Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 12:39 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Belize

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Belize, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748da4e.html [accessed 22 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     3/6/2000
Ratified Convention 182     3/6/2000
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 6.3 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were counted as working in Belize in 2001. Approximately 8.1 percent of all boys ages 5 to 14 years were working compared to 4.6 percent of girls in the same age group. The majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (55.3 percent), followed by services (38.8 percent), and manufacturing (3.6 percent) in 2001.356 Approximately 74.6 percent of working children are found in rural regions,357 where they work on family plots and in family businesses after school, on weekends and during vacations.358 They also work in citrus, banana, and sugar fields.359 In urban areas, children shine shoes, sell food, crafts, and other small items, and work in markets.360 Teenage girls, many of whom have migrated from Honduras and other neighboring Central American countries, are reported to work as barmaids and prostitutes.361

Belize is considered a transit and destination country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation.362 Girls are also trafficked internally for commercial exploitation and pornography. The practice of minors engaging in prostitution with older men in exchange for clothing, jewelry, or school fees and books is reported to occur throughout the country.363 It is also reported that some instances of child sexual exploitation and trafficking are arranged by family members.364

Education in Belize is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 14 years.365 In 2001, 93.2 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school.366 The Education Act subjects parents to a fine of up to USD 100 if their children of compulsory school age fail to attend school regularly.367 Primary education is free, but related expenses, such as uniforms and books, are a financial strain on poor families.368 Secondary schools and apprenticeship and vocational programs can only accommodate one-half of children who complete primary school.369 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 122 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 99 percent.370 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. As of 1999, 81 percent of children enrolled in primary school were likely to reach grade 5.371 Results from the Child Activity Survey indicate that 12 percent of working children ages 5 to 14 years do not attend school.372

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Act of Belize sets the minimum age for work as 12, 14, and 16 years in different sections of the text, and has been criticized as being unclear.373 According to the Labor Act, children ages 12 to 14 years may only participate in light work that is not harmful to life, health, or education; only after school hours and for a total of 2 hours on a school day or Sunday; and only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.374 The Labor Act applies to all employment in the formal sector, but not to self-employment or employment by family members.375 The minimum age for employment near hazardous machinery is 17 years.376 The Labor Act sets penalties for non-compliance with minimum age standards at USD 20 or 2 months of imprisonment for the first offense, and in the case of subsequent offenses, USD 50 or 4 months of imprisonment.377

The Families and Children Act prohibits children (defined in this Act as persons below 18 years of age) from employment in activities that may be detrimental to their health, education, or mental, physical, or moral development.378 Forced and bonded labor are prohibited in Belize under the Constitution.379 Although there is no law establishing a minimum age for conscription into the military, the minimum age for voluntary enrollment is 18 years.380

The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act punishes trafficking offenses with fines of up to USD 5,000 and imprisonment of up to 8 years.381 Traffickers can also be prosecuted under immigration and abduction laws. The Criminal Code prohibits procuring a female for sexual exploitation within or outside of Belize and provides for 5 years of imprisonment for the crime. Penalties for abduction range from two years to life imprisonment, depending on the age and gender of the victim and the intent of the perpetrator. Abduction of a female with intent to marry or "carnally know her, or to cause her to be married or carnally known ... " is punishable by 13 years of imprisonment.382 The Criminal Code also prohibits sex with a female child younger than 14 years, and provides for a penalty of 12 years to life imprisonment. The sentence for the same act with a girl aged 14 to 16 years is 5 to 10 years of imprisonment.383

Inspectors from the Departments of Labor and Education enforce child labor and school attendance regulations.384 Ministry of Education officials investigate complaints of truancy and some forms of child labor. The National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NOPCAN) receives complaints on the worst forms of child labor and refers them to the Department of Human Services and the police.385 The Department of Human Services is legally empowered to handle the protection of child labor victims.386 A newly created unit within the Belize Immigration Department is charged with investigating trafficking cases.387

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Belize has a National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC), which works with the National Human Advisory Committee to monitor the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents (2004-2015).388 The National Plan includes objectives, strategies, and activities intended to promote the development of children and adolescents in the areas of health, education, child labor and protection, family, HIV/AIDS and culture.389 The Ministries of Human Development, Labor, and Local Government head a sub-committee under the NCFC that deals with issues of child labor.390 With funding from the Canadian government, ILO-IPEC worked with the Government of Belize to implement two regional projects to combat the worst forms of child labor,391 and a pilot project to withdraw and rehabilitate children engaged in the worst forms of child labor in subsistence and commercial agriculture in Belize.392 This year, the Government of Belize began participating in a USDOL-funded regional project implemented by ILO-IPEC to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children.393 The government airs public service announcements and publishes newspaper ads to raise awareness of child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, and has a National Task Force to oversee efforts to combat trafficking.394

The Government of Belize is implementing a 10-year Education Sector Strategy to achieve universal access to education for children ages 3 to 16 years.395 The government continues to offer tuition grants to primary and secondary school students and maintains a textbook lending program.396


356 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, October 7, 2005. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

357 Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labor (SIMPOC) and the Central Statistical Office of the Government of Belize, Child Labour in Belize: A Statistical Report, ILO, 2003, xix; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/belize/report/be_natl.pdf. See also ILO-IPEC SIMPOC, Child Labour and Education in Belize: A Situational Assessment and In-depth Analysis, ILO, June 2003, ix; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/belize/report/be_depth.pdf.

