2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Latin America & the Caribbean

2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Latin America & Caribbean
Child Labor Information by Country
Child Labor Information by Region
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Meaningful Efforts

  • Adopted laws prohibiting the use of children in the worst forms of child labor.
  • Increased efforts to enforce criminal laws related to the worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking and forced labor.
  • Conducted and published research on child labor.

Challenges and Existing Gaps

  • Failure to identify the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.
  • Insufficient number of labor inspectors for the size of the workforce to effectively enforce child labor laws.

• adequate funding to address child labor in key sectors and among vulnerable populations.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of children in child labor continues to decrease. Figure 7 provides an overview of the regional outlook. In 2016, 10.5 million children ages 5 to 17, or 7 percent of all children in the region, were engaged in child labor.(1) This is 2 million fewer children in 2016 compared with 2012. However, children in Latin America and the Caribbean perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and domestic work. Children also engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. In addition, many migrant children, as well as children of indigenous and African descent, remain particularly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor.(2-4) In 2016, 10 of the 26 countries covered in this report received an assessment of Significant Advancement: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru. Countries throughout the region made meaningful efforts, including by adopting laws that prohibit the worst forms of child labor, increasing efforts to enforce criminal laws related to child trafficking and forced labor, and conducting and publishing research on child labor. Despite these achievements, additional efforts are needed to prevent and eliminate child  labor in Latin America and the Caribbean, including identifying the types of hazardous work prohibited for children, employing a sufficient number of labor inspectors for the size of the workforce to effectively enforce child labor laws, and providing adequate funding for social programs to address child labor in key sectors and among vulnerable populations.

In 2016, two countries made meaningful efforts in relevant areas but failed to remedy a regressive or significantly detrimental law or practice that was established in previous years that delayed advancement in eliminating the worst forms of child labor: Bolivia, where children as young as 10 years old are permitted to be self-employed under certain conditions, and the Dominican Republic, where some children are vulnerable to labor exploitation due to limitations on educational opportunities.

During the year, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean continued to develop comprehensive legal protections to prevent and eliminate child labor, including its worst forms. For example, Argentina passed a law defining the types of hazardous work prohibited for children under age 18. Panama updated its existing list of hazardous work for children and established a minimum age for hazardous work within training establishments. Dominica also continued efforts to develop a hazardous work list for children, while Chile began the process of updating its own list. In addition, Panama and Argentina became the first two countries in the region to ratify the Protocol of 2014 to ILO C. 29 on Forced Labor, which commits governments to prevent and eliminate forced labor, including of children, and provide victims with protection and compensation.(5) Furthermore, Brazil passed a new law that criminalizes human trafficking for labor and commercial sexual exploitation, and El Salvador approved regulations to strengthen enforcement of the Special Law Against Trafficking in Persons, including the referral of criminal child labor cases between law enforcement and social services agencies.

Several countries increased efforts to enforce criminal laws related to the worst forms of child labor in 2016. Belize and Haiti achieved their first child trafficking convictions under recently passed anti-trafficking in persons laws. Brazil trained 120 state police officers on the investigation of child sexual exploitation on the Web, leading to the initiation of 950 cyber-investigations on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Argentina also opened two regional offices dedicated to the rescue and care of trafficking victims, and Paraguay’s Office of the Attorney General rescued 35 indigenous workers, including 7 children, who were victims of forced labor on a farm in the Chaco region.

