At present in Guyana, children are allowed to enter the work force at age 15. Recently, Minister of Labor Manzoor Nadir explained that in other jurisdictions children from as young as 12 years old are allowed to work for limited hours in certain jobs and that he was inclined to revisit the issue. He said, “I am seriously considering going backwards. I am seriously considering once again revising the legislation with respect to children … to allow children… between the ages of 13 and 15 in Guyana’s case to do light work for a specific period per week.”
Organizations and parties such as the Alliance for Change (AFC) have described Nadir’s suggestion as “unbelievable and disgraceful.” The party demanded an explanation from President Bharrat Jagdeo as to whether Nadir’s opinion is one shared by the government. They also call on all Guyanese to voice their objections “to this latest outrage.” The group also reminded everyone that the laws introduced in 1994 setting the minimum age at 15 “were done with good reason; taking into account international conventions, and the scourge of child labour and exploitation that had started to raise its head in Guyana.”
Nadir insists that Guyana does not have a serious problem with child labor. He tried to address the difference between child labor and child work, explaining that there are four forms of child labor: children in slavery, debt bondage, child soldiers, and the grey area of working in a family business or farm and not being able to access the basic rights that every child should have, such as the right to an education. However, the Minister claims that the public conception of his call for lowering the age of employment under certain conditions has been misconstrued as a move to lower the age where children can drop out of school and go to work. He argues that in many countries in the world, such as the United Kingdom, children over the age of 12 are allowed to work for one hour before and after school, but not during school hours. They are also allowed to work for up to eight hours on weekends. Nadir says that some examples of the “light work” that younger children may do include jobs like a paper route, packing supermarket shelves or customers’ groceries, or filing and receptionist duties in offices.
Nevertheless, the AFC suggested that the ruling PPP/C party should dedicate its energy to establishing “a program to educate children aged 13 and not one that will see the country’s children going into the fields, factories, and offices to work at that tender age.”
For full articles, see http://www.stabroeknews.com/2010/stories/03/20/suggestion-to-lower-working-age-for-children-‘disgraceful’-afc/ and http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2010/04/02/nadir-seeks-to-clarify-child-labour-issue/
Photo from http://jsgchildren.org/
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SCHOOLS ARE USING CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 8 TO UNDERTAKE THE WORK OF CLEANING SCHOOL YARDS, WITHOUT PAY,DURING THE TIME WHEN THEY SHOULD BE LEARNING ACADEMIC SUBJECTS.