In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 13 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 years in Bolivia were working. Children and adolescents frequently work the same number of hours as adults. Bolivian children can be found in construction, livestock, agriculture, and domestic work.

NCL Expresses Grave Concern about Bolivia’s Decision to Lower the Age of Work to Ten

Washington, DC—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 US 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 to 850,000 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.”

“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 US 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,” noted NCL’s Greenberg.… Read the rest

Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch: Putting 10-Year-olds to Work Doesn’t Solve Poverty

The Bolivian Congress passed a misguided bill last week that would allow children as young as 10 to work legally. If President Morales signs the bill into law, Bolivia will become the only country in the world with a legal employment age so low.

Supporters of the bill argue that children in Bolivia need to work out of economic necessity and lowering the working age can help address extreme poverty. But child labor isn’t a solution to poverty – research shows it perpetuates it. Children who work are more likely to miss out on school and end up in a lifetime of low-wage work.

Bolivia’s bill includes certain “safeguards,” such as parental consent and the voluntary participation of children. But “voluntary” consent means little in the case of a 10-year-old. In my research, I’ve found that young children are rarely able to resist family pressure to go to work. A young girl I interviewed in Morocco, for example, endured beatings from her employer and worked extreme hours because she felt obliged to help her family.

The bill also states that work by young children should not interfere with their education. But studies show that, even when working children have access to school, their education suffers. Children who work are often too tired to complete their homework or maintain regular attendance, and are far more likely to drop out of school.

Child labor may be seen as a short-term solution to economic hardship, but is actually a cause of poverty. People who start work as children end up with less education and lower earnings as adults.… Read the rest

Children Working in one of the world’s most dangerous mines in Bolivia

Thomas Nybo, UNICEF

POTOSÍ, Bolivia, (June 14, 2011) — Thirteen-year-old Agustin’s life revolves around mining. He lives in a shack right outside the entrance to a mine shaft at the famous Cerro Rico mine in the city of Potosí, where he worked two hard years digging for ore from the age of nine.

UNICEF’s Thomas Nybo reports on young Bolivian children working in one of the most dangerous mines in the world.

Back then, the older miners would only pay him the equivalent of $3 per day, so he quit and now leads tours of the mine instead.

Cerro Rico, which means ‘rich mountain’, has been called one of the most dangerous mines in the world. It’s been in operation for more than 400 years, and once held the richest supply of silver in the Americas.

“There aren’t too many children working here – it’s too dangerous,” Agustin says. “To get the minerals here, you need to go deep into the mine. Most kids work in mines that are less deep and easier.”

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US Department of Labor awards nearly $20 million to combat exploitive child labor in Bolivia, Egypt and Jordan

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced nearly $20 million in grants awarded to combat exploitive child labor in Bolivia, Egypt and Jordan.

The grants will fund projects that provide children with education and training opportunities, and help improve the livelihoods of families so they no longer need to rely on children’s labor. These projects will work with countries that have shown strong political will to address abusive child labor and tackle its root causes. They will collaborate with national partners to scale up and sustain these efforts, and will conduct rigorous evaluations of the impact of project interventions.

“Eradicating child labor is a necessary task that binds us all together and has global benefits for everyone,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Our experience shows it is important to forge partnerships with countries to ensure that children are educated and not exploited.”

In Bolivia, the department awarded a $6 million grant to Desarrollo y Autogestion for a project that will work closely with indigenous leaders, urban and rural communities, and the government of Bolivia. The project will raise awareness of health and occupational hazards inflicted by the worst forms of child labor. The grant also will combat forced labor, and support Bolivia’s new education law by helping to provide children with basic and accelerated education. In addition, it will develop technical secondary school programs, offering economic empowerment to communities and support to small enterprises that raise household incomes.

The department awarded $9.5 million to the World Food Program to address child labor in Egypt’s agriculture sector.… Read the rest