June 12 annually is designated World Day against Child Labour to focus the world’s attention on the continuing need to combat the scourge of growing child labour.
The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) has defined child labour as children’s work which is of such a nature or intensity that it is detrimental to their schooling or harmful to their health and development. The concern is with children:
• who are deprived of quality education,
• who are denied their childhood and a future,
• who work at too young an age,
• who work for long hours for low wages,
• who work under conditions harmful to their health and to their physical and mental development, or
• who are separated from their families,
Such child labour can create irreversible damage to the child, and is in violation of international law and national legislation.
The following two International Labour Conventions of the UN-ILO, which are ratified by Guyana, place a binding obligation on Government of Guyana and its agencies, and the social partners represented by the Employers and Trade Unions, to bring the laws and practice of Guyana in line with these Conventions:
1. Convention No. 138 – Minimum Age, 1973: This Convention calls:
• for the abolition of child labour, and emphasizes that school is for children, not work; (any child under 15 years of age);
• for the minimum age for employment to be not less than the age of completion of compulsory education (not under 15 years);
• on states to pursue a national policy designed to abolish child labour;
• on states to progressively raise the minimum age for employment consistent with the full physical and mental development of young persons; and
• on states to ensure that the minimum age shall not be less than 18 years for any type of work which is likely to jeopardise the health, safety, or morals of young persons or 16 years under certain conditions of protection of health safety or morals, with adequate and specific safety instructions in vocational training.
2. Convention No. 182 – The Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999:
This Convention is applicable to all persons under 18 years of age, and requires ratifying states (Guyana is a ratifying State) to take effective and immediate measures to prohibit and eliminate as a matter of urgency the worst forms of child labour, defined as: