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Review of Child Labour Laws of Barbados


Socio-economic Background of Child Labour

Barbados is classified by the United Nations Development Programme as a high human development country. It is well placed in the UNDP Human Development Index (29th in the 2004 Index), which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income. It has the second highest per capita income in the English-speaking Caribbean estimated at US$9,682 in 2002. Unemployment is marginally below 10% and poverty is estimated at 13.9% of the population. A reported 2.4% of the population relies on public assistance.

The education, health and poverty indicators are good. School enrolment rates are high (97.4% for primary schools and 85.7% for secondary schools). The teacher pupil ratios are also favourable by Caribbean standards (1:9 for primary schools and 1:17 for secondary schools).

Barbados has a comprehensive health care system with programmes for health promotion, primary, secondary, tertiary and emergency care, mental health, geriatric care and rehabilitation services. In addition, there are several social welfare programmes under the auspices of Ministries of Education, Health, Community development and Social Transformation, the Welfare Department and National Insurance Scheme. There is a government employment programme, which targets unemployed women who head households.

There is a Child Care Board whose mandate is to provide for the care and protection of children. Their services include counseling, residential placement and foster care. Juvenile delinquency is not a major problem in Barbados. The Probation Department has recorded 46 offences committed by juveniles (children under 16 years) in the year 2002 of which wandering was the most frequent offence committed.

By Caribbean standards, Barbados has a fairly homogenous society with a buoyant economy. It has experienced stable social economic and political transition and development from colonialism to independence. It has not had to address or manage the fractious issues of race or class or poverty or illegal migration or border problems to the extent that has affected some other Caribbean countries. Not surprisingly, it has had a venerable tradition of democratic government and a good record of social partnership. Unlike other Caribbean countries, the Government, the employers’ confederation and the trade union confederation have negotiated Five Protocols, dating from 1993, which established an agreed framework to address the fundamental economic and social issues affecting society. It has embraced a consensual approach to the formulation of labour policies.

Its small size (116 square miles) and small population, 267,000, its governance structure and economic resources make the management of social and labour issues such as child labour relatively uncomplicated. Not surprisingly, Barbados in ratifying ILO Convention


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