The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is resolute in its efforts to reduce the incidence of child labour in Jamaica, and has committed to raising public awareness on the matter.Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) indicates that more than 16,000 children across the island are engaging in child labour.Director of the Child Labour Unit in the Ministry, Marva Ximinnies has informed that while this figure is dated, as the last national survey on child labour was conducted in 2002, the data shows that the issue requires vigorous attention.Ms. Ximinnies, who was speaking to JIS News, following a capacity-building workshop held at the May Pen Police Station in Clarendon on October 31, said the Ministry is actively working on coordinating a second national survey in an effort to ascertain a more current figure.“We have been negotiating with our international partners, so we are hoping to see that happen early next year,” she informed.Ms. Ximinnies said the Ministry is extremely concerned with the issue of child labour, noting the practice is quite rampant right across the island.“I don’t think any parish is exempt. It is practiced right across the island, because there are certain cultural issues and cultural barriers that would impede the work that we do…fundamentally, as a society, I don’t think we see anything wrong with children working,” she lamented.She revealed that a dipstick survey conducted in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. James found that incidence of child labour was quite high in those regions. A total of 626 vulnerable children between the ages of five to 17 were surveyed.“In Clarendon, we found that there were a little over 200 children engaged in child labour. Of that number, 143 children were not attending school,” Ms. Ximinnies said.She informed that a large number of the children were engaged in domestic labour, while others were involved in agriculture, vending, and the sex industry. Clarendon showed the highest incidence of all the three parishes surveyed.Ms. Ximinnies said the Ministry is keen on tackling the growing problem by strengthening the enforcement capabilities of police officers throughout the country, as well as informing citizens of their responsibilities.“That is why we felt it was important that we move the capacity-building workshops that we have been doing in Kingston and St. Catherine to include the entire island,” she stated.The one-day seminar, which was attended by police officers from the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth, was aimed at training members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) on how to recognise and combat child labour and human trafficking.Similar workshops have been held in Kingston and St. Catherine, while upcoming seminars are scheduled for the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover and St. James.The training is designed to build the knowledge-base of the police to understand the issue of child labour, as well as the supporting legislation to ensure greater enforcement.It is hoped that existing laws will be used more effectively to combat child labour and trafficking in persons.Child labour is defined by the (ILO) as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.Global estimates suggest that 168 million children worldwide are engaged in child labour, accounting for almost 11 per cent of the child population as a whole. Story Highlights More than 16,000 children across the island are engaging in child labour. The Ministry is actively working on coordinating a second national survey in an effort to ascertain a more current figure. A dipstick survey conducted in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. James found that incidence of child labour was quite high in those regions.