Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Guyana

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 - Guyana, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
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, 2000:172,342
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:26.3
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:28.7
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:23.9
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:115.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2002:93.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:95.8
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2001:64.3
ILO Convention 138:4/15/1998
ILO Convention 182:1/15/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Guyana work in farming, construction, logging, and fishing. Some children are domestic servants, shop assistants, street vendors, brick makers, and welders. There are three times more children working in the interior than in the coastal urban areas. The work performed by children includes lifting and carrying heavy loads, spraying pesticides, using power-driven machines, handling raw meat, preserving lumber, and varnishing and spraying furniture. There are reports of children involved in the illicit drug trade. Sexual exploitation of children also occurs in Guyana, including prostitution. Trafficking in children is a problem, particularly among young Amerindian girls who are trafficked internally.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years. Children at least 14 years of age may be employed if the work conducted is for general, vocational, or technical education. Children or adolescents under 18 years are prohibited from work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and for 11 consecutive hours in industrial undertakings, which include mining and quarrying, construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and transportation of passengers or goods. The law provides an exception when a family member of the child is employed by the industrial undertaking. Children older than 16 years may work in the manufacture of steel, iron, paper, and raw sugar as well as gold mining reduction or glass work. Businesses that employ children are required to keep a child labor registry. There are fines for employers and parents who are guilty of direct involvement with child labor.

Forced labor is prohibited by the Constitution. The law sets the minimum age for compulsory enlistment in the armed forces at 18 years and voluntary recruitment at 16 years with parental consent. All forms of trafficking are prohibited by law, and penalties include life imprisonment, forfeiture of property, and payment of full restitution to the trafficked person. Even though child pornography is not specifically mentioned in Guyanese law, the penalty for selling, publishing, or exhibiting obscene matter is 2 years in prison. Although child prostitution is likewise not explicitly prohibited, carnal knowledge of a girl under 12 years is subject to life in prison, and carnal knowledge of a girl 12 years of age earns 10 years in prison. The law sets the age of sexual consent at 16 years, thus prohibiting sex with children younger than 16 years of age. In addition, the penalty for procurement of a female under 21 years is 10 years in prison. The penalty for unlawful detention of girl under 18 years for carnal knowledge is 10 years. The owner or occupier of a premises that permits the defilement of a girl 12 to 13 years for the purposes of unlawful carnal knowledge is subject to 10 years of imprisonment; if the victim was a girl under 12 years, the penalty is life in prison.

The Ministry of Labor, Human Services, and Social Security (MLHSSS) has principal responsibility for enforcing legislation relating to child labor. In the case of the worst forms of child labor, enforcement is handled by the Guyana National Police. The Ministry of Labor has 20 labor officers who investigate reports of child labor and exploitative labor activities. They have authority to enter all workplaces to conduct inspections, including inspections concerning child labor. In addition, the Ministry of Education has responsibility for enforcing provisions of the Education Act relating to the employment of children. As such, the Ministry of Education's attendance officers are authorized to enter any premise or place between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. on any day except Sunday and inquire whether any child resides or is employed there. The Police Force has conducted raids on establishments such as brothels and shops, finding victims of trafficking, including children. MLHSSS collaborates with the Minister of Education and the Police Force to enforce child labor and occupational safety and health laws. According to USDOS, the Ministry of Labor lacks sufficient inspectors to enforce child labor laws effectively.

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

During the reporting period, the Guyanese Government continued to participate in a 3.5 year, USD 2 million USDOL-funded project implemented by Partners of the Americas to combat exploitive child labor through education. The project aims to withdraw 951 children and prevent 2,093 children from exploitive labor. The project also aims to build the capacity of the Guyanese Government to combat child labor, increase awareness of exploitive child labor in the country, and improve educational access for working and at-risk children. During the reporting period, Partners of the Americas, in partnership with the Government of Guyana and UNICEF, carried out an awareness-raising campaign and trained school welfare service officers on child labor and school attendance. The Government of Guyana is participating in a 4-year USD 23,840,500 project funded by the EU and implemented by ILO-IPEC to combat child labor through education in 11 countries. This project aims to support ongoing efforts to eliminate child labor and promote youth employment. In addition, the Government of Guyana and UNICEF continue to implement a 4-year USD 3.3 million cooperative agreement (2006-2010) that includes the promotion of children's rights and protection, child survival, and adolescent development and participation, particularly among vulnerable children such as working children. In partnership with UNICEF, the Government published the results of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted in 2006, which provides insights into the situation of children, including child labor, in Guyana. The Government participated in the second phase of a USD 750,000 regional project to combat the worst forms of child labor in the Caribbean, funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by ILO-IPEC.

During the reporting period, the Government of Guyana took part in a regional initiative to raise awareness of trafficking in persons, funded by USDOS and implemented by IOM. The Guyana Police Force instituted a mandatory training to the Criminal Investigations Division Police officers on trafficking in persons. MLHSSS and the National Task Force for Combating Trafficking in persons conducted awareness-raising campaigns on human trafficking, and the Government continued to support efforts to assist victims of trafficking.

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