According to the ILO, in 2016 Sri Lanka had 103,704 working children.
Employment and Labour relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena speaking on the World Day Against Child Labour announced that Cabinet approval has been granted to increase the minimum working age from 14 to 16 years.
Under Section 47 of the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children’s’ Act, it is considered an offense to employ persons under the age of 14. The amendment to the labour law meets the need to harmonise the working age with that of compulsory education, as well as bring the country’s legislation in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), at least 152 million children are working worldwide. Of these, 72 million do so in hazardous conditions.
In Sri Lanka, working children are employed mainly in fishing, to feed themselves and their family. They belong to fishing families and tend not to want to go to school, nor do they have another trade in mind. According to the ILO, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in child labour. “As economic contraction reduces opportunities in the labour market for parents, it can push their children into hazardous and exploitative work,” reads an ILO report.
Jennifer Paldano Goonewardane