Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 08:30 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Costa Rica

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 18 April 2003
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Costa Rica, 18 April 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d7488835.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Costa Rica has been a member of ILO-IPEC since 1996.962 Currently, Costa Rica is participating in several ILO-IPEC projects funded by USDOL, including a project to collect child labor statistics and a project to combat child labor in the coffee sector (in Turrialba and Guanacaste).963 With other donor funding, in July 2002, the Government of Costa Rica and ILOIPEC began preliminary activities with the participation of stakeholders to map and define the worst forms of child labor, in preparation for a Time-Bound Program.964 Also, ILO-IPEC is carrying out a project aimed at raising awareness, collecting information, and providing direct attention to children involved in domestic work in the homes of third parties.965 In collaboration with ILO-IPEC, the labor union Central del Movimiento de Trabajadores Costarricenses (CMTC) is supporting a pre-school center for the children of street vendors in San Jose.966 Costa Rica is also participating in a USDOL-funded ILO-IPEC regional project aimed at combating commercial sexual exploitation.967

In 1996, the Government of Costa Rica established the National Directive Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor and the Protection of Adolescent Workers in Costa Rica.968 The Committee developed a national plan to eliminate child labor and fostered a number of institutions that address child labor, including the Executive Secretariat for the Eradication of Child Labor, the Office of Eradication of Child Labor and Protection of Adolescent Laborers, and the National Commission Against the Commercial Exploitation of Minors and Adolescents.969 The commercial sexual exploitation of children is recognized as a problem in Costa Rica and it is on the political and public agenda through discussion in presidential discourse, political debates, newspaper reports, editorials, studies, and fora.970

In September 2000, the government established the "National Agenda for Children and Adolescents, 2000-2010," in which it pledged to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor and achieve 100 percent retention of children in basic education by the year 2010.971 Since implementation of the agenda began, the government has created promotional materials on the problem of child labor; provided awareness training to over 1,450 government officials, college students, and private sector employees in the banana industry; and educated 4,000 youths on worker rights. All labor inspectors are reportedly trained in child labor enforcement and the prevention of child exploitation.972

In the area of education, the government is promoting children's access to primary school through on-going publicity campaigns sponsored by the Ministries of Labor and Public Education and has increased its education budget by 22 percent in the last five years in an effort to help more children complete secondary school.973 The government is also working with the World Bank on a USD 23 million project designed to improve basic education in grades one through nine, particularly in disadvantaged rural and marginal urban areas, through revised curriculum; production and distribution of textbooks; creation of teaching manuals and educational materials; teacher and school administrator training; and pilot computer use in classrooms.974 Costa Rica is also involved in an IDB program aimed at improving pre-school and lower-secondary education.975

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, the ILO estimated that 4.1 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Costa Rica were working.976 In rural areas, children work in agriculture and cattle-raising, primarily on family-owned farms. Costa Rican children traditionally help harvest coffee beans and sugarcane, although this work is increasingly done by Nicaraguan immigrants.977 Some children work as domestic servants, and others may be involved in construction, carpentry, furniture making, baking, sewing and the small-scale production of handicrafts. Children also bag groceries at supermarkets, sell goods on streets or highways, and watch over parked vehicles.978 The prostitution of children is a problem in Costa Rica,979 and is often associated with the country's sex tourism industry.980 Costa Rica is a transit and destination point for children trafficked for sexual exploitation purposes.981 Most trafficking victims originate from Bulgaria, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Russia, Panama, and the Philippines; however, other trafficked persons have come from Africa and Asia.982

Education is compulsory and free for six years at the primary level and three years at the secondary level.983 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 108.5 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 93.1 percent.984 Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Costa Rica. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.985 The proportion of drop-outs is higher in rural areas (16 percent) than in urban areas (7.5 percent).986

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years.987 The Children and Adolescents' Code prohibits minors under the age of 18 from working in mines, bars and other businesses that sell alcohol, in unsafe and unhealthy places, in activities where they are responsible for their own safety and the safety of other minors, and where there they are required to work with dangerous equipment, contaminated substances or excessive noise.988 Under the Children and Adolescent's Code, children are also not allowed to work at night or more than 6 hours a day or 36 hours a week.989 The Constitution provides working women and children with special protection.990

