1. Child Labor in Nicaragua
Estimates on the number of working children in Nicaragua vary considerably. In 1998, the ILO’s Yearbook of Labour Statistics estimated that 10.8 percent (74,180) of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Nicaragua were working.1208 Using a broader age range, the National Commission Against Child Labor estimated that in 1998 there were approximately 160,000 children under the age of 17 working in Nicaragua.1209 According to the latest estimates by the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), a non-profit organization, there are approximately 322,000 working children.1210
Child labor in Nicaragua is reported in the production of export crops such as coffee, cotton, bananas, tobacco, and rice.1211 A study conducted by the National Commission Against Child Labor in 1998 found that as many as 140,000 children were employed in rural activities including the harvesting of crops.1212 Children often work for less than US$1 per day alongside their parents on banana and coffee plantations.1213
There are reports of children forced to work in the streets of Managua as vendors and beggars by their parents; in some cases, these children are “rented” by their parents to organized networks of beggars. Between 4,000 and 5,000 children are estimated to work on the streets of the capital city, selling merchandise, cleaning automobile windows, or working in other activities.1214
Child prostitution has risen in Nicaragua, particularly in Managua and in port cities along the Honduran and Costa Rican borders.1215 According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), prostitution among children between the ages of 12 and 16 has grown significantly; in towns, taxi drivers often operate as “middlemen” in the commercial sexual exploitation of these children. The Organization of American States (OAS) has also noted increased sexual exploitation of girls as young as 10 years old. Truck drivers and other travelers, including foreigners, are known to engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of young girls in rural areas, particularly in towns along the Pan-American Highway.1216
The Ministry of the Family sponsored a six-month investigation into child prostitution in five municipalities between December 1998 and May 1999. Eighty-two percent of the children surveyed indicated that they started engaging in prostitution within the past year. Many of the children interviewed reported prostituting themselves to purchase basic necessities such as food and clothing. Others spoke of prostitution as a means of supporting their drug habit.1217 Cases involving the trafficking of girls for the purposes of prostitution have also been reported in Nicaragua.1218
2. Children’s Participation in School
Between the years of 1997 and 1998, the gross primary attendance rate was 105.1 percent, and the net primary attendance rate was 73.1 percent. In 1997, the gross primary enrollment rate was 101.6 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 78.6 percent.1219 Children of the urban poor completed an average of three years of schooling in 1998, while children of the rural poor completed an average of 1.6 years.1220 In 1996, 51 percent of primary school entrants reached the fifth grade.1221
An estimated 35 percent of public schools were in need of repair in 1996. Poor teaching quality, however, is reported as the most visible constraint to quality education in Nicaragua, as teachers are not adequately trained or paid.1222
3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement
Nicaragua’s Constitution prohibits employment of children that could adversely affect normal childhood development or interfere with a child’s schooling. It also prohibits forced or compulsory labor and provides protection from any type of economic or social exploitation.1223
Nicaragua’s 1996 Labor Code raised the country’s minimum age for employment from 12 to 14 years. Parental consent is required for children between the ages of 14 and 16 to be employed.1224 The Labor Code limits the work of children between the ages of 14 and 17 to a maximum of six-hours per day and prohibits them from working at night. The employment of youth is prohibited in places that endanger their health and safety such as mines, garbage dumps, and night entertainment venues (night clubs, bars, etc.).1225 Employers violating the law by employing children illegally face steep fines ranging from 500 to 5,000 córdobas (US$40 to US$400) per violation.1226
The Children and Adolescent Code of 1998 affords children additional protections. Article 76 calls for the different sectors of society—government, private institutions, family, community, and schools—to share responsibility for ensuring the welfare of children who are abandoned, abused, exploited, disabled, orphaned, pregnant, working, addicted to illegal substances, or faced with other circumstances requiring special protection.1227
The Labor Ministry has created a separate child labor investigations department. This department monitors occupational safety and health in the agricultural sector. The Ministry has also signed agreements with nightclub and restaurant owners who have pledged to comply with the country’s child labor laws. A government resolution prohibits employment of minors in “Free Trade Zones.”1228
Nicaragua’s Penal Code prohibits individuals from promoting or engaging in the prostitution of children. Articles 200 and 201 of the code provide for a penalty of four to 10 years in prison for a person who entices or forces a child under the age of 12 to engage in sexual activities. Individuals who do the same to persons between the ages of 12 and 18 years may be sentenced to between one and five years in prison.1229
Nicaragua ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on November 2, 1981, and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor on November 6, 2000.1230
4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling
a. Child Labor Initiatives
Through the National Commission for the Eradication of Child Labor, the Government of Nicaragua, in collaboration with international organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector, has developed a strategic plan for addressing child labor in the country. Under the Commission’s guidance, the Ministry of Labor’s International Relations Committee plans to inspect industries where children have historically worked.1231
The Commission has initiated a variety of activities aimed at combating child labor. These include development of a national program for the care and protection of child and adolescent workers, a project to strengthen child labor inspections, and a national campaign, “Study First, Work Later.” In addition, the Commission has instituted initiatives aimed at the progressive elimination of child labor in the indigenous community of Subtavia, Leon, on the streets of Managua, and in the market of Santos Barcenas.1232
The Ministry of Family sponsors several programs targeting minors. The programs, which reach nearly 10,000 minors nationally, assist parents with childcare, provide incentives for minors to return to school, and offer skills training through technical and vocational programs. The Ministries of Family and Education have also collaborated to assist children working as windshield cleaners in city intersections, 75 percent of whom are homeless and as many as 60 percent of whom are school dropouts. This program has reached 647 children, providing them with housing and schooling. 1233
The ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) is currently working with the Ministry of Labor on five projects to eliminate child labor:
• In partnership with the Mayor of Managua’s office and with funding from the U.S.
