Skip to page content
Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Bookmark and Share


Download the Report
Download a PDF of the Belize report.

English (PDF)

2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2012, Belize made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government enacted a new Trafficking in Persons law, which increases the penalties for offenders to up to 12 years’ imprisonment if the victim is a child. The Government also enacted the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Act, which provides all children under the age of 18 with protections from such criminal offenses. The Government, in collaboration with UNICEF, released the results of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), quantifying, among other social indicators, the prevalence of child labor within the country. It continues to implement the National Child Labor Policy and programs such as Building Opportunities for Our Social Transformation (BOOST) that focus on poverty alleviation and promote education. Despite these advancements, Belize has not formally adopted a list of hazardous occupations, and labor inspectors still lack the resources to enforce child labor laws adequately. Children in Belize continue to engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in dangerous activities within the agricultural sector and commercial sexual exploitation.


Learn More: ILAB in Belize | Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor | Previous Reports:

Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Some children in Belize are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in dangerous activities within the agricultural sector and commercial sexual exploitation.(3-7) Children work in agriculture after school, on weekends, and during vacations.(3, 8, 9) They harvest bananas, citrus, and sugar.(3, 4, 9) Children working in agriculture may use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides.(6, 7)

Children in Belize are also victims of commercial sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.(3, 5, 10) Limited evidence suggests that some poor families, in an effort to cover schooling and basic living expenses, push their daughters to provide sexual favors in exchange for gifts and money.(5) Child sex tourism is also a problem in Belize. Children are trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation.(3, 5, 10-12)

The recent MICS conducted by UNICEF in collaboration with the Government found that children ages 5 to 11 work at higher rates than those ages 12 to 14.(13) The rates are 12.1 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively. Additionally, males were found to work at higher rates than females for both age groups.(13) Children who were involved in child labor are more likely to be found working in rural areas than in urban ones.(13) This data was not analyzed prior to the release of this report and is not included in the data table above.

In urban areas, there are reports of children working on the streets, but specific information on hazards is unknown.(5)

Laws and Regulations on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Labor Act of Belize sets the minimum age for work at 14, although children ages 12 to 13 may engage in light work.(14) The Act also prohibits employment of children under the age of 15 on a maritime vessel. The Families and Children Act prohibits engagement in hazardous work for those under the age of 18.(15) Although the 2009 National Child Labor Policy identified a list of hazardous occupations that young workers should not be engaged in, the Government of Belize has yet to formally adopt this list into law.(9, 16, 17)

The Belizean Constitution prohibits forced labor.(18) Belizean law prohibits the voluntary or compulsory recruitment of children under age 18 into military service.(19)

This reporting period, the Government of Belize enacted a new Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act, which prohibits the trafficking of all persons, including children, and replaces the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. The new Trafficking Act prescribes punishments from one to eight years imprisonment if the victim is an adult, up to 12 years if the victim is a child, and up to 25 years if the case involves sexual assault.(20, 21) The Government also passed a Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Prohibitions) Act that protects all children under the age of 18 from such exploitation, including prostitution.(22). These Acts, along with the Criminal Code, criminalize all forms of child sexual exploitation, including child pornography.(20, 22, 23) However, the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Act contains a clause that allows children ages 16 and 17 to engage in sexual activities in exchange for remuneration, gifts, goods, food, or other benefits, leaving these children vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor.(22) Belizean legislation also does not provide a consistent definition of a “child.” The Labor Act defines a child as a person who is under the age of 14, while the Criminal Code includes varying ages, which has led to ambiguity when enforcing legislation.(14, 23, 24)

The Education Act of 2010 establishes free and compulsory education until the age of 15.(25) In practice, however, schools are allowed to charge fees and parents must pay for textbooks, uniforms, and meals. These expenses, coupled with the lack of transportation and few trained teachers, hinder access to education.(12, 25, 26) More than 50 percent of primary school educators do not have teaching qualifications.(26) To ensure that children of compulsory age stay in school, the Education and Training Act of 2010 authorizes school community liaison officers to visit homes and inquire about the attendance of children who are not consistently present.(4, 27) Truancy officers are also authorized to enforce the provisions within the Act and prosecute those in violation.(27)

Institutional Mechanisms for Coordination and Enforcement

The National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) coordinates efforts to combat child labor, including the implementation of the National Child Labor Policy. It is led by the Ministry of Labor, Local Government, and Rural Development (MOL) and is made up of 15 government and civil society members.(4, 9, 17) The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee is led by the Vice Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation and includes 12 other government agencies and civil society organizations.(4, 9, 24, 28)