The Children's Bill of Rights states that all children and adolescents have the right to protection from all forms of exploitation, including prostitution and pornography.991 The Penal Code provides a prison sentence of between 4 and 10 years if the victim of prostitution is under the age of 18.992 The Penal Code also prohibits the entry or exit/departure of women and minors in and out of the country for prostitution, which carries a 5 to 10 year prison sentence, if convicted.993

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for detecting and investigating labor violations, while the National Board for Children and the judiciary branch are responsible for addressing cases of child sexual exploitation.994 The Ministry of Labor houses the Office of Eradication of Child Labor and Protection of Adolescent Laborers, which is responsible for coordinating all direct action programs, maintaining a database on all workers under the age of 18, coordinating the implementation of the National Plan and public policy, and training labor inspectors on child labor.995 Child labor investigations can be initiated after an inspection, or in response to complaints filed by government or NGO representatives, or members of civil society, including children and adolescents who are subject to exploitation.996 Due to limited resources, child labor regulations are not always enforced outside the formal economy.997 The government effectively enforces its law against forced labor998 and has been enforcing its prohibitions against the sexual exploitation of minors by raiding brothels and arresting pedophiles.999

The Government of Costa Rica ratified ILO Convention 138 on June 11, 1976, and ILO Convention 182 on September 10, 2001.1000


962 Costa Rica signed an MOU with ILO-IPEC in 1996. The ILO-IPEC Regional Office is located in San José, Costa Rica. See ILO-IPEC, All About IPEC: Programme Countries, [online] [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/about/countries/t_country.htm.

963 ILO-IPEC, Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor in the Coffee Industry in Costa Rica, COS/99/05/050, Geneva, 1999. See also ILO-IPEC, Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labor (SIMPOC): Central America, project document, CAM/9905/050, 1999.

964 ILO-IPEC, Actividades Preparatorias para la Eliminación de las Peores Formas de Trabajo Infantil en Costa Rica, Informe, August 2002.

965 ILO official, electronic communication to USDOL official, September 16, 2002.

966 ILO official, electronic communication to USDOL official, September 10, 2002.

967 Though the project focuses primarily on awareness raising, institutional capacity building, and international and national coordination, this project will target 150 girls in Limon, Costa Rica for direct services, such as education, social services, and health care. See ILO-IPEC, Stop the Exploitation: Contribution to the Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic, project document, RLA/02/P51/USA, 2002.

968 The National Directive Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor and the Protection of Adolescent Workers in Costa Rica, formed in 1996, was formerly known as the National Directive Committee Against Child Labor from 1990-1996. See U.S. Embassy – San José, unclassified telegram no. 1586, June 2000. See also U.S. Embassy-San José, unclassified telegram no. 0515, February 1998.

969 U.S. Embassy – San José, unclassified telegram no. 1586. See also Government of Costa Rica, Informe del Gobierno de Costa Rica Sobre Las Iniciativas y Políticas Dirigidas al Cumplimiento del Convenio 182 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo Referente a la Eliminación Inmediata de las Peores Formas del Trabajo Infantil, Embassy of Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., 2002.

970 ILO-IPEC, Explotación Sexual Comercial de Personas Menores de Edad en Costa Rica, San José, May 2002, 35.

971 Government of Costa Rica, Agenda Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia: Metas y Compromisos, 2000-2010, U.S. Embassy, San José, September 2000, 11, 21.

972 Government of Costa Rica, Informe de Avance de las Acciones Realizadas en Materia de Niñez y Adolescencia, Embassy of Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., 2001.

973 U.S. Embassy – San José, unclassified telegram no. 1586.

974 The project is helping to revise the curriculum, produce and distribute textbooks, create teaching manuals and educational materials, deliver training for teachers and school administrators, and pilot computer use in classrooms. See World Bank, Projects, Policies and Strategies: Basic Education Rehabilitation Project, [online] December 2, 2002 [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://www4.worldbank.org/sprojects/Project.asp?pid=P006938. See also World Bank, Countries: Costa Rica, [online] [cited July 27, 2000]; available from http://www.worldbank.org/html/ extdr/offrep/lac/cr2.htm.

975 Inter-American Development Bank, Approved Projects – Education, [online] November 8, 2002 [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/apeduc.htm.

