A survey conducted in 2011 examining the problem of child labour in Guyana has found that many teens involved in child labour have also found themselves being involved in prostitution.
The Ministry of Social Protection has released the results of the survey which was conducted in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Linden, Corriverton, Black Bush Polder, Number 58 Village, Charity, Kwakwani, and Ituni.
It covered three categories of children, 15 years and younger (as young as five years old), 15 to 16 and 16 to 18.
According to the Ministry, some 532 children and young workers were involved in the survey, which was done during the period April 4th to 15th 2011.
It found that many of the youths who were interviewed were involved in selling and agriculture in all three categories while hidden evidence of prostitution activities were found in all of the age ranges.
The report said that it was also troubling that a small percentage of the children and working youths sustained illnesses and injuries while working.
“These occurred while the children and young workers were involved mainly weeding, begging or carrying out sexual activities. Also found was many children and young workers involved in carrying heavy loads and operating machinery. Some were also exposed to all weather conditions, chemicals, pesticides, glues, dust, fumes and gases at their places of work.”
The issue of single parenthood may have played a role in some of the children being forced to find jobs or beg on the streets.
The report found that most of the homes of the children and working youths were headed by single females who had more than one dependent and most times more than one working child.
It said the guardian/parents reported that the main reason for the children and young individuals working was to help support their families.
The report found that Sixty-seven percent of the children in the 15 years and younger categories were males with 40% of this age group not being in school and 36% of them being employed on a full-time basis.
“One primary level child in this group had never attended school. In the second category, 15 to 16 years, 77% of the child labourers were males with 49% of them not being in school. While most of the children in both categories (19% and 23% respectively) were involved in rice farming, 8% of them in both groups were involved prostitution and strip dancing.”
Among the older working individuals (16 to 18 years) 1% was involved in sex work with the majority (40%) being involved in retailing.
During the 12 months prior to the survey, 12% of the working children and young workers sustained illness and 42% said the injuries were work related. Of that number 49% of them had to stop school to recuperate.
The younger children, according to the survey, were paid $6,000 a week and worked mainly below 32 hours per week while the older children (16 to 18) worked for $8,000 a week but for longer hours.
The report found that in many cases, children in the youngest category were not paid for their labour.
The “troubling” survey has forced the new government into action on the issue and the Ministry of Social Protection intends to take urgent steps to address the problem, “since we aware of the debilitating effects of child labour”.
Among the steps to be taken are:
- Creation of a unit that focuses specifically on the issue of child labour which will be expected to create strategies to address this phenomenon, including the poverty factor;
- Enforcement of the requisite laws that cover child labour ;
- Remove working children off the streets and ensure they are in school; and
- Provide more funding to facilitate labour inspections
A recent United States Department of Labour (DOL) child labour report found that Guyana’s children are engaged in child labour in agriculture and in the worst forms of child labour in commercial sexual exploitation.
That report was prior to the findings of the 2011 survey being known.