By Aabigayle McIntosh
A survey will be done in Antigua and Barbuda to determine if there is a semblance of Child Labor and assesses its prevalence.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as anyone below the age of 18, and child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
Pascal Kentish is the Deputy Labour Commissioner and the alternate Focal Point to the Regional Initiative on the eradication of Child Labour.
He explained that Antigua and Barbuda joined the initiative in 2019, however, things came to a halt when the COVID-19 virus struck.
An invitation has since been submitted to the Ministry of Education, Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT), and other civil society groups in order to form the task force.
While the feedback has been slow in coming, it is hoped that the first meeting can be called at the end of this month.
“One may ask is there Child Labour in Antigua and Barbuda, we really don’t know. There is no empirical evidence to determine if there is Child Labour exists in the country. We need to really get a hold to see what is happening, so that is one of the aims with the survey”, Kentish said.
Prior to the start of the process, the task force will sit together to determine what form the survey will take.
“From my view firstly, we need to look at persons of school age. Once a child is between the ages of 5 and 17 you should be in school. The age to work in Antigua and Barbuda without interference from anyone is 18 years,” Kentish said.
He stated further for anyone between those age groups, they will look at what they are doing during and after school hours.
The deputy labour commissioner stressed that the law does not prohibit young people from working.
However, they must be medically assessed to ensure they are able to do the work they are hired to do and that they are not employed during school hours.
“The child should not be the breadwinner of the family that is what we want to make certain because the pandemic has exacerbated child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.
Looking more specifically at the Caribbean region, the labour official recommended the setting up of a registry so persons who intend to work could go through the medical assessment and those records kept by the Labour Department.
The labour official was speaking on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour observed Monday under the theme “Social Justice for All.
World Day Against Child Labour is intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour.