By Mridula Tirumalasetti
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
LA PAZ, Bolivia–Bolivia has legalized children who are as young as 10 years old to be employed. This is the lowest minimum working age in the world.
Lawmakers in Bolivia approved legislation earlier this month, and on July 17, Vice President Alvaro Garcia signed it into law. The law allows 10 year olds to work so long as they are under parental supervision and still attend school. Children who are 12 years old are allowed to work under contract, and they must also attend school.
While the International Labor Organization (ILO) sets the minimum working age at 15, it allows for the minimum age for children in developing countries to be set at 14. The ILO is investigating to see whether the law violates international regulations on child labor.
Proponents of the new law have argued that children who are younger than 14 years old need to work in order to help support their families. “Extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor, said Deputy Javier Zavaleta, who is a co-sponsor of the bill. He added, “So our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”
Another argument for lowering the minimum work age is articulated by Senator Adolfo Mendoza. He stated, “Child labor already exists in Bolivia, and it’s difficult to fight it. Rather than persecute it, we want to protect the rights and guarantee the labor security of the children. “
However, human rights activists see it a different way. According to Jo Becker, who is the children’s-rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty…Poor families often send their children to work out of desperation, but these children miss out on schooling and are more likely to end up in a lifetime of low-wage work.” Her suggestion is for the Bolivian government to “invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”
Bolivia has made limited efforts to invest in ways to help get families out of poverty by paying $28 a year to families who send their children to school, which is essentially a per-child subsidy. However, recent studies show that one in three Bolivian children do not attend school. Moreover, statistics show that an estimated 1 million children in Bolivia work in textiles, on farms, as street vendors, and even coca leaf pickers.
For more information, please see:
Time–Bolivia to Allow Children to Legally Work at Just 10 Years Old–4 July 2014
The Telegraph–Bolivia becomes first nation to legalise child labour from age 10–19 July 2014
BBC News–Bolivia law allows “self employed children” aged 10 to work–17 July 2014
Al Jazeera America– Bolivia makes child labor legal from age 10–18 July 2014