The MOL conducts labor inspections and enforces labor legislation. It currently operates on a budget of $800,000 and has 25 labor inspectors in 10 offices throughout the country.(9) All labor inspectors received child labor training this reporting period.(9) The MOL mandates that labor officers’ conduct a minimum of four inspections per week and approximately 2,000 inspections a year. However, the actual rate of inspections is lower than the mandate.(4) This is primarily due to resource constraints, including a lack of vehicles and engagement in other required duties, such as investigating violations in work permits and unfair dismissals.(4, 9) No information is available on the actual number of inspections conducted, the cases that involved child labor, or the number of children found working illegally.(4)

The Department of Human Services (DHS) of the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation, the Belize Police Department, and other members of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee enforce legislation on human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and the use of children in illicit activities. The Sexual Offense and Family Violence units of the Police Department conduct investigations of these crimes.(4, 9) The Government has continued to implement the CARE Model, an operational protocol established to coordinate protection, care, and monitoring of sexually exploited and trafficked children. The protocol outlines the role of the DHS and the police in receiving allegations of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, making referrals to other agencies for services, and protecting the children from future exploitation.(4, 28)

During the reporting period, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions convicted two individuals on human trafficking charges. These separate cases involved the commercial sexual exploitation of two female child victims.(29-31)

Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government continues to implement the National Child Labor Policy of 2009. Developed with the principal objective of establishing a rights-based framework to eradicate child labor, its priority areas include strengthening current child labor laws, as well as creating new legislation to address existing gaps and provide academic assistance to former and current child laborers.(9, 17) It also aims to train labor officers on how to identify and provide care to child laborers, raise awareness and increase advocacy efforts, and strengthen government institutions and social services to address and monitor child labor.(9, 17) The NCLC, responsible for the implementation of the National Child Labor Policy, drafted child labor legislation in 2011. The legislation remains in the Solicitor General’s Office, awaiting legal review, and the NCLC is currently drafting a strategic plan that is under review by committee members.(4, 9, 17)

The Government also continued to implement the National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents (2004-2015). It prioritizes actions in the areas of education, health, and child protection.(9, 13, 32) Within this framework, addressing child labor, including the worst forms of child labor, is identified as a strategic objective. The plan calls for the revision of current child labor legislation, the development of protocols to improve interagency coordination, increasing institutional capacity to enforce legislation, strengthening child labor prevention programs, and carrying out awareness-raising campaigns.(32)

In 2011, Belize developed a comprehensive strategy plan to promote economic growth and improve national well-being. Building upon the National Poverty Elimination Action Plan (2007-2011), the National Development Framework, Horizon 2030, recognizes education as a basic human right. It sets as a goal, among other national priorities, providing all children with access to quality education through secondary school.(33, 34) The Ministry of Education (MOE) established the Early Childhood Development Policy to promote the rights of children, from conception to age 8, and provide support to all primary caregivers.(35) The policy aims to develop innovative programs that target families of child laborers, particularly those engaged in the worst forms of child labor, and ensure those children stay in school.(35)

The MOE has also been working closely with the Caribbean Development Bank and several educational stakeholders to transform the education system. This collaboration has resulted in the MOE producing the Belizean Education Sector Strategy (2011-2016).(36) With an overarching goal of “improving the quality and accessibility of education,” the Belizean Education Sector Strategy will focus on ensuring every child commences school ready to learn, increasing retention rates and years of actual attendance, and investing in comprehensive teacher training.(36) The impact of this strategy on the worst forms of child labor does not appear to have been studied.

During the reporting period, the Government of Belize worked closely with UNICEF to release a MICS. The study provides comprehensive information on a wide range of social indicators as they relate to the children and women in Belize, including the child labor rate.(13) The survey finds that of all children in Belize between the ages of 5 and 14, 10 percent are engaged in child labor. However, the survey did not specify the specific employment sector in which such engagement occurs, and the data was not available for formal analysis and thus it is excluded from the chart above.(13)

Social Programs to Eliminate or Prevent the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Belize has maintained its previous efforts of raising awareness on the worst forms of child labor, assisting victims of child commercial sexual exploitation as well as supporting local NGOs that focus their work in these areas.(4, 9, 11, 28, 37)

In December 2011, the country began participating in a 4-year global project to combat child labor. Funded by USDOL, the project will support child labor survey activities.(38) The Government also participated in a 2-year, $250,000 USDOS-funded initiative to address human trafficking in 2011 and 2012. Since implementation of the project, more than 5,000 Belizean officials and local civilians have been trained on how to identify cases of human trafficking, provide protection to the victims, and help prosecute the traffickers.(39, 40) One of the initiatives within the project was the July 2012 launch of an educational media outreach campaign to be carried out by the IOM in partnership with Belize’s Anti-Trafficking Committee. The goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking within the country.(40) Research has not identified any other government program or initiative designed to address the other worst forms of child labor, such as agriculture.

