Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Jamaica

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Jamaica, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
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 Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2006:573,192
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2006:8.4
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2006:9.6
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2006:7.2
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:16
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:94.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:90.3
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2006:98.6
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2001:90.3
ILO Convention 138:10/13/2003
ILO Convention 182:10/13/2003
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Jamaica work on plantations, farms, and construction sites, as well as in gardens, shops, and markets. Children also work selling goods on the street and begging.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a problem in Jamaica, especially in tourist areas. Girls are recruited as barmaids and masseuses but then forced into prostitution. Boys who work on the streets of Kingston and Montego Bay are vulnerable to being trafficked. Boys working on the streets are also forced into selling drugs or becoming drug couriers. Girls in rural areas are sometimes recruited for domestic labor and then forced into servitude.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for employment in Jamaica is 15 years. The law prohibits the employment of children under 13 years in any type of work. Children between 13 and 15 years are permitted to engage in "light work," as prescribed by the Ministry of Labor, which will not disrupt their education or be harmful to their health, including their physical, mental, spiritual, or social development. The law also prohibits children under 15 years from working at night or in any industrial undertaking. The Ministry of Labor maintains a list of prohibited occupations for children, including fishing at sea, handling insecticides, operating equipment, or producing pornography. However, the Ministry of Labor may issue a permit to a child for work in artistic performances.

Children under 18 are prohibited from working in nightclubs and establishments that sell or serve alcohol or tobacco. The law provides for fines and 6 months to 1 year of imprisonment for the violation of child labor laws. Nightclubs employing children are also subject to the revocation of their operating licenses for 3 years.

The Government of Jamaica has no laws specifically prohibiting forced or slave labor. The law prohibits procuring a child younger than 18 years for the purpose of prostitution and allows for punishments of up to 3 years of imprisonment. The law prohibits all forms of trafficking, including the trafficking of children for labor or commercial sexual exploitation, and penalizes perpetrators with up to 10 years in prison. Minors of at least 17.5 years may voluntarily enlist for military training with parental consent, but they must be 18 years old upon graduating from training.

The Ministry of Labor has a Child Labor Unit that has two employees and assists the Government's Office of Health and Safety (OHS) in child labor enforcement efforts. OHS conducted 559 labor inspections through September 2008 and found no incidences of child labor. The police are required to conduct child labor inspections. According to USDOS, however, resources were insufficient to investigate child labor.

The Child Development Agency (CDA) is responsible for carrying out investigations of abuse, finding shelters for children subject to exploitation, and handling any legal matters related to children. CDA trained 50 police officers in 2008 on child labor and exploitation issues. The Government runs a National Task Force against Trafficking in Persons to which it has dedicated six police officers.

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

During the reporting period, the Government distributed flyers about trafficking and collaborated with the tourism industry to combat child sex tourism. In addition, the Government established a hotline for reporting child exploitation, including child labor. While the Government did not provide specialized shelters to child trafficking victims, it did make public shelters available for victims. The Government of Jamaica participated in an IOM-implemented project, funded by USDOS, that focused on raising awareness about trafficking through the training of NGO and Government representatives. IOM also piloted direct assistance programs for trafficking victims. The Government of Jamaica is also participating in a 4-year USD 23,840,500 project funded by the EU and implemented by ILOIPEC to combat child labor through education in 11 countries.

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