Two bills were passed in Parliament yesterday (05) to raise the minimum age for employment of children from 14 to 16 years.
Accordingly, the Amendment Bill (Regulation of Service and Wages) for Shop and Office Workers and the Employment of Women, Youth and Children (Amendment) Bill were read and passed for the second time.
It has been reported that 1% of the total children population in Sri Lanka is employed as child laborers and with passing these bills, the employment of children under the age of 16 will become a punishable offense. In addition, the minimum age of employment on a vessel was increased from 15 to 16 years, and the minimum age of employment on cruise ships and training ships was increased from 15 to 16 years.
In addition, with the passage of this bill, the definition of a child will be changed and ‘a young human being below the age of 16’ be considered a child.
Commenting on the Bills, Labor Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the objective of the Ministry of Labor and the Department of Labor is to reduce child labor in Sri Lanka to 0% and that this is a legal framework to strengthen the program to ensure the safety of children in Sri Lanka.
Further expressing his views the Minister said,
“Compared to other South Asian countries, Sri Lanka is ahead of other countries in eliminating child labor. Also, with the raising of the minimum age for education to 16 years in the 2016 Amendment to the Education Ordinance, there was a mismatch between these legal restrictions. That is, we have passed a law that every child in this country should be given compulsory education up to the age of 16.
“If so, our existing labor and other laws should be amended in line with that law. Enforcing this law, raising the age limit is also important internationally. This is also a very important factor in obtaining the European GSP Plus concession. Therefore, we are raising the age limit in all four ordinances, which is 14, to 16. Accordingly, support will be extended to make education compulsory.
“It is illegal to employ children under this age in any activity. But there are two exceptions. Children can participate in agricultural businesses run by parents, guardians and family members before or after school. We cannot ban it. They can also be engaged for non-profit charities or educational purposes by the organizers of a school that provides educational training that should be supervised by a government agency.”