Department of Labor (USDOL), one ILO-IPEC program seeks to eliminate child labor in the capital’s largest garbage dump, Acahualinca. The program, which began in 2000, aims to reach at least 700 children, enroll them in school, and provide them with transportation to and from school.1234
•A second ILO-IPEC project, which works through a local NGO, the Mary Barreda
Association, aims to address the problem of children in prostitution in León. The program began in 1998 and has reached over 100 children engaged in prostitution, as well as 73 at-risk families.1235
•A third ILO-IPEC project, also supported by USDOL, targets children working in coffee farms in the rural areas of Matagalpa and Jinotega. The program aims to provide educational opportunities for over 4,000 children and income generating alternatives for 500 families. The National Commission and local coffee farmers have committed to finance construction of 24 schools on their farms to provide instruction for children during the harvest season.1236 In Matagalpa, the coffee industry has also committed to provide parents with land for growing coffee as an alternative source of income that can help to reduce their dependence on the labor of their children.1237
•A fourth ILO-IPEC project, with USDOL support, aims to eliminate child labor in farming and stockbreeding in the Department of Chontales. This program aims to withdraw children between the ages of 7 and 14 from work and provide 5,000 of them with educational opportunities as well as pre-school for another 720 children. Income generating alternatives will also be provided to 300 families in the Department of
Chontales. The National Union of Farmers and Stockbreeders (UNAG) is also seeking to mobilize the participation of other agricultural and rural associations so that child labor can be gradually phased out of Nicaragua’s commercial agricultural sector.1238
• And fifth, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Labor has begun a national child labor survey, with support from USDOL, through ILO-IPEC’s Statistical Information and Monitoring
Program on Child Labor (SIMPOC) and with the participation of the United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The survey, which will target children between the ages of 5 and 17, will be the first of its kind in the country.1239
Other organizations are also active in combating child labor in Nicaragua. Save the Children is involved in teaching parents and employers about the detrimental effects of child labor and assists working children to return to school.1240 In November 2000, UNICEF began collaborating with the Nicaraguan Labor Ministry to conduct a national survey on street children.1241
b. Educational Alternatives
The Nicaraguan Children and Adolescents Code establishes free primary education, and school is compulsory through the sixth grade.1242 This provision, however, is generally not enforced.1243 A Constitutional mandate requiring the government to utilize 6 percent of its budget to fund higher education limits resources available for primary and secondary programs in the country.1244
In 1993, the Government of Nicaragua and the World Bank launched a project to improve basic education by enhancing infrastructure and training at the school level. The project was also intended to increase school autonomy by devolving management to the local level while increasing the Ministry of Education’s capacity to monitor schools and reducing costs of education by providing textbooks and other inputs.1245
According to the Government of Nicaragua, by 1998 primary curriculum reform had been implemented in approximately 98 percent of the country’s schools, and pre-school enrollment of boys and girls in rural areas had reportedly increased.1246 Recently, the Ministry of Education and other government and nongovernmental entities have taken measures to expand educational opportunities, such as opening “extra-age” classrooms in urban elementary schools.1247 In addition, the Ministry of Labor has undertaken a national campaign entitled, “Study First, Work Later.”1248
In 1997, public spending on all education as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) was 3.9 percent.1249 In that same year, government spending dedicated to primary education as a percentage of GNP was approximately 2.2 percent.1250
5. Selected Data on Government Expenditures
The following bar chart presents selected government expenditures expressed as a percentage of GNP. The chart considers government expenditures on education, the military, health care, and debt service. Where figures are available, the portion of government spending on education that is specifically dedicated to primary education is also shown.1251
While it is difficult to draw conclusions or discern clear correlations between areas of government expenditure as a percentage of GNP and the incidence of child labor in a country, this chart and the related tables presented in Appendix B (Tables 14 through 19) offer the reader a basis for considering the relative emphasis placed on each spending area by the governments in each of the 33 countries profiled in the report.
