1. Child Labor in the Dominican Republic
In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 14 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in the Dominican Republic were working.501 Preliminary results from a national child labor survey conducted in the Dominican Republic in 2000 indicated that 18 percent (443,000) of children between the ages of 5 and 17 worked.502
Children work in the informal economy, in agriculture, such as on sugar plantations, in small businesses, and in clandestine factories, where working conditions are often poor, unsanitary, and dangerous.503 In the sugarcane sector, many parents bring their children to work, where they may perform a variety of tasks, including the application of fertilizers. Many of these workers are Dominican-born Haitians.504 Children born in Haiti are also found working on sugarcane farms in the Dominican Republic, particularly in the Barahona province.505 Labor inspectors often do not record when Haitian children are found working, since they are not considered part of the Dominican workforce.506
Homeless children are particularly vulnerable to being exploited. Some adults, known as palomas , place the children into gangs or put them to work begging and selling goods on the street, in some cases in return for shelter.507
In some instances, poor Dominican and Haitian parents arrange for wealthier Dominican families to adopt their children, in exchange for money or goods. These children may be expected to work in households or businesses. In some cases, this type of work may be a kind of bonded labor. Some children, especially girls, may be trafficked for the purpose of prostitution.508
An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 children in the Dominican Republic are involved in prostitution.509 Needy adolescents may be enticed into performing sexual acts by the promise of money, food, or clothing, and then be held against their will by individuals who sell their sexual favors to others. Some of these minors are reportedly lured from their homes, while others are already living on the streets, due to their families’ inability to provide for them.510 According to a study sponsored by UNICEF and the National Planning Office, 75 percent of minors involved in prostitution work in brothels, discos, restaurants, and hotels.511 The tourism industry, according to some accounts, has facilitated the sexual exploitation of children. Reportedly, tours are marketed overseas emphasizing the availability of boys and girls as sex partners. Children are affected by this problem in urban areas, as well as in tourist locations throughout the country.512
Trafficking of women and children is a problem in the Dominican Republic. The Directorate of Migration has estimated that there are approximately 400 rings operating within the country who profit by facilitating the trafficking of persons for the purposes of prostitution to countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Argentina.513
2. Children’s Participation in School
In 1996, the primary net attendance rate was 71.4 percent,514 and the primary net enrollment rate was 86.9 percent.515 In 1999, 80 percent of children reached grade five.516 This statistic does not include children who do not possess a birth certificate, or approximately 24 percent of all children in the Dominican Republic. Children without a birth certificate often cannot register in the school system, although some children are permitted to enroll in school on an informal basis as approved by each individual school.517
The 1996 Demography and Health survey revealed that of children ages 7 to 14, only 46.3 percent attended school without being involved in economic activity. The remaining 53.7 percent of children either did not attend school or combined school with work.518
The absence of educational opportunities in the implementation area of the project is one of the factors responsible for the entry of children into the labor market. Other factors include families’ lack of financial means to buy uniforms and books; the lack of facilities; the absenteeism of teachers; and the lack of birth certificates required for school enrollment.519 According to reports, the training of teachers in the country is poor, and the performance of teachers is not monitored.520
3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement
The Labor Code prohibits the employment of children under 14 years of age and places restrictions on the employment of children between the ages of 14 and 16.521 Children in this age group may only work with medical certification and not to an excess of six hours per day. Children under 14 may only work with parental consent, or the consent of their tutor.522 Children have the right to be paid at a rate equal to that of adult workers, and they are restricted from performing night work, overtime, ambulatory work, or work in dangerous places.523 Children between the ages of 14 and 16 are allowed to work in apprenticeship and artistic programs.524 Article 254 of the Labor Code requires employers of minors to make special provisions for workers that may be able to continue their schooling and attend professional training schools.525 The law also prohibits forced or bonded labor by children.526
In 1997, the Government of the Dominican Republic placed a new restriction on agricultural laborers entering the country, prohibiting them from bringing their spouses or children. This action affected mainly migrant workers from Haiti. Employers are required to repatriate employees and families who violate this law or face prosecution themselves.527
Several laws in the Dominican Republic prohibit trafficking in persons. An alien smuggling law, issued in August 1998, increased the penalties for those found guilty of various types of trafficking in persons. Civil and criminal laws dealing with domestic violence and the Minor’s Code protect against the traffic in persons, whether children or adults. Laws also prohibit individuals from acting as intermediaries in prostitution transactions, and the government has used this law to prosecute third parties who derive profit from prostitution.528
Child prostitution is defined as a crime in the Law Against Family Violence and in the Minor’s Code.529 Child pornography is also a criminal offense under the Minor’s Code.530 According to reports from community organizations, however, in many cases children who are the victims of sexual exploitation are the ones seized by police, while the perpetrator of the crimes go untouched, allegedly due to a lack of evidence.531
The executive branch of the government established an Oversight Organization for the Protection of Children to coordinate the approaches of various agencies involved in combating the trafficking of children, including the Attorney General’s office, the Public Health Ministry, and the Migration office. The Department of Family and Children focuses on identifying children who are victims of abuse of any kind and prosecutes offenders under the heightened penalties contained in the domestic violence law.532 A primary concern of the Oversight Organization has been to prevent the use of the child adoption process by those who intend exploit children through prostitution or child pornography. The Department of Family and Children has also been concerned with kidnappings, especially of infants. Some kidnapped children have allegedly been sold to foreigners. Government officials have made foreign adoptions much more difficult, with the hopes of deterring would-be traffickers.533
