Revitalizing Belize’s efforts to eliminate child labour

ILO and UNICEF working with Government of Belize to advance new child labour policy

News | 03 January 2022
by Diego Rei, ILO Caribbean Employment and Labour Market Policies Specialist

Like many countries in the region, Belize’s efforts to eliminate child labour has been a hard-fought battle. While the Government has ratified the Minimum Age Convention (C138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (C182) – two key ILO legal instruments for ending the exploitation of children through any form of work – further engagement is needed to achieve SDG target 8.7 which calls for the end of child labour in all of its forms by 2025.

The latest figure from the 2013 Child Activity Survey the ILO assisted the country to conduct, indicated a 3.2 per cent incidence of child labour in the country, with boys engaged in hazardous work representing most of the cases. It is very likely that the situation has worsened since the advent of the COVID-19 crisis.

In 2009, the Government approved a National Child Labour Policy, providing the framework for the establishment of the National Child Labour Committee (NCLC), a tripartite body tasked with developing a National Strategic Action Plan to combat child labour in Belize and guiding overall national activities. During the third quarter of 2021, the Belize Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour and Local Government and the Belize National Child Labour committee-initiated collaboration with the ILO to develop the country’s second national child labour policy. The landmark move responds to the need to update the policy framework established in 2009 while addressing the challenges of the COVID 19-crisis.

The undertaking reflects similar recent endeavours by Caribbean countries. Over the past four years, Suriname, Guyana, Jamaica and The Bahamas approved – in chronological order – similar-in-scope plans or policies.

Joint activities in Belize began in August 2021, under the lead of the ILO and in collaboration with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). After an extensive desk review and consultations with a broad range of national stakeholders, a first draft of the policy document featuring a situation analysis and action matrix was prepared and discussed via written consultations. The partners also hosted a dedicated online workshop which brought together tripartite ILO constituents and broad representation from the governmental and non-governmental entities.

Further refinement of the policy document and approval is expected at the beginning of 2022 while implementation will follow immediately afterwards.