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Eradication of child labour a priority: Labour Minister

The Minister of Labour Nimal Siripala De Silva stated at a special discussion held at the Ministry of Labour that all relevant institutions should unite to formulate a national program to eliminate the use of children as a source of income and the complete elimination of child labour in the country, as it has been reported that the use of children as labourers in various occupations has increased in recent times due to the Covid pandemic.

“While some interpret child labour as the cause of parental poverty, it is illegal for some parents to employ underaged children to earn money. Parents who are addicted to drugs tend to do this. There are such children even on the road,” the Minister said in a statement.

The Minister of Labour stated that laws will be introduced to stop the use of children in this manner, even for parents, to make money.

The Minister of Labour further stated that the United Nations has declared 2021 as the Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. He said that the present government aims to achieve the desired goal in Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka has also ratified the Conventions and it has been reported that the use of children as laborers in various occupations has increased in recent times due to the Covid pandemic.

The Minister said that the time has come to change the Child and Labour Laws and Orders to prevent the use of child labour as well as child trafficking and to review the dangerous occupational regulations, especially under the Women, Youth and Child Employment Act. He asked the delegates present at the discussion to submit proposals for amendments.

The Minister said that children were found selling various items near urban streets and in public places and that legal action should be taken against those who use children to make money.

“Information has also revealed that children are addicted to these petty trades. Therefore, regular raids and investigations should be carried out on these children roaming the streets,” the Minister said.

De Silva said that child labour in the country is at a very low level at present.

The Minister also pointed out that although child labour levels are not even one percent of the population of Sri Lanka, there are still many NGOs that talk about child labor.

Ms. Zimrin Singh, Permanent Representative of the World Labour Organization (ILO) to Sri Lanka, commended the Minister for amending the law to increase the minimum working age from 14 to 16.

The Minister also pointed out that the Samurdhi movement should intervene for the parents or guardians of families who employ children as laborers and help them financially. He also said that the Samurdhi program should be fully utilized for this purpose and a survey should be conducted on these child labourers.

It was pointed out that a comprehensive national program should be formulated to save children from this.