Currently, the Government of the Dominican Republic has approximately 232 labor inspectors charged with enforcement of the minimum wage, child labor laws, and health and safety legislation. The Ministry of Labor has taken employers in violation of the law to court.534
The Dominican Republic ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on June 15, 1999, and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor on November 15, 2000.535
4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling
a. Child Labor Initiatives
The Dominican Republic became a member of the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) in 1997.536 The Government of the Dominican Republic committed to set aside RD$3 million (US$187,481) in 2001 to execute programs to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.537 The first lady of the Dominican Republic formed a task force to eliminate the worst forms of child labor throughout the country.538
In 1999, IPEC and UNICEF conducted a joint training of 160 labor inspectors.539 The Ministry of Labor, with the support of UNICEF, also held seven workshops on the legal aspects of child labor for its inspectors.540 In collaboration with labor inspectors, UNICEF plans to conduct a small survey in selected agricultural areas to assess the extent of child labor.541
In 1999, the Ministry of Labor took steps to increase public awareness of child labor laws, including through dissemination of brochures at regional meetings with employers, and the airing of a video entitled “El Menor en el Trabajo.”542
In December 1998, a successful, 2-year pilot project was launched for the elimination and prevention of child labor in the municipality of Constanza. Developed as an ILO-IPEC action program and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), collaboration was fostered among the Ministry of Labor, a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), farm workers, growers, and schools that yielded encouraging results. The project exceeded expectations with the removal of over 460 children from high-risk agricultural work activities.543
The Dominican Republic is participating in an ILO-IPEC regional project funded by the USDOL to combat child labor in the coffee sector. This project targets 6,000 children, adolescents, and their families.544 The Dominican Republic is also participating in a project called, Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor in Tomato Production. This project aims to remove at least 900 children from work and prevent an additional 6,500 children from entering work. In addition, at least 300 families of the removed children will be provided with alternative income support. The Dominican Republic anticipates to be participating in a regional project to eliminate commercial sexual exploitation of children.545 Preparatory work has begun in support of a comprehensive, national Time-Bound Program to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the Dominican Republic.546
The National Survey on Child Labor in the Dominican Republic, developed by the ILO- IPEC Statistical Information Monitoring Program on Child Labor (SIMPOC) and funded by the USDOL, was conducted in late 2000.547
b. Educational Alternatives
The 1994 Minor’s Code requires eight years of formal education.548 The Government of the Dominican Republic is currently developing a 10-year education plan, to be implemented from 2002-2011. This plan is expected to focus on improving the quality of education, the formation of teachers, an improvement of didactic materials, and improving the evaluation system.549
In 1995, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the World Bank funded a US$100 million Basic Education Improvement Program to improve monitoring and evaluation of the education sector and improve student assessment methodologies and teacher training. The program also sought to improve physical infrastructure by maintaining schools and educational materials, and providing access to private education for low-income students. Other components of this program included improving services and lowering associated costs of education and improving the facilities and technology available to all students.550
The government has launched a Poverty Eradication Plan that includes specific provisions in support of education for children. In addition to providing a monthly grant of US$18 per family to the country’s poorest families, this plan provides the children who are enrolled in school with uniforms, books and a school breakfast.551 In 1997, public spending on education as a percentage of GNP was approximately 2.3 percent.552
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.553
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.
502 International Labor Organization, International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC), Preparatory, project document, Activities for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Dominican Republic (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, September 2001), 1 [hereinafter Activities for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor ].
503 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 1999), Section 6d (www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/domrepub.html) [hereinafter Country Reports 1999 — Dominican Republic ]. See also Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2000), Section 6d.
Interview with Jacobo Ramos, Zona Franca, FENATRAZONA (San Pedro de Macorís), by U.S. Department of Labor official , August 28, 2000.
505 Interview with Agustin Vargas-Saillant, Domingo Jimenez, and Rufino Alvarez, Unitary Confederation of Workers (CTU and Futrazona), Dominican Republic, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 29, 2000.
509 World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation, August 1996, and Mainstreaming Gender in IPEC Activities 1999, as cited in “Worst Forms of Child Labor Data: Dominican Republic,” The Global March Against Child Labor (www.globalmarch.org/worstformofchild labour/dominican-republic.html). Another source cites a figure of 25,000 boys, girls, and adolescents working in the country’s commercial sex sector. See Mercedes González, “La explotación sexual y laboral de niños,” El Siglo, August 20, 2000 [hereinafter “La explotación sexual y laboral de niños”].
511 The government is also concerned that some individuals traveling to the Dominican Republic to adopt children may actually intend to use the children in the production of pornography or in the sex trade. See “La explotación sexual y laboral de niños.”
522 Ibid. Articulos 17, 247, 248. Permission is required from both the child’s mother and father; if this is not possible, authorization can be gained from the child’s tutor. If there is no tutor, authorization can be granted by a judge from the child’s area of residence. This permission only applies to work in public events, radio television, or in acting.
543 IPEC, Combating Child Labour in High-Risk Agriculture Activities in Constanza, progress report (Geneva: ILO- IPEC, March 2001) [hereinafter Combating Child Labour in High-Risk Agriculture Activities ], 7.
553 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.