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

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Belize

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Belize, 27 August 2008, 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 Labor288
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2001:6.3
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2001:8.1
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2001:4.6
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2001:
     – Agriculture55.3
     – Manufacturing3.6
     – Services38.8
     – Other2.4
Minimum age for work:12/14
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:123
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:99
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2001:93.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:92
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated
* Must pay for miscellaneous school expenses.

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Most working children in Belize are found in rural regions in the agricultural sector. Many children work in banana, sugar cane and citrus production.289 Children also work in wholesale and retail trade, repair, tourism, providing diverse services, and to a lesser extent, in construction and manufacturing.290 Half of the boys who work do so in hazardous forms of labor.291 Girls engage in prostitution with older men in exchange for clothing, jewelry, food, school fees, and books. The YWCA reports that as many as 20 percent of its under-aged clients have been solicited for commercial sex activities.292

Belize is reported to be a source, transit, and destination country for the trafficking of children.293 Trafficking of girls within Belize and to and from other countries occurs for both sexual exploitation and to work as domestic servants. This trafficking is sometimes arranged by family members.294 Some trafficked children are forced to shine shoes or sell newspapers.295

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Act of Belize sets the minimum age for work as 12 and 14 years in different sections of the text; thus, it has been criticized as being unclear. Article 169 states that no child shall be employed who is under age 12. Article 164 states that no person shall employ a child in a public or private undertaking, and child is defined as being under 14 years in the interpretation section of the Labor Act.296 According to the Labor Act, children over 12 years may work after school hours, for no more than 2 hours on a school day or a Sunday, only between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., and in work that is not likely to cause injury.297 The Labor Act sets penalties for non-compliance with minimum age standards that include fines and imprisonment up to 2 months, and up to 4 months in the case of a second or subsequent offense.298

The law prohibits persons under 18 years from engaging in any form of harmful employment.299 Forced labor and slavery are prohibited.300 Although there is no law establishing a minimum age for conscription into the military, the minimum age for voluntary enrollment is 18 years.301 The law punishes trafficking offenses with imprisonment of up to 5 years and fines.302 The law also prohibits sex with a female younger than 14 years and provides for a penalty of 12 years to life imprisonment. The sentence for the same act with a girl 14 to 16 years is 5 to 10 years.303

Inspectors from the Departments of Labor and Education are responsible for enforcing child labor regulations.304 The Family Services Division of the Ministry of Human Development, Women, Children and Civil Society is responsible for investigating child trafficking cases.305 The government conducted raids on brothels in 2007 and reported that five foreign tourists were prosecuted or expelled for child sexual exploitation.306 In February 2007, three police officers were arrested on trafficking charges, and two are awaiting criminal charges. The third officer was acquitted by disciplinary review board.307

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

The Government of Belize has a National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents, 20042015, which specifically seeks to protect children from trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and unacceptable forms of child labor. The plan seeks to amend the Labor Act to better address child labor issues, develop and implement regulations on exploitive child labor in the social service agencies, strengthen enforcement capacity of key ministries, and increase prevention and public awareness efforts.308

With funds from the IDB and in collaboration with UNICEF, the Ministry of Human Development is engaging in a program to strengthen the government's capacity to combat human trafficking.309 The Government of Belize continues to participate in a USD 8.8 million regional project implemented by ILO-IPEC which seeks to combat commercial sexual exploitation through a variety of activities including capacity building and legal reform. In addition, the project aims to withdraw 713 children and prevent 657 children from commercial sexual exploitation in the region.310 The Government of Belize also participated in a USD 1.4 million regional project funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by ILO-IPEC aimed at combating the worst forms of child labor.311 The Government of Belize participated in a Phase II USD 2.6 million regional project and a Phase III USD 3 million regional project to eradicate child labor in Latin America funded by the Government of Spain and implemented by ILO-IPEC.312

288 For statistical data not cited here, see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see Government of Belize, Labour Act (Revised), (December 31, 2000), chapter 297, sections 1, 2, 164, 169; available from See also SIMPOC and the Central Statistical Office of the Government of Belize, Child Labour in Belize: A Qualitative Study, ILO, February 2003; available from See also Government of Belize, Education Act, Revised Edition 2000, chapter 36, (December 31, 2000), article 2, 45; available from See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Belize, March 31, 2005, para 60; available from$FILE/G0540865.pdf.

289 SIMPOC and the Central Statistical Office of the Government of Belize, Child Labour in Belize: A Statistical Report, ILO, 2003, 31; available from

290 Ibid.

291 Ibid., 39.

292 ILO, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Belize, San José, 2006, 38-39; available from

293 U.S. Department of State, "Belize (Tier 2 Watch List)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007, Washington, DC, June 12, 2007; available from

294 Ibid.

295 U.S. Department of State, "Belize," in Country Report on Human Rights Practices – 2007, Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 5; available from

296 Government of Belize, Labour Act (Revised), chapter 297, interpretation section and articles 54, 164, and 169. See also, SIMPOC and the Central Statistical Office of the Government of Belize, Child Labour in Belize: A Qualitative Study, 11.

297 Government of Belize, Labour Act (Revised), article 169.

298 Ibid., article 172.

299 Government of Belize, Families and Children Act, Revised Edition, (December 31, 2000), articles 2, 7; available from

300 Government of Belize, Constitution of Belize, Revised Edition, (December 31, 2000), article 8; available from

301 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Belize," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from

302 Government of Belize, Criminal Code, Chapter 101, (amended May 31, 2003), article 49; available from

303 World Bank, Primary Education Development Project II, [online] October 13, 2006 [cited October 13, 2006], articles 47 and 48; available from 424&Projectid=P074966.

304 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Belize," section 6d.

305 Ibid., section 5.

306 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Belize."

307 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Belize," section 5.

308 Government of Belize, The National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents in Belize 2004-2015, Belize City, September 4, 2004, 15-16; available from

309 IDB, Strengthening the Government's Capacity to Combat Human Trafficking, Project BL-T1004, [online] [cited December 10, 2007]; available from$Language=English.

310 ILO-IPEC, Contribution to the Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, Project Document, RLA/05/P52/USA, San José, 2005, 22. See also ILO-IPEC, Contribution to the Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, Project Document, RLA/02/P51/USA, San José, 2002, 16.

311 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, December 12, 2007.

312 ILO-IPEC official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, February 4, 2008.

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