Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently emphasized that the Bolivian government should reject proposals to lower its minimum age of employment below 14 years old. President Evo Morales has expressed support for proposals to abolish a minimum age for “independent work” and to lower the minimum age to 12 years old for all other jobs.
Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW,) stated that, “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Lowering minimum age of employment is counterproductive and out of step with the rest of the world.”
Reductions in child labor are attributed to increasing access to education, strengthening national legislation and monitoring and bolstering social protection plans such as Bolivia’s Juancito Pinto cash transfer program.
The International Labor Convention stipulates a minimum employment age of 15 years old. Bolivia, along with 166 other countries, is a part of this. The only stipulation is countries whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed may under certain conditions have a minimum age of 14 years old. Bolivia has a reported 850,000 child laborers.
“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,” Becker said. “The Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”
Human rights across Latin America are struggling with a seemingly intractable dilemma, according to The Guardian. Countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil hope to benefit from the commodity boom in global markets that are fueled by demand in China and other areas of the world.
Social movements across Latin America are helping to remold politics and political discourse. These countries democratization depend on the support of increasingly active social movements in both rural and urban areas.
Along with the protesting and movements transpiring in Latin America, HRW joined the Global March against Child Labor and Anti-Slavery International on January 24. The group sent a letter to Morales completely opposing any sort of movement to lower the minimum age of employment. HRW explained that it would be extremely counterproductive to the Bolivian economy.
– Lindsey Lerner