Bolivia condemned for lowering working age for children to 10

Bolivia has become the first country in the world to lower its legal working age to just 10.

With efforts being made across the world to reduce child labour, the International Labour Organization said it is investigating whether the move contravenes global regulations.

And the Global March Against Child Labour was angered by the move. Its chairperson Kailash Satyarthi said: “This step has shocked the global fraternity.”

Bolivian politicians justified the law change by saying it reflected the reality of life in one of the world's poorest countries. Children will be allowed to work at 10 as long as they attend school and are self-employed. Many Bolivian children work on food stalls or clean shoes.

UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children work to help their famiy incomes in Bolivia. It says that child labour prevents boys and girls from going to school and can be harmful to their mental and physical development.

The legislation was approved by Bolivia's congress earlier this month. And yesterday – with President President Evo Morales travelling to Brazil – it was signed into law by Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera.

He said: “It would have been easier to pass a law in line with international conventions but it would not be enforced because Bolivia's reality has other needs and characteristics.”

Mr Satyarthi, whose organisation is a worldwide network of trade unions, teachers' and civil society organisations, said: “The Bolivian bill that allows children as young as 10 to work is a sheer insult to the universal norms and standards that have historically evolved from the vast experience of the global community.

“They have turned a deaf ear towards the independent voices of the global civil society. This regressive move is a blatant denial to the opportunity of education – the only weapon that can pave way for prosperity, equity, justice and sustainability in the society.”

He added: “The Bolivian economy cannot take off until all its children are at school, attaining a quality education, and grow up to become qualified and skilled citizens. Child labour is counterproductive for the county’s economy.”


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