Youths can only be employed from 15
- National Assembly passes new law

Stabroek News
July 27, 1999

The age limit for the employment of young people has been raised from 14 to 15 years, and Health and Labour Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey noted that legislation providing for children to remain at school until the age of 15 will soon be before the National Assembly.

Dr Jeffrey's comments were made during the course of the debate in the National Assembly on the Factory Hours and Holidays (Amendment) Bill 1999, and the Young Persons Employment (Amendment) Bill 1999 on Thursday. The legislation also increased the fines for breaches of their provisions from $30 - $75 to $10,000 - $15,000.

The bills were passed with the support of the opposition parties though they expressed reservations about the adequacy of programmes and facilities in the school system to make education attractive and to stem the drop out rate.

However, Dr Jeffrey said that the legislation he was piloting was intended to send a clear and loud message that children must be in school up to a given age.

He also reiterated that the bill provides for the monitoring of the employment of children to pass from the Police to the Chief Labour Officer and his staff. He conceded that the arrangement for the Police to monitor the employment of children was not the best of arrangements.

Manzoor Nadir, who represents The United Force in the National Assembly, said that his party supported the legislation because it believes that all children needed to be given the opportunity to take the Caribbean Examinations Council exams.

He said too that the legislation was a signal to parents that the government was serious about education even if all the facilities were not in place.

Jean Persico, one of the People's National Congress parliamentarians, expressed concern about the lack of facilities in the schools in which the children would be required to remain until 15 years.

She also bemoaned the inadequacy of the pre-vocational programmes which she claimed suffered from a lack of equipment and instructors.

Moreover, she said that her concern was aggravated by the lack of information about the government's poverty alleviation programme particularly about its impact on low-income families whose children are forced to leave school and seek employment to supplement the family income.

She also expressed concerns about whether the objectives of the expanded teacher training programmes for the hinterland and coastal areas were being met.

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