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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. “Essentially, the government of Bolivia is surrendering. The level of exploitation will increase, and children will pay the price.”

“We also do not accept the argument that legal child labor is a necessary tool to reduce poverty in Bolivia, which ranks 70th on the ‘fragile states index,’ an annual ranking of the stability and the pressures countries face,” said NCL’s Maki. If 69 countries facing greater problems than Bolivia have not had to lower the age of work, surely Bolivia does not.”

“I’d like to remind the global community of the words of Hull House reformer Grace Abbott, an early child labor advocate in the US,” said Greenberg. “If you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for…poverty, you will have both until the end of time,” she told us.

For release: July 22, 2013
Contact: NCL, Director of Child Labor Advocacy, Reid Maki, reidm@nclnet.org and 202.207.2820