358 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Belize, Washington, DC, February 28, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41749.htm.

359 Ibid.

360 Ibid.

361 Ibid.

362 Girls are trafficked to Belize primarily from Central America. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, DC, June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46612.htm.

363 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 5.

364 Ibid. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

365 Education Act, Chapter 36, (April 24, 1991), Section 2(b); available from http://www.belizelaw.org/lawadmin/index2.html.

366 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

367 Ibid., Section 37.

368 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 5. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Belize, March 31, 2005, para. 60; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/0/15d955c522246114c125702100421174/$FILE/G0540865.pdf.

369 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 5.

370 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://wtatus.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrollment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005). For an explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

371 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://wtatus.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

372 ILO-IPEC SIMPOC, Child Labour and Education in Belize, ix.

373 For example, Section 169 of the Labor Act, which is the most explicit section on minimum age, states that "no child shall be employed so long as he is under the age of twelve years." On the other hand, Section 164 of the same Act states that "no one shall employ a child" and a child is defined as anyone under the age of 14. See SIMPOC and the Central Statistical Office of the Government of Belize, Child Labour in Belize: A Qualitative Study, ILO, February 2003, 11; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/belize/report/be_qual.pdf. See also Labour Act, Chapter 297, (December 31, 2000), Section 169; available from http://www.belizelaw.org/lawadmin/index2.html.

374 Labour Act, Section 169. See also U.S. Embassy – Belize, reporting, August 19, 2003.

375 U.S. Embassy – Belize, reporting, July 6, 2000. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 6d.

376 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 6d.

377 Labour Act, Section 172.

378 Families and Children Act, Revised Edition, (December 31, 2000), Part I, Articles 2(a), 7; available from http://www.belizelaw.org/lawadmin/PDF%20files/cap173.pdf.

379 Constitution of Belize, (1981), Article 8(2); available from http://www.georgetown.edu/LatAmerPolitical/Constitutions/Belize/belize.html. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 6c.

380 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Belize," in Global Report 2004; available from http://www.child soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=810.

381 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 5. Anti-trafficking law includes provisions for victim assistance; however, according to the U.S. State Department, a lack of resources and capacity limits these efforts. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

382 Criminal Code, Chapter 101, (Amended May 31, 2003), Sections 49,55-56 [cited June 29, 2005]; available from http://www.belizelaw.org/lawadmin/index2.html.

383 Ibid., Section 47.

384 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 6d. School Attendance Officers are tasked with ensuring that parents meet compulsory education laws. See Education Act, Sections 38-40.

385 Wendel D.J. Parham, Executive Director of Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, letter to USDOL official, September 9, 2002.

386 The department is part of the Ministry of Human Development and Housing. See Belize Labour Commissioner, electronic communication to USDOL official, August 26, 2005.

387 U.S. Embassy – Belize, reporting, January 24, 2005.

388 Statement at the UN Special Session on Children, May 10, 2002; available from http://www.un.org/ga/children/belizeE.htm.

389 Belize Labour Commissioner, electronic communication, August 26, 2005. See also UNICEF, Unity in Belize: parties endorse plan for kids, [online] September 7, 2004 [cited November 8, 2005]; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_23431.html.

390 The multi-sectoral committee includes members from the Ministries of Labor, Human Development, Education, and Health, members from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Immigration Department, the Police Department, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, the Association of General Managers of Primary Schools and the Central Statistical Office. See U.S. Embassy – Belize, reporting, September 1, 2004. See also ILO Sub-regional office for the Caribbean, National child labour committees, [online] 2005 [cited June 29, 2005]; available from http://www.ilocarib.org.tt/childlabour/committees.htm.

391 The regional projects are scheduled to closed December 31, 2005. ILO-IPEC Geneva official, email communication to USDOL official, May 12, 2004.

392 The pilot project was closed in November 2005. See ILO Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, Combating Child Labor in the Caribbean: Pilot Programs, [online] 2005 [cited June 29, 2005]; available from http://www.ilocarib.org.tt/childlabour/pilot_programme.htm.

393 ILO-IPEC, Contribution to the Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic Addendum, project document, RLA/05/P52/USA, September 2005.

394 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Belize, Section 5. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

395 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, para. 60.

396 SIMPOC and the Central Statistical Office of the Government of Belize, Child Labour in Belize: A Qualitative Study, 17-18.

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