Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Belize

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 - Belize, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 24 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, 2001:63,350
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:14
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:123.1
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:97.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2001:93.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:87.3
ILO Convention 138:3/6/2000
ILO Convention 182:3/6/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Most working children in Belize are found in rural regions in the agricultural sector. Many of these children work in banana, sugar cane, and citrus production. Children also work in wholesale and retail trade, repair, tourism, providing diverse services, and to a lesser extent, in construction and manufacturing. According to a 2003 study by the ILO, half of the boys who work do so in hazardous forms of labor. Girls engage in prostitution with older men in exchange for clothing, jewelry, food, school fees, and books. The YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association) reports that as many as 20 percent of its under-aged clients have been solicited for commercial sex activities.

Belize is reported to be a source, transit, and destination country for the trafficking of children. Trafficking of girls within Belize and to and from other countries occurs for both sexual exploitation and for work as domestic servants.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Act of Belize sets the minimum age for work as 14 years 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. Article 169 establishes the minimum age for light work as 12 years of age. 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. Children of any age may work on family farms with authorization. The Labor Act sets penalties for non-compliance with minimum age standards that include fines and imprisonment of up to 2 months for a first offense and up to 4 months in the case of a second or subsequent offense.

The law prohibits persons under 18 years from engaging in any form of harmful employment. Forced labor and slavery are prohibited. Although there is no law establishing a minimum age for conscription into the military, the minimum age for voluntary enrollment is 18 years. The law punishes child trafficking offenses with imprisonment of up to 5 years and fines. 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.

Inspectors from the Departments of Labor and Education are responsible for enforcing child labor regulations. The Family Services Division of the Ministry of Human Development, Women, Child, and Civil Society is responsible for investigating child trafficking cases.

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, 2004-2015, 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.

The Government of Belize participated in a USDOL-funded 7-year USD 8.8 million regional project implemented by ILO-IPEC which concluded in April 2009 and sought to combat commercial sexual exploitation through a variety of activities, including capacity building and legal reform. In addition, the project targeted 713 children for withdrawal and 657 children for prevention from commercial sexual exploitation in Central America. 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 that ended in September 2008. The Government of Belize participated in a Phase III USD 3.3 million regional project to eradicate child labor in Latin America funded by the Government of Spain and implemented by ILOIPEC.

The Ministry of Human Development is participating in a project funded by USDOS that aims to build capacity of the Ministry's trafficking assistance program, focusing on victim rehabilitation, shelter, training, and prevention. USDOS is also funding a regional project with the Government of Belize that protects children from commercial sexual exploitation in tourism and promotes codes of conduct in the tourism industries in Belize and Mexico.

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