National Consumers League

NCL expresses grave concern about Bolivia’s decision to lower age of work to ten

July 22, 2013

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League, benk@nclnet.org, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation's oldest consumer advocacy organization with a long history of fighting to improve child labor laws in the United States and abroad, decries the decision last week by Bolivia to enact a new law that lowers the age of work from 14 to 10.

“Ten-year-olds belong in school--not in mines, forests, and factories. Bolivia’s baffling action is a huge step backward and endangers the country’s 500,000 working children,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg, who is also the co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL has co-chaired for 25 years. “In the last decade, the world has made remarkable progress in reducing abusive child labor by one-third, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization.”

“While the new law is aimed at ‘self-employed’ children, our great fear is that the health and safety of Bolivia’s many thousands of children in hazardous work--like mining--will be endangered as a larger number of children sent out to work by their families will be legally employed,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy and the coordinator of the CLC. The U.S. Department of Labor lists nuts, bricks, corn, gold, silver, sugarcane, tin, and zinc as products produced with child labor in the country. Children are already doing some of the most grueling work in the world in Bolivia.”

“Bolivian government officials have said that they are unable to control child labor and that lowering the age of work will lead to greater protection of child workers because their work will now be legal,” said Greenberg. “Essentially, the government of Bolivia is surrendering. The level of exploitation will increase, and children will pay the price.”

“We also do not accept the argument that legal child labor is a necessary tool to reduce poverty in Bolivia, which ranks 70th on the ‘fragile states index,’ an annual ranking of the stability and the pressures countries face,” said Maki. "If 69 countries facing greater problems than Bolivia have not had to lower the age of work, surely Bolivia does not.”

“I’d like to remind the global community of the words of Hull House reformer Grace Abbott, an early child labor advocate in the United States,” said Greenberg. “'If you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for…poverty, you will have both until the end of time.'"

 

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit http://www.nclnet.org.