976 According to the ILO, 18,000 children ages 10 to 14 were working. ILO, Yearbook of Labor Statistics 2001 (Geneva: 2001). See also World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002.

977 U.S. Embassy – San José, unclassified telegram no. 0515.

978 Ibid. See also National Institute of Children (PANI), El Trabajo Infanto Juvenil en Costa Rica y Su Relación Con La Educación: Analysis de los Resultados de la Encuesta de Hogares de Propositus Múltiples 1994 Sobre Actividades de los Menores de Edad, San José, June 1995, 23-24. These sources are the most current because no survey has been carried out in the past 4-5 years.

979 According to the National Institute of Children (PANI), street children in San José, Limon and Puntarenas are at the greatest risk of entering prostitution. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices2001: Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 2733-35, Section 5 [cited July 27, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/wha/8329.htm.

980 Maria Cecilia Claramunt, Sexual Exploitation in Costa Rica: Analysis of the critical path to prostitution for boys, girls, and adolescents, UNICEF, 1999, 29.

981 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2002: Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., June 5, 2002, 41 [cited December 26, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2002/10679.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Costa Rica, 2735-38, Sections 6c and 6f.

982 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: Costa Rica, 41.

983 A tradition of free schooling dates back to 1869. See Infocostarica staff, Education in Costa Rica, infoCOSTA RICA.com, [online] August 13, 2002 [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://www.infocostarica.com//education/education.html. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Costa Rica, 2733-35, Section 5.

984 UNESCO, Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment [CD-ROM], Paris, 2000.

985 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

986 Raquel Gólcher Beirute, "UNICEF Señala Debilidades en Lucha Contra Deserción: Niños Esperan Mejor Educación," La Nación Digital (San José), September 20, 2000; available from http://www.nacion.com/ln_ee/2000/ septiembre/20/pais8html. See also Rodolfo Pisoni, Informe Sobre el Trabajo Infantil y Adolescente en Costa Rica, PANI, April 1999, 59.

987 In 1998, Costa Rica passed the Children and Adolescence Code, which amended Articles 88 and 89 of the Labor Code to increase the minimum age for work to 15. See Jamie Daremblum, Ambassador, Embassy of Costa Rica, letter to USDOL official, October 23, 2001. See also Government of Costa Rica, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, 1997, Article 78. See also Government of Costa Rica, Código de Trabajo.

988 Código de Trabajo, Article 94. See also Daremblum, letter, October 23, 2001.

989 Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, 1997, Article 95.

990 Constitución Política de la República de Costa Rica, 1949, Article 71 [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://www.georgetown.edu/pdba/Constitutions/Costa/costa2.html.

991 U.S. Embassy – San José, unclassified telegram no. 1977, August 2000.

992 This provision is found in Article 170 of the Penal Code. See Ibid.

993 This provision is found in Article 172 of the Penal Code. See Interpol, Legislation of Interpol member states on sexual offences against children: Costa Rica, [online] [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://www.interpol.int/ public/Children/SexualAbuse/NationalLaws/csaCostaRica.asp.

994 The Ministry of Labor carries out these responsibilities through its Bureau for the Attention and Elimination of Child Work and Protection of Adolescents, and through the Office of Labor Inspection. See Daremblum, letter, October 23, 2001, 3.

995 Esmirna Sánchez Vargas, "Costa Rica: retos y avances en la erradicación del trabajo infantil, Oficina de Atención y Erradicación del Trabajo Infantil y Protección del Trabajador Adolescente," Encuentros 4 Aportes (April 2002), [cited May 6, 2002]; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/spanish/260ameri/oitreg/activid/proyectos/ipec/boletin/numero4/ paraeldialogotres.html.

996 Daremblum, letter, October 23, 2001.

997 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Costa Rica, 2735-38, Section 6d.

998 Ibid.

999 U.S. Embassy – San José, unclassified telegram no. 2082, August 2001. See also Casa Alianza, Police Raid Reveals More Child Prostitution in Costa Rica, [online] March 17, 2000 [cited August 9, 2001]; available from http://www.casa-alianza.org/EN/lmn/docs/20000317.00389.htm.

1000 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited December 3, 2002]; available from http://ilolex.ilo.ch:1567/english/newratframeE.htm.

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