During the reporting period, the Government continued to implement the Building Opportunities for Our Social Transformation (BOOST) program, funded in part by the World Bank, to help combat national poverty. The initiative provides monetary incentives for families who comply with program requirements.(9, 41) Families must ensure that their children, ages 5 to 17, maintain an annual attendance record of at least 85 percent, and all immunizations must be administered for children ages 5 and under.(4, 9, 41, 42) To date, the program has reached about 6 percent of all Belizean poor households, and 97.3 percent of the participants attend school.(42) In 2012, the Government of Belize expanded the BOOST program to provide higher payouts to boys in an effort to lower the rate of male dropouts.(9) While the program has a high rate of school attendance among beneficiaries, it has not reached many Belizeans in need.

The Government’s Primary School Completers Program continued to be implemented in the Southern region of Belize. Launched in 2009, this initiative is meant to increase school enrollment by providing families with cash subsidies contingent upon the children completing their primary education.(9, 43) Despite these efforts, more than 40 percent of the Belizean population continues to live below the poverty line, with more than 16 percent living in extreme poverty. In rural areas, where indigenous people largely reside, these rates reach even higher levels.(41, 44, 45)

In 2012, the Government allocated more than 25 percent of the national budget to education, continuing its previous efforts of expanding national access to secondary schooling, improving teacher training, and providing comprehensive early childhood education. It continues to implement the training program for teachers in rural areas and the certification program for primary education teachers.(4, 9, 36, 46, 47) The $1.2 million project, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank to comprehensively improve the Belizean teaching force, is also still operational.(48) Research was unable to uncover the impact these programs have had on child labor.

Based on the reporting above, the following actions would advance the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in Belize:


Suggested Actions

Year(s) Action Recommended

Laws and Regulations

Adopt the list of hazardous occupations prohibited for children.

2009, 2011, 2012

Adopt draft legislation that provides a uniform definition of a child.

2011, 2012

Coordination and Enforcement

Make information publicly available on enforcement efforts to combat the worst forms of child labor, including the number of complaints, investigations, convictions, and penalties.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Ensure that labor inspectors have sufficient time and resources to conduct labor inspections.

2009, 2011, 2012


Increase access to education by eliminating all fees as well as providing transportation and school materials.

2011, 2012

Conduct research to determine the sectoral prevalence of the worst forms of child labor in agriculture, street work, and commercial sexual exploitation.

2010, 2011, 2012

Assess the impact that the Education Sector Strategy has had on the worst forms of child labor.


Social Programs

Develop programs aimed at reducing the worst forms of child labor, including agriculture.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Expand current anti-poverty programs such as the BOOST program to meet the current need.

2011, 2012

Assess the impact that current government programs aimed at increasing access to secondary education, improving teacher training, and providing comprehensive early childhood education have on the worst forms of child labor.



1. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total.; accessed February 4, 2013; Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary school. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. For more information, please see the “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” section of this report.

2. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. February 5, 2013. Reliable statistical data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms. As a result, statistics on children’s work in general are reported in this chart, which may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on sources used, the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” section of this report.

3. International Trade Union Conferation (ITUC). Internationally Recognized Core Labour Standards In Belize: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Belize. Brussels; 2010.

4. U.S. Embassy - Belmopan. reporting, January 27, 2012.

5. U.S. Department of State. "Belize," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2012. Washington, DC; April 19, 2013;

6. International Labour Office. Children in hazardous work: What we know, What we need to do. Geneva, International Labour Organization; 2011. While country-specific information on the dangers children face in agriculture is not available, research studies and other reports have documented the dangerous nature of tasks in agriculture and their accompanying occupational exposures, injuries and potential health consequences to children working in the sector.

