Child labor is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “the use of children in industry or business, especially when illegal or considered inhumane.” Customary data on the subject delineates the age bracket of child labor to be between 5 and 14 years old. It is a problem that ails vulnerable populations, most prevalent among impoverished communities, migrants and refugees.
An interesting country to survey when discussing the fight against child labor is Costa Rica. Costa Rica harbors a high concentration of child laborers, especially in the service industry and agriculture. More than 8,000 child laborers have been accounted for as of 2018. Of the child laborers working in agriculture, nearly 9% are directly involved in the collection, processing and transport of coffee, which is one of Costa Rica’s chief exports. Immigrants, both children and adults, entering from Nicaragua are frequently exploited by Costa Rican industries, having to work longer hours while compensated and insured substantially less than native workers.
A child immigrant coming from a family with little financial stability is highly susceptible to exploitation in the Costa Rican labor force. In the worst cases, they are also vulnerable to sex trafficking. However, this threat has withered remarkably in recent years due to government and social interventions. The Bureau of National Labor Affairs determined in 2018 that Costa Rica had made significant progress in combatting child labor within its borders, despite being underfunded. Here are four NGOs contributing to the elimination of child labor practices in Costa Rica.
4 Organizations Fighting Child Labor in Costa Rica
- Face of Justice Association: Face of Justice is an organization dedicated to the protection and safety of child trafficking victims in Costa Rica. Backed by monthly subsidies, volunteer work and community donations, they provide sanctuary to those rescued from “at-risk environments” and support to those who are currently still in those environments. Their shelters, which employ a trauma psychologist and a health practitioner, provided victims with ongoing protection in 2018.
- Houses of Joy: This organization accommodates indigenous children whose parents work on coffee farms in Coto Brus, offering meals and daycare services. The program aims to provide a safe alternative to grueling child labor during the coffee harvest. It relies on the generosity of farmers, who provide land and classrooms, as well as financial contributions from UNICEF and the Joint Institute of Social Assistance (IMAS). By 2018, the program had expanded to serve approximately 600 children in 15 centers. This was an astronomical increase from four years prior, when it served 175 children in six centers.
- I Sign Up for Education: Yo Me Apunto con la Educación, “I Sign Up for Education,” is a Ministry of Public Health program that helps adolescent kids stay enrolled in school, especially those in vulnerable areas. The ministry self-reported a decrease in dropouts by 3% in schools that participated between 2016 and 2017.
- Let’s Get Ahead Program (LGAP): LGAP is a program financed by IMAS that provides conditional cash transfers to low-income families. The hope is that beneficiaries will be less likely to enter exploitative work and more likely to remain in school. The legislative assembly of Costa Rica approved the allocation of future funds in the budget to this program in 2018.
While child labor in Costa Rica remains a concern, these organizations are helping children across the country stay safe. Moving forward, it is essential that these organizations continue to prioritize the elimination of child labor, expanding upon existing programs to benefit even more children. Hopefully, with continued efforts, child labor in Costa Rica will be completely eradicated.
– Camden Gilreath