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Published On: Tue, Jul 22nd, 2014

Bolivia: Children as young as 10 can work, NCL expresses concern

Children as young as 10-years-old can legally work in Bolivia. Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera signed the bill into law on Thursday. Prior to this new law, Bolivian labor laws allowed the minimum age for working at 14.

Image/CIA

Image/CIA

RT reports, under the new legislation, children above the age of 10 will be allowed to become self-employed workers as long as they attend school and have permission from their parents. Those over 12 years old will be permitted to take on contract work, also on terms of parental consent and compulsory school attendance.

At least one US group has expressed concern over the new Bolivian labor law.

The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization with a long history of fighting to improve child labor laws in the United States and abroad, decries the decision last week by Bolivia to enact a new law that lowers the age of work from 14 to 10.

“Ten-year-olds belong in school–not in mines, forests, and factories. Bolivia’s baffling action is a huge step backward and endangers the country’s 500,000 working children,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg, who is also the co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL has co-chaired for 25 years. “In the last decade, the world has made remarkable progress in reducing abusive child labor by one-third, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization.”

“While the new law is aimed at ‘self-employed’ children, our great fear is that the health and safety of Bolivia’s many thousands of children in hazardous work–like mining–will be endangered as a larger number of children sent out to work by their families will be legally employed,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy and the coordinator of the CLC. The U.S. Department of Labor lists nuts, bricks, corn, gold, silver, sugarcane, tin, and zinc as products produced with child labor in the country. Children are already doing some of the most grueling work in the world in Bolivia.”

“Bolivian government officials have said that they are unable to control child labor and that lowering the age of work will lead to greater protection of child workers because their work will now be legal,” said Greenberg. “Essentially, the government of Bolivia is surrendering. The level of exploitation will increase, and children will pay the price.”

“We also do not accept the argument that legal child labor is a necessary tool to reduce poverty in Bolivia, which ranks 70th on the ‘fragile states index,’ an annual ranking of the stability and the pressures countries face,” said Maki. “If 69 countries facing greater problems than Bolivia have not had to lower the age of work, surely Bolivia does not.”

“I’d like to remind the global community of the words of Hull House reformer Grace Abbott, an early child labor advocate in the United States,” said Greenberg. “’If you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for…poverty, you will have both until the end of time.'”

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  1. Léa says:

    “We also do not accept the argument that legal child labor is a necessary tool to reduce poverty in Bolivia, which ranks 70th on the ‘fragile states index,’ an annual ranking of the stability and the pressures countries face,” said Maki. “If 69 countries facing greater problems than Bolivia have not had to lower the age of work, surely Bolivia does not”
    That’s such an invaluable argument! what does a list of countries made by good-willing but ignorant people sitting in offices in the global north can say about the concrete situation in a specific countries?

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