Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bolivia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bolivia, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
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.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 7-14 years, 2002:1,783,061
Working children, 7-14 years (%), 2002:23.2
Working boys, 7-14 years (%), 2002:23.9
Working girls, 7-14 years (%), 2002:22.5
Working children by sector, 7-14 years (%), 2002:
     – Agriculture76.3
     – Manufacturing4.2
     – Services18.8
     – Other0.7
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:108.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:94.9
School attendance, children 7-14 years (%), 2002:93.5
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2003:84.8
ILO Convention 138:6/11/1997
ILO Convention 182:6/6/2003
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Bolivia, many children work with their families in subsistence agriculture. Children work in the production of sugar cane and Brazil nuts, especially in Santa Cruz and Tarija. The harvesting of these products often requires the work of entire families, many of whom are indigenous and become indebted to those industries. Additionally, many indigenous Guarani families live and work on ranches in debt bondage in the Chaco region. Children also work in the production of cotton and mine gold, silver, and tin. Children engage in activities such as street vending, shining shoes, and assisting transport operators. Additionally, children work in industry, construction, small business, personal services, hotels, and restaurants. Children are also being used to transport drugs. Some children are brought or sent by family members from rural to urban areas to work as domestic servants or "criaditos" for higher-income families, often in situations that amount to indentured servitude.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, is a problem in Bolivia, particularly in the Chapare region and in urban areas, including Santa Cruz, La Paz, El Alto, and Cochabamba. Through organized networks, children are trafficked from Paraguay for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation in Santa Cruz and La Paz. The internal trafficking of Bolivian children for the purposes of prostitution, domestic service, mining, and agricultural labor, particularly on sugar cane and Brazil nut plantations, also occurs. Children are also trafficked to neighboring countries for forced labor. Bolivian children have been reported to be involved in the forced production of garments in Argentina.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Bolivian law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years. Apprenticeship for children ages 12 to 14 years is permitted with various restrictions. Children 14 to 18 years must have the permission of their parents or of government authorities in order to work. The law prohibits children 14 to 17 years from taking part in hazardous activities such as carrying excessively heavy loads, working underground, working with pesticides and other chemicals, or working at night. The law also requires employers to grant time off to adolescent workers who have not completed their primary or secondary education so that they may attend school during normal school hours. The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The law also prohibits any kind of labor without consent and fair compensation. The minimum age for 1-year compulsory military service for males is 18 years. The law allows children 15 years and older with basic secondary education to volunteer for certain military activities.

The law prohibits trafficking for the purpose of prostitution of minors and imposes penalties of 8 to 12 years of imprisonment, which increase by 25 percent if the victim is under 18 years.

There are 260 municipal Defender of Children and Adolescence offices to protect children's rights and interests. Childhood and Adolescence Courts are empowered to resolve issues involving children and apply sanctions for violations of the law. USDOS reported that the Government of Bolivia did not enforce child labor laws throughout the country, but noted a steady progress in the Government's increased resolve to enforce trafficking laws. According to USDOS, Bolivian police have been conducting raids on brothels and other sites that have resulted in a number of exploited children being rescued from prostitution.

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

The Government of Bolivia's policy framework to address child labor is the National Plan for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor 2000-2010. The plan identifies mining, sugarcane harvesting, and urban work as priority areas to combat exploitive child labor. The National Commission for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor implements action programs under three subcommittees, each dedicated to one sector.

The Vice Ministry of Gender and Adolescence implements a Plan for the Prevention of and Attention to Commercial Sexual Exploitation, with a focus on efforts in the country's largest cities. The Government has made efforts to increase public awareness of trafficking through education campaigns and working with NGOs and international organizations on prevention activities. The Bolivian Government has also increased resources and collaboration with local authorities and NGOs to aid trafficking victims, including children. Additionally, a few municipalities have created temporary shelters or victims' units to provide services to child victims.

The municipal Defender of Children and Adolescents offices assist victims of trafficking, sometimes in cooperation with NGOs. The IOM is implementing a project that will train municipal government employees to address the reintegration of trafficking victims. The Bolivian Government is implementing a cash subsidy program called Bono Juancito Pinto for all primary school students, conditioned on school attendance.

The Government of Bolivia and other associates and member governments of MERCOSUR are carrying out the "Niño Sur" ("Southern Child") initiative to defend the rights of children and adolescents in the region. The initiative includes unified public campaigns against commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, and child labor; mutual technical assistance in adjusting domestic legal frameworks to international standards on those issues; and the exchange of best practices related to victim protection and assistance. Bolivia's Secretariat of Tourism is part of the Joint Group for the Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism, which conducts prevention and awareness-raising campaigns to combat the commercial exploitation of children in Latin America. It was created in 2005 and includes the Ministries of Tourism from Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The Government of Bolivia is participating in a USDOL-funded 3-year, USD 3.4 million project implemented by the NGO, Desarrollo y Autogestión (Development and Self-Management), to improve access to basic education for working children in Bolivia. The project aims to withdraw 2,900 children who are working and prevent 2,900 children at risk of entering exploitive labor in Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca.

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