Thu | Jun 8, 2023

Deciding the employment age

Published:Monday | April 12, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Children selling in downtown Kingston. - File

Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer

In Jamaica, we seem to continue to flout the law as it relates to child labour, despite the fact that the nation has ratified the Minimum Age Convention of 1973, adopted by the International Labour Organisation.

Jamaica ratified the convention on October 13, 2003, setting the minimum age to work at 15 years.

The Child Care and Protection Act was passed in 2004, which states, in part: "Do not employ a child younger than 15 years old, unless the work does not affect the child's health or education. Children under 13 should not be employed at all."

This is in stark contrast to what is observed daily in Jamaica where pre-teens can be seen peddling wares.

Other states on the list of 148 countries which have ratified the Convention have adopted minimum ages between 14 and 16. Among them is England, however, which has decided that at age 13 one can work part-time, but only in certain jobs. At 16, you can leave school and begin working full-time but not in a betting shop or bar.


In Barbados, the minimum age for employment is 16, but children under this age are allowed to work under certain conditions. If you are under 16, you should not work between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m., or do work likely to cause injury.

In the United States, the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is enforced by the Department of Labour, specifies that child labour laws apply to workers under 18. The legal working age varies based on the type of job.

For the majority of non-agricultural jobs, the minimum age is 14, but for some jobs there is no minimum age. These include babysitting, delivering newspapers, household chores, performing in movies, theatrical productions, television shows, business owned by one's parents as long as the business does not involve mining or manufacturing. Positions considered as hazardous cannot be held by anyone under the age of 18.

There are also employment guidelines for 14- and 15-year-olds, which include a list of duties persons these ages may not perform.