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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/20/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Children forced in to labor common in one of South America's poorest countries

Long a blight of many civilized nations, the South American nation of Bolivia has become the first nation to legalize child labor for children as young as 10 years old. Congress approved the legislation early this month, and Vice President Alvaro Garcia signed it into law last week in the absence of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was traveling.

Ten-year-olds will be able to work as long as they are under parental supervision and also attend school. Twelve is now the minimum age for a child to work under contract. Those children would also have to attend school.

Ten-year-olds will be able to work as long as they are under parental supervision and also attend school. Twelve is now the minimum age for a child to work under contract. Those children would also have to attend school.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/20/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Bolivia, child labor, minimum age, education


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lowering the minimum work age from 14, the bill's advocates say, simply acknowledges the reality that many poor families in Bolivia have no other choice than for their kids to work.

The bill, they say, does offer working children safeguards. "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 children," Sen. Adolfo Mendoza, one of the bill's sponsors, said.

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Ten-year-olds will be able to work as long as they are under parental supervision and also attend school. Twelve is now the minimum age for a child to work under contract. Those children would also have to attend school.

"To eliminate work for boys and girls would be like eliminating people's social conscience," Morales said last year in support of unionized young workers.

Jo Becker, the children's rights advocacy director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, is understandably incensed.

"Bolivia's move is out of step with the rest of the world," she says. "Child labor may be seen as a short-term solution to economic hardship, but is actually a cause of poverty."

People who start work as children end up with less education and lower earnings as adults, she says. They are then more likely to send their own children to work, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Advocates say that Bolivia should instead invest in ways to lift families out of poverty. The country already does in a limited way, paying a per-child subsidy of $28 a year to families whose children attend school.

Carmen Moreno, an International Labor Organization official working to reduce child labor, said Bolivia's law contravenes a U.N. convention designating 14 as the minimum work age. It also runs against the regional current, she says -- Mexico has set age 15 as the minimum and Chile age 16.

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