Latin America & the Carribean
2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
2012 Regional Outlook
- Improved legal frameworks, particularly related to safety and health protections for children who work.
- Expansion and piloting of programs that increase the reach of education.
- Regional collaboration on strengthening legal frameworks, enforcement practices, and programs.
Challenges and existing gaps:
- Limited/weak inspection systems.
- Lack of targeted social programs for children in hazardous work.
2012 Assessment Breakdown
5 countries (17%):
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
15 countries (55%):
Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago
7 countries (21%):
Barbados, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Uruguay
2 countries (7%):
According to ILO data, Latin America and the Caribbean has the fewest child laborers of the regions examined at an estimated 12.5 million. Governments in Latin America have made a concerted effort to address child labor as a region. In 2005, heads of state made a hemispheric commitment at the Summit of the Americas to "take immediate and effective measures to prevent and eradicate the worst forms of child labor according to Convention 182 of the ILO (1999)." Since this time, governments have continued to collaborate and take actions to combat the worst forms of child labor. Though progress in some countries is limited, as a whole, the region continued its 1ositive trajectory in 2012; of the eight countries in the world that received a rating of Significant Advancement, five are in South America. These countries-Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru-made meaningful efforts to combat child labor that go beyond isolated improvements or initiatives. Instead, these countries are implemented comprehensive and concerted strategies through the simultaneous improvement of laws, coordination and enforcement efforts, policies, and social programs. Read More of the region summary
Brazil increased the number of child labor inspections, expanded assistance programs for families in extreme poverty, and trained local government officials to better coordinate anti-poverty efforts. Chile strengthened its legal framework against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, conducted child labor research, and established a program for low-income families conditioned upon children's school attendance. Colombia stiffened fines for labor violations, including child labor, made efforts to monitor child and adolescent workers, and trained police officers and members of the Armed Forces on children's rights. Ecuador continued systematic efforts to combat child labor in priority sectors, including by providing immediate remediation services when children were found working, and virtually eliminated child labor in municipal slaughterhouses. Peru began implementing a new national strategy to eliminate hazardous child labor by improving education opportunities, reducing society's tolerance of child labor, and increasing efforts to sanction violators of child labor laws. Peru also funded and launched two pilot programs that provide education and livelihood services to families with the aim of reducing the worst forms of child labor in urban and rural areas, and announced its intent to assess the impact of these pilot programs.
In addition to strong individual country efforts, Latin America stood out for its collaboration among governments. In 2012, labor ministers from Central America, Belize, and the Dominican Republic convened in Panama to identify best practices, share lessons learned, and discuss the region's common challenges in combatting the worst forms of child labor. The Government of Ecuador sponsored technical discussions with the Governments of Peru and Paraguay to share a successful strategy that brought together government, civil society, and the private sector to eliminate child labor in landfills. As a result, this year the Paraguayan municipality of Encarnación implemented the strategy and declared its municipal landfill as child labor free.
With the majority of child laborers in hazardous work, it is noteworthy that a number of countries focused on the occupational safety and health of working children. In Paraguay, the Ministry of Justice and Labor arbitrated dozens of settlements for child workers or relatives of child workers who were injured in their workplaces and were seeking compensation from their employers. The Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance launched a protocol that requires public health workers to register any child whose injuries may have been labor-related into a child labor database. In Panama, the Ministry of Health added child labor into Executive Decree 268, which determines the health categories that require immediate notification to health or local authorities. Children who suffer from work-related injuries or illnesses must now be reported to health or local authorities. In Ecuador, a new project began to address the issue of the intersection between child labor and disabilities, including children who have been disabled as a result of child labor.
Several countries also made efforts to increase the reach of education as an alternative to child labor. Ecuador increased the years of compulsory education through the 10th grade; Suriname launched an after school program for primary students; the Dominican Republic expanded a pilot program that extends school hours to a full day; El Salvador expanded a full-time school program to 900,000 additional children; Bolivia expanded a cash transfer program that is conditioned on school attendance; and Haiti enrolled an additional 200,000 children in schools.
However, despite substantive gains during the year, faster progress in the region was hindered by longstanding impediments. Approximately one third of Latin American and Caribbean countries covered in this report (10 out of 29 countries) had labor inspection systems that devote insufficient resources or staff to child labor, impeding the effective enforcement of child labor laws. Numerous countries have yet to enact lists of hazardous occupations prohibited for children, including Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. In addition, many countries, including half of the Caribbean countries included in this report, did not prohibit the use of children in illicit activities or the production of illegal drugs. Additionally, while many countries implemented programs to target children in the worst forms of child labor, South and Central American countries commonly lacked programs targeting children engaged in hazardous activities in agriculture, domestic service, and street work.