Childhood is a time for growth, development and play; however, in countries like Mexico, countless boys and girls are deprived of what makes them children. Poverty in Mexico has forced many children to abandon play and begin employment. Child labor in Mexico is an issue that the country struggles to overcome, and these 10 facts about child labor in Mexico present the reasons the country has yet to defeat this phenomenon.
10 Facts About Child Labor in Mexico
1. The high rate of child labor in Mexico is due to large amounts of poverty across the country. As of 2016, 43.6 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. This means that nearly half of the population is experiencing significant financial burdens, which often result in a lack of food, adequate living conditions and educational opportunities. With almost half of the population of Mexico experiencing this high rate of poverty, it is no surprise that Mexico has the highest rate of poverty in all of North America.
2. Around 3.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 in Mexico are employed. Of this, nearly 870,000 are under the age of 13.
3. In Latin America 50 percent of all employed children live in Mexico. Latin America is spread across 33 countries and home to 626 million people. While Mexico is not the largest country in population or size in Latin America, it has the highest number of employed children.
4. Mexico’s Federal Labor Law prohibits children who are under the age of 14 to work. Furthermore, children under the age of 16 may not participate in what they call “unhealthy or hazardous work.” This type of work is defined as anything that may be detrimental to the child’s health, including work with various chemicals and industrial night labor. This law is in place in order to ensure the physical and mental health of children, along with safeguarding proper development.
5. In Mexico, the Department of Labor is responsible for protecting workers’ rights, including monitoring child labor; however, the enforcement of child labor laws is minimal and ineffective in smaller companies, agricultural work and construction. Yet, it is in these areas that the majority of child labor in Mexico takes place.
6. Under Mexican law, children under 16 are not allowed to work more than six hours per day. Despite this law, almost 97 percent of children work more than 35 hours per week, which is well above the legal six hours per day.
7. Children often drop out of school in order to help provide financially for their families. If they do not drop out of school, many children must work on top of attending school to help their families survive. The older the child is, the more this phenomenon occurs. For instance, by the age of 17, one-third of Mexicans are working. For families experiencing extreme poverty in Mexico, education is just another financial burden and is second to earning a salary and making a contribution.
8. More children who live in the north and in the countryside are employed, compared with their counterparts in the city and in the south. For example, 12 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 13 are employed in the southern states like Guerrero, whereas merely 1.4 percent of those children are working in the north, in states like Chihuahua.
9. Employed children in Mexico often work in difficult conditions that put their health at risk. Child labor in Mexico often revolves around children working with and carrying heavy materials, such as wood and cement. Further, children are often fieldworkers and servants.
10. Fortunately, the rate of child labor in Mexico has been slowly decreasing due to programs like Oportunidades. This Mexican anti-poverty program is working on decreasing child labor in Mexico by providing families with educational grants. With these grants, more children will be able to stay in school instead of working. The Oportunidades program has helped more than four million families and counting.
Child labor in Mexico continues to be an ongoing problem that the country faces. Still, with each new generation, statistics change and circumstances improve. With the help of anti-poverty programs, newer generations of Mexicans are realizing the importance of education and a fulfilling childhood. Lowering poverty in Mexico will not only lessen the amount of child labor, but also save the childhoods of boys and girls who deserve more than just a salary.
– Melissa Quist