Child Labour is defined by the ILO, as work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity. It is also work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children. In October 2003, Jamaica ratified ILO Conventions 138 (Minimum Age of Employment) and 182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour). The primary tenets of these Conventions were included in the Child Care and Protection Act of 2004, Sections 33-45.
This Legislation makes it illegal to employ children who are less than 13 years old, however it permits light work between the ages 13 to 15 years. As a part of continued support from the ILO, a Youth Activity Survey was conducted in 2002; it indicated that there were over 16,420 children engaged in child labour for that reference week.
Since then, the MLSS has been given the responsibility to implement the National Plan of Action on Child Labour with the following objectives:
- Create a comprehensive information system that incorporates quantitative and qualitative information on child labour in Jamaica to be used for policy and programme development.
- Withdraw and rehabilitate children from hazardous work and prevent others from engaging in child labour.
- Enhance awareness of the complex problems associated with child labour that will affect social attitudes towards children and their educational rights.
- Strengthen the relevant institutions of the Government of Jamaica and Civil Society, to enforce Child Labour Laws as well as develop and implement policies and programmes toward the prevention of Child Labour.