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17 Million Latin American Children Work

April 18, 2003 · 

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One out of five Latin American children, or more than 17 million, work in the unofficial economic sector and in rural areas, the International Labor Organization said yesterday. In conjunction with the Guatemalan non-governmental organisation Intervida and Save the Children, Norway the ILO said the countries with the highest rates of child labour in Latin America are Haiti – where one out of every four children works – Guatemala, Brazil and the Dominican Republic, with more than 16 percent of their child population employed in diverse occupations.

 The ILO said that in Bolivia, the poorest country in the region, the percentage of the population under age 19 working in the mines of the Andean plateau has increased from 14 percent in 1992 to 44 percent in 2001. Around 13,500 children work up to 12 hours a day in the mines, enduring high temperatures and transporting mineral loads beyond their physical capacity. They also come into contact with toxic substances such as nitrate and poisonous gases, the ILO said.

 Intervida yesterday said that one out of six Guatemalan children, or more than 800,000 children, are forced to work. Many of these child labourers are working in dangerous occupations, it said, such as street vending, pyrotechnic production, refuse recycling and in the worst cases, prostitution. “Children are exploited with low salaries, very long working hours and no social protection,” Intervida said.

 “Adults who worked when they were young send their own children to work because their deficient education prevents them from getting better-paying jobs, and thus it perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty and child labour,” Intervida said, adding that 80 percent of Guatemala’s population lives in poverty.

[source: UN Wire]

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