Throughout the region, many countries funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms. In 2016, more than half of the Latin American and Caribbean countries covered in this report implemented cash transfer programs in which assistance was conditioned on families sending their children to school. A prominent example is Brazil’s Bolsa Família program, which was expanded for the fifth consecutive year. In addition, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security launched a scholarship program with the Joint Institute for Social Aid to cover educational expenses for children engaged in child labor. Jamaica also introduced a Transportation Allowance Grant to subsidize the cost of school transportation for vulnerable children. Furthermore, many countries made schooling more accessible to impoverished children who might otherwise engage in child labor by providing meals and supplies. Notable examples include the continued expansion of the School Meals Program in Honduras, which now reaches more than 1.3 million students, and the National School Supplies Program in Nicaragua, which provided more than 700,000 packages of school supplies and 3.9 million textbooks to children in need. Many countries in the region also supported regional policies (Table 3) and participated in a regional program (Table 4) to address child labor, including its worst forms. Of particular note is the Regional Initiative, which unites governments, employers, and workers from 26 countries throughout the Latin America and Caribbean region in their efforts to combat child labor in support of Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Table 3: Key Regional Policies Related to Child Labor in Latin America and the Caribbean

Policy

Description

Regional Initiative: Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labor

Aims to accelerate efforts to eliminate child labor in the region by 2025, in line with Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.(6) Commits the 27 member states to combat child labor through increased regional and intergovernmental cooperation; participation from workers’ and employers organizations; and efforts to strengthen monitoring and coordination mechanisms, government programs, and South-South exchanges.(6-9) In 2016, promoted the adoption of a policy framework focused on prevention efforts and leveraging existing social protection and education policies and services to combat child labor.(6)

MERCOSUR Child Labor and Forced Labor Policy Initiatives

Aims to prevent and eliminate child and forced labor, including by raising public awareness and increasing coordination among member states. These policies include the Social Labor Declaration of 2015, the United Against Child Labor Campaign, and the Southern Child Initiative. Additional information is available on the MERCOSUR Web site.

XIX Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor

Promotes decent work with social inclusion throughout the Americas. Held in Cancún, México, in December 2015, participating countries adopted the Declaration of Cancun 2015, which aims, in part, to foster policies to eliminate labor exploitation, including child labor, and to promote education and vocational training for youth.(10-12) Participating countries also adopted a Plan of Action that prioritizes the elimination of child labor, including through data collection, enforcement of labor laws, and the development of social protection policies for children and families.(10, 12)

 

Table 4: Key Regional Social Programs to Address Child Labor in Latin America and the Caribbean

Program

Description

Regional Action Group for the Americas (Grupo de Acción Regional para las Américas)

Prevention and awareness-raising campaigns conducted to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Latin America. Members include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.(13-15)

In 2016, several countries in the region conducted or published research on the nature and prevalence of child labor. Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Panama conducted national child labor surveys during the year, while Chile conducted two qualitative studies on child labor in the agricultural and commercial sectors. Also in 2016, Peru published results from the 2015 National Child Labor Survey, El Salvador published results from the child labor module of the 2015 Multipurpose Household Survey, and Paraguay published results from the 2015 Survey of Activities of Rural Area Children and Adolescents. Gathering such data and making it publicly available allows stakeholders to generate recommendations and implement targeted policies and programs to address child labor.

Despite substantive efforts made during the reporting period, several countries in the region have gaps in their legal framework to adequately protect children from child labor. For example, the minimum age for work in Belize and Bolivia does not conform to international standards as it is set below the age of 14. In addition, 8 of the 26 countries lack prohibitions on hazardous work that conform to ILO C. 182. For example, laws in Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Panama, and Peru provide exceptions to the minimum age for hazardous work that do not fully protect all children under age 18. In addition, Grenada has not established legal provisions identifying hazardous work prohibited for children. Furthermore, prohibitions on child commercial sexual exploitation are inadequate in Belize, Dominica, Grenada, and Guyana. These same countries, as well as Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also lack prohibitions on using children in illicit activities, including in the production and trafficking of drugs.

Gaps in labor law enforcement remain in many countries in the region. Eighteen of the 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries covered in this report did not have a sufficient number of labor inspectors for the size of the workforce according to the ILO’s recommendation. Fifteen countries also decreased their number of labor inspectors in 2016. A shortage of labor inspectors impedes governmental efforts to identify and sanction child labor violations, including in remote areas. The majority of labor inspectorates in the region also lack the necessary resources to carry out their mandates, and labor inspectors in 7 countries do not receive sufficient training. In addition, labor inspectorates in 12 countries are not authorized to assess penalties and 5 countries’ labor inspectorates did not conduct targeted labor inspections.