7. International Labour Office. Farming, International Labour Organization, [Online] January 31, 2012 [cited November 19 2012];

8. U.S. Embassy- Belmopan. reporting, January 30, 2009.

9. U.S. Embassy- Belmopan. reporting, February 27, 2013.

10. U.S. Department of State. "Belize," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2012. Washington, DC; June 24, 2012;

11. U.S. Embassy- Belmopan. reporting, March 9, 2010.

12. UNICEF. The Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Belize 2011: An Ecological Review. Belize City; July 2011.

13. UNICEF. Multiple Indicator Cluster Survery (MICS) -Belize Final Report. New York; November 2011.

14. Government of Belize. Labour Act, Revised, enacted December 31, 2000.

15. Government of Belize. Families and Children Act, Revised Edition, enacted December 31, 2000.

16. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Belize (ratification: 2000) Submitted: 2011; accessed November 19, 2012;

17. Government of Belize. The National Child Labour Policy. Belmopan; 2009.

18. Government of Belize. The Constitution of Belize, Revised Edition, enacted December 31, 2000.

19. Government of Belize. Defence Act, Revised Edition, enacted December 31, 2000.

20. Government of Belize. Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2003 No. 18 enacted June 28, 2003.

21. Government of Belize. Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2013 No. 2 enacted January 31, 2013.

22. Government of Belize. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Prohibition) Act, 2013 No. 3 enacted January 31, 2013.

23. Government of Belize. Criminal Code, enacted December 31, 2000.

24. U.S. Embassy- Belmopan official. Email communication to USDOL official. May 18, 2012.

25. Government of Belize. Education Act, enacted December 31, 2000.

26. National Human Development Advisory Committee and Ministry of Economic Development, Commerce and Industry, Consumer Protection. 2009 Country Poverty Assessment August 2010.

27. Government of Belize. Education and Training Act of 2010, enacted April 14, 2010.

28. U.S. Department of State. reporting, February 24, 2012.

29. 7 News Belize. "Another Human Trafficking Conviction," 7 News Belize. Belize: 7 News Belize; February 10, 2012; Television Broadcast;

30. Channel 5 Belize. "Bail Denied for Honduran convicted of human trafficking," News 5. Belize: Channel 5 Belize; May 28, 2012; Television Broadcast;

31. Humes, A. "Woman Convicted of Attempting to use Minor for Sex Work." The Belize Times, Belize City, February 10, 2012; Court.

32. Government of Belize. The National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents in Belize 2004-2015. Belize City; September 4, 2004.

33. Government of Belize. Final Report: Preparing Horizon 2030 - Long Term National Development Framework for Belize. Belmopan, Barnett & Company Ltd.; June 10, 2011.

34. Government of Belize. Horizon 2030, Government of Belize, [online] [cited November 19, 2012];

35. Ministry of Education. Early Childhood Development Policy for Belize. Belmopan; May 2011.

36. Government of Belize. Education Sector Strategy 2011-2016: Improving access, quality and governance of education in Belize. Belmopan; March 2012.

37. Williams, S. "Special Envoy Lobbying for Harsher Laws on Sex Crimes against Children " The Guardian, Belize City, October 6, 2011.

38. ILO-IPEC. Technical Proposal: Global Action Program on Child Labor Issues; August 24, 2011.

39. U.S. Department of State. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons: All Programs Funded During Fiscal Year 2010, U.S. Department of State, [online] [cited November 20, 2012];

40. Hidalgo, A. IOM and Belize Anti-Trafficking Committee Launch Educational Awareness Campaign. Press Release. Belmopan; July 17, 2012.

41. World Bank. Country Partnership Strategy (FY2012 - FY2015). Washington, DC; July 29, 2011

42. World Bank. Belize ”Boosts” School Attendance and Access to Financial Services for the Poor. Press Release. Belmopan; June 28, 2012.

43. U.S. Embassy- Belmopan. reporting, February 18, 2011.

44. Nah, G. "Coping with Poverty in Belize." [Online] February 12, 2010 [cited November 20, 2012];

45. Government of Belize and the Caribbean Development Bank. Country Poverty Assessment, Final Report. Belmopan; August 2010.

46. Government of Belize. Budget Presentation for Fiscal Year 2011/2012 Belmopan; March 11, 2011, .

47. Government of Belize. General Government: Summary of Proposed Recurrent for the Fiscal Year 2011 - 2012. Belmopan; March 11, 2011.

48. Inter-American Development Bank. BL-T1049: Enhancement of the Belize Teaching Force, Inter-American Development Bank, [online] [cited November 20, 2012];,1303.html?id=BL-T1049.