Message of Minister of Labour on the occasion of World Day against Child Labour, 2018
Every year on June 12, Trinidad and Tobago joins with the international community on the observance of World Day against Child Labour. This annual observance, spearheaded by the International Labour Organization (ILO), provides an opportunity for its Member States to reaffirm their commitment to prevention and elimination of Child Labour globally, regionally and nationally. Child Labour as defined by the ILO is work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school.
This year, the bodies responsible for World Day against Child Labour (WDACL) and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (Safe Day) have taken a collaborative approach in their public awareness campaign to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour under the theme “Generation Safe and Healthy!”
As Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, I led the Trinidad and Tobago delegation from June 4 to 8, 2018 at the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. At this conference the 20th anniversary of the Global March against Child Labour was commemorated. This March, saw the participation of hundreds of marchers, including children, take centre stage at the International Labour Conference in June 1998, and solidified the ground for the adoption in 1999 of ILO Convention No. 182 on “Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour.” by the delegates who attended.
This ILO Convention and Convention No. 138 (“Minimum Age for Employment of Young Persons”) have been ratified by Trinidad and Tobago.
It is estimated that there are 152 million children (aged 5-17) worldwide who are subjected to child labour. Of this 152 million, just under fifty percent, (73 million), perform work which is classified as hazardous because of the nature of the work or the circumstances in which the work is carried out.
There are several factors that contribute to hazardous working conditions and the high rate of work-related injury and ill health among children and young workers, which indicates to us as a nation that more can and must be done.
This Government has noted that much attention needs to be placed on the acceleration of the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Target 8.8: which states “protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers” by 2030; and SDG Target 8.7: which states “take immediate and
effective measures to … secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour and, by 2025, end child labour in all its forms”. The attainment of these targets requires renewed commitment and an integrated approach to the elimination of child labour and the promotion a culture of prevention on occupational safety and health, particularly for our young workers. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Children Act 2012 provides that the minimum age for admission to work is 16 years, which is consistent with the provisions of the Education Act which requires that children between the ages of 5 to 16 years attend school. While the Labour Inspectorate Unit and the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, both of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, hold the responsibility for enforcement of legislation relating to child labour, we as citizens each have a role to play in preventing and eliminating this scourge wherever it exists.
The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago reiterates its commitment to ensuring prevention and elimination of child labour where it exists. In this regard, the Ministry is currently in the process of establishing a National Steering Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour. This Committee will bring together representatives from government agencies, worker organizations, employer organizations, nongovernmental organisations and academia and has the mandate to develop a Child Labour Policy and Action Plan to address this issue. At the Ministry we continue to partner with one of our most valued stakeholders, the International Labour Organisation to strengthen our capacity.
In recognition of Child Labour Day, the Ministry’s Labour Inspectors will engage in outreach activities to distribute brochures on the topic and highlight the issues surrounding Child Labour to raise awareness.
I urge the nation to continue to work together to ensure that our most precious assets are protected, unscarred by the scourge of child labour, that their universal rights continue to be upheld, and that they are provided with ample support to blossom into happy and productive members of society.
In closing, I quote the words of Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and children’s rights activist – “The single aim of my life is that every child is free to be a child, free to grow and develop, free to eat, sleep, see daylight, free to laugh and cry, free to play, free to learn, free to go to school, and above all, free to dream.”
May God bless our nation’s children and those all around the World.