Many countries in the region also need to allocate additional resources for social programs to address child labor. For example, 14 countries in the region need more programming targeting child labor in agriculture; 5 countries — Bolivia, Guyana, Honduras, Peru, and Suriname — need to strengthen programs to address child labor in mining; and 4 countries — Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Jamaica — need additional programs to assist children engaged in street work. More programs are also needed for children from rural, indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities to improve access to education and to reduce their vulnerability to child labor, including its worst forms.

 

 

1.            International Labor Organization. Global estimation of child labour 2016: Main results and methodology. Geneva,  September 2017.

2.            ILO. Marking Progress Against Child Labour: Global Estimates and Trends 2000–2012. Geneva; 2013. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---ipec/documents/publication/wcms_221513.pdf.

3.            ILO. Migration and Child Labour – Exploring Child Migrant Vulnerabilities and Those of Children Left Behind. Geneva; 2010. http://www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do?productId=14313.

4.            ILO. Indigenous and Tribal Children: Assessing Child Labour and Education Challenges. Geneva; 2003. http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Informationresources/WCMS_IPEC_PUB_1100/lang--en/index.htm.

5.            ILO NORMLEX Information System on International Labor Standards. Ratifications of P029 – Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930; accessed April 11, 2017; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:11300:0::NO:11300:P11300_INSTRUMENT_ID:3174672.

6.            ILO. Second Anniversary of the Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labour; October 21, 2016. http://www.ilo.org/ipec/news/WCMS_533199/lang--en/index.htm.

7.            Latin America and the Caribbean free of Child Labour. "Declaración de Constitución de la Iniciativa Regional América Latina y el Caribe Libre de Trabajo Infántil," in ILO's 18th Regional Meeting of the Americas; October 14, 2014; Lima; http://iniciativa2025alc.org/sites/default/files/Declaracion-IR-es.pdf.

8.            ILO. "18th American Regional Meeting – Latin America and Caribbean Sign a Declaration to Free the Region from Child Labour." October 17, 2014. http://www.ilo.org/caribbean/WCMS_314428/lang--en/index.htm.

9.            UN News Centre. "At UN-backed Forum, Latin American, Caribbean Nations Pledge Robust Efforts Against Child Labour." October 15, 2014. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49082#.WV_Zg9LyvAU.

10.          Organization of American States. Meeting of the XIX Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) - List of Participants, [online] [cited December 15, 2015]; http://www.oas.org/en/sedi/dhdee/labor_and_employment/pages/cpo_trab_XIX_cimt.asp#DOCUMENTS1

11.          Organization of American States. Meeting of the XIX Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) - Declaration of Cancún 2015: "Achieving Decent Work with Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development in the Americas", [online] [cited December 15, 2015]; http://www.oas.org/en/sedi/dhdee/labor_and_employment/pages/cpo_trab_XIX_cimt.asp#DOCUMENTS1

12.          Organization of American States. Meeting of the XIX Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) - Plan of Action of Cancún: "Achieving Decent Work with Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development in the Americas", [online] [cited December 15, 2015]; http://www.oas.org/en/sedi/dhdee/labor_and_employment/pages/cpo_trab_XIX_cimt.asp#DOCUMENTS1

13.          MERCOSUR. Reunión de la Comisión Permanente para la Coordinación e Implementación de las Acciones Relativas a la Iniciativa Niñ@ Sur para la Protección y Promoción de los Derechos de los Niños y Niñas y Adolescentes. Buenos Aires; March 27, 2012. [source on file].

14.          Grupo de Acción Regional de las Américas. Quienes Somos, [previously online] [cited March 28, 2011]; [Source on file].

15.          Grupo de Acción Regional de las Américas. Paises Participantes, [previously online] [cited February 13, 2013]; [Source on file].

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