1208 International Labor Organization, Yearbook of Labour Statistics (Geneva: ILO, 1999).
1209 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2000), Section 6d [hereinafter Country Reports 1999—Nicaragua ]. Ibid. at Section 5.
1210 U.S. Embassy-Nicaragua, unclassified telegram no. 001775, June 23, 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 001775].
1211 Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in Nicaragua: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Nicaragua (Geneva, October 1999), 3.
1212 Country Reports 1999—Nicaragua at Section 6d.
1214 Country Reports 1999—Nicaragua at Section 6d.
1215 Ibid. at Section 5.
1216 Ibid. at Sections 5.
1217 Ibid. at Section 5.
1218 Ibid. at Section 5. In July the local media reported the arrest of three Guatemalan citizens involved in trafficking girls and young women, including Nicaraguan citizens, for forced prostitution in Guatemala.
1219 World Development Indicators.
1220 In 1998 the average years of schooling completed by all students nationwide was 4.5 years; see World Bank, “Nicaragua: Second Basic Education Project,” Washington, D.C., 1998 [hereinafter “Nicaragua: Second Basic Education Project”].
1221 World Development Indicators 2000 .
1222 “Nicaragua: Second Basic Education Project.”
1223 Political Constitution of Nicaragua, Article 84.
1224 Nicaraguan Labor Code, 1996, Article 131. See also Unclassified telegram 001775.
1225 Ibid. at Article 133, 134.
1226 Unclassified telegram telegram 001775.
1227 1998 Nicaraguan Children and Adolescents Code.
1228 Unclassified telegram telegram 001775.
1229 Nicaraguan Penal Code, Article 200, as cited in U.S. Embassy-Nicaragua, unclassified telegram no. 002462, September 1, 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 002462]. It is important to note that prostitution of children is reportedly sometimes camouflaged under the guise of “sexual consent.” See unclassified telegram 001775.
1230 For a list of which countries profiled in Chapter 3 have ratified ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, see Appendix C.
1231 Three hundred twenty-four employees operating with an annual budget of US$935,000 are responsible for carrying country-wide inspections. U.S. Embassy-Nicaragua, unclassified telegram no. 000619, February 27, 1998 [hereinafter unclassifed telegram 000619].
1232 Activities Realized to Eradicate Child Labor in Nicaragua (Managua: Ministry of Labor, April 1999), 8-12 [hereinafter Activities Realized to Eradicate Child Labor in Nicaragua ].
1233 Unclassified telegram telegram 001775.
1234 IPEC, “Elimination of Child Labor at La Chureca DumpYard,” project document (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, 2000), 13; see also unclassified telegram telegram 001775.
1235 IPEC, Elimination of Child Labor and Risk of Sexual Exploitation of Girls and Teenagers in the Bus Terminal of the Municipality of Leon, Progress Report (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, March 2001), 4 [hereinafter Elimination of Sexual Exploitation in the Bus Terminal of Leon ].
1236 IPEC, “Prevention and Progressive Elimination of Child Labor in the Coffee Industry in Nicaragua,” project document (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, 1999); see also unclassified telegram telegram no. 001775.
1237 Interview with ILO-IPEC by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 11, 2000 [hereinafter ILO-IPEC interview].
1238 IPEC, “Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor in the Farming and Stockbreeding Sectors in the Department of Chontales,” project document (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, 1999).
1239 SIMPOC Program Document, Central America (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, Sept. 21, 1999). See also ILO-IPEC interview.
1240 Unclassified telegram, 2/2718.
1241 UN Wire, “Nicaragua: Survey to Assess Number of Street Children,” November 15, 2000.
1242 Article 43 of the 1998 Nicaraguan Children and Adolescents Code. See also Country Reports 1999— Nicaragua at Section 5.
1243 Country Reports 1999—Nicaragua at Section 5.
1245 “Nicaragua: Second Basic Education Project.”
1246 Nicaragua Supplementary Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, March 19, 1999, 3.
1247 Elimination of Sexual Exploitation in the Bus Terminal of Leon at 2.
1248 Activities Realized to Eradicate Child Labor in Nicaragua at 10.
1249 World Development Indicators 2000 .
1250 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Institute for Statistics [CD- ROM], Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment—A Decade of Education, Country Report, Nicaragua (Paris, 2000).
1251 See Chapter 1, Section C, 5, for a fuller discussion of the information presented in the box. See also Appendix B for further discussion, and Tables 14 through 19 for figures on government expenditure over a range of years.