott and United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Representative Irfan Akhtar.
Did You Know?
What is a sweatshop?
Sweatshops are factories where workers work long hours under poor conditions, and for very low wages. Sweatshops produce many different goods including toys, shoes and furniture. Most of the world’s clothing is manufactured in sweatshops – including many designer brands.
Sweatshop wages can be so low that they barely cover essential needs. Some people work for as little as 1 US cent per hour, often more than 100 hours per week in conditions of poor air quality and extreme heat.
It can be really bad
In the worst forms of sweatshops people are forced to work up to 72 hours straight, without sleep. Those complaining are beaten and abused. Cases of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse are common and well documented.
But not all sweatshops are bad
If workers’ rights are respected sweatshops can actually help poor countries. For example, in Honduras, the average clothing “sweatshop” worker earns 13 US dollars per day, yet 44 percent of the country’s population lives on less than 2 dollars per day.
What to do?
Look for fair trade labeled products. Fair trade labels ensure higher salaries and better working conditions as well as higher social and environmental standards.