Child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean

While child labour has declined substantially in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years, there are still 5.7 million working girls and boys who are under the minimum age for employment or are engaged in work that must be abolished according to ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182. The majority of these children work in agriculture, but there are also many thousands of girls and boys working in other high-risk sectors such as mining, dumpsites, domestic labour, fireworks manufacturing and fishing. Support to defining and mapping hazardous labour, developing child labour monitoring systems and involving the social partners in these processes are IPEC priorities for the region. In many countries, domestic labour in third party homes is the second largest sector in which children, mostly girls, work. Programmes are being implemented in Central and South America to address this difficult issue. Indigenous girls and boys, who are often the poorest of the poor and suffer from discrimination and lack of access to social services, are also a priority target group for research and action.

The unconditional worst forms of child labour, such as commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking of children for labour, and use of children in armed conflict and in the drug trade pose particular challenges since they involve criminal activities that are hidden and difficult to tackle. Some of these also pose particular risks to girls, who are often more vulnerable due to prevalent cultural and social patriarchal norms in Latin America. IPEC is working to develop intervention models to address these worst forms and ensure that adequate legal frameworks are in place and national capacities are strengthened to enforce them.

IPEC has a strong regional approach to its activities in the region. It promotes child labour eradication in the regional economic integration agenda, as well as in regional declarations and agreements. Through regional groups, such as MERCOSUR, it has fostered the promotion of joint legislation on combating child labour and its worst forms. Mainstreaming of child labour concerns into government policies and programmes in Latin America, especially those concerned with poverty eradication and education such as conditional income transfers, has been and will continue to be a strong focus of IPEC’s work.

Regional Offices – web sites

Child Labour Country Dashboard

  1. The Child Labour Country Dashboard provide information from various sources to present a broad picture of the national child labour situation of a country and the main actions being taken to combat it. The legislation, policies and strategies covered by the Country Dashboard are listed below. All of them can contribute towards the elimination of child labour.

    By clicking on the country name at the right menu you will access to the country-specific information.

  1. Country legislation on child labour

    ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age, adopted in 1973, and ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms on child labour, adopted in 1999.

    The ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) is mandated to provide an impartial and technical evaluation of the state of application of the ratified Conventions. The CEACR makes two kinds of comments: observations and direct requests. Observations contain comments on fundamental questions raised by the application of a particular convention by a state. Direct requests relate to more technical questions or requests for further information.

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted in 1989, contains a range of international rights for children. Article 32 of the Convention addresses child labour. CRC has two Optional Protocols, adopted in 2000, one concerns the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the second concerns the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child is mandated to monitor and report on the implementation of the CRC and its Optional Protocols. The Committee then provides concluding observations.

    The national legislation on child labour provided here comes from the ILO Natlex database.

  2. Country policies on child labour

    The UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) is a programme framework between a government and the UN Country Team (UNCT) that describes the collective response of the UN system to the achievement of national development priorities and results. Usually the UNDAF is developed on the basis of a National Development Plan (NDP).

    The ILO Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) is the ILO contribution to the UN country assistance. It describes the ILO support at the country level towards the goal of decent work for all women and men, including the support to develop and implement National Action Plans (NAPs) to combat child labour.

    The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) outlines a country programme for poverty reduction to allow it to obtain funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for support. The policy and programmes prescriptions in PRSPs can have a direct and/or indirect impact on the child labour situation in the country.

    The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is a multi-stakeholder partnership that seek to ensure accelerated progress in developing countries towards achieving the SDG 4 which call for inclusive, equitable quality education for all by 2030.