Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Brazil

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 7 June 2002
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Brazil, 7 June 2002, available at: [accessed 20 April 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

In 1992, the Government of Brazil became one of the six original countries to participate in ILO-IPEC.[294] USDOL has funded three ILO-IPEC projects in Brazil: one in 1995 addressed child labor in the shoe industry of Vale dos Sinos; one in 2000 combats the child domestic worker problem in Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru; and another also funded in 2000 addresses the commercial sexual exploitation of minors in a border town between Brazil and Paraguay.[295] In October 2001, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) began collaborating with the ILO's SIMPOC to conduct a survey of child labor as part of Brazil's National Household Survey.[296]

The federal government administers numerous programs under different ministries aimed at combating child labor and has formed various commissions to address issues related to child labor in Brazil.[297] In May 2000, the MLE established the Tripartite Commission, which produced a list of over 80 activities defined as "worst forms" of child labor by the government.[298] In some regions, councils defend the rights of children and adolescents on the federal, state, and municipal levels.[299] As part of the country's adherence to ILO Convention 182, the Federal Ministry of Welfare and Social Assistance (MPAS) has informally identified activities in both the rural and urban sectors that are considered the worst forms of child labor.[300] The MPAS also launched a program to create centers and networks to assist children and adolescents who are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.[301] A new Parliamentary Investigative Commission on Sexual Tourism began functioning in September 2001 in the state of Fortaleza.[302]

The government's Program on the Eradication of Child Labor (PETI) gives stipends to families who remove children from work and keep them in school.[303] The Ministry of Education (MEC) has developed a preventive counterpart to the PETI program, which provides mothers with a fixed sum. In return, the mothers agree to ensure that their children maintain at least an 85 percent attendance rate in school.[304] The government has also designed special classes to address the problem of students who are forced to repeat grades,[305] created a school lunch program which seeks to promote children's attendance,[306] and raised the average wage paid to teachers by 13 percent nationally and up to 49 percent in the Northeast region.[307]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, UNICEF estimated that 11 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 15 in Brazil were working.[308] Child labor occurs more frequently in northeastern Brazil than in any other region and is particularly common in rural areas.[309] Children work on commercial orange, sugar cane, and sisal farms; in traditional sectors of the Brazilian economy, including the shoe, logging, mining and charcoal industries; and as domestic servants and scavengers in garbage dumps. Children are also involved in prostitution, pornography and the trafficking of drugs.[310] Most child and adolescent laborers are not paid for their work.[311]

Basic education (grades one through eight) is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 14.[312] In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 128 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 95.3 percent.[313] Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Brazil. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.[314]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Constitution sets the minimum age for general employment at 16 years and the minimum age for apprenticeships at 14 years. These minimum age standards were raised from 14 years and 12 years, respectively, after a 1998 Constitutional amendment.[315] The 1990 Statute on Children and Adolescents (ECA) prohibits children under the age of 18 from working in unhealthy, dangerous and arduous conditions, at night, or for long hours that impede school attendance. It also prohibits children less than 18 years of age from carrying heavy loads and work in settings where their physical, moral or social being is at risk.[316] Under the Penal Code, it is illegal to hire workers with the intention of transporting them to another state or national territory.[317]

The Ministry of Labor and Employment is responsible for training inspectors to determine child labor work site violations.[318] Employers that violate Brazil's child labor laws are subject to monetary fines although the initial levying of fines usually occurs only after several violations.[319] Ministry enforcement of child labor laws is weakened by a lack of resources, an insufficient number of inspectors, and statutory limitations.[320] Brazil ratified ILO Convention 138 on June 28, 2001 and ILO Convention 182 on February 2, 2000.[321]

[294] ILO-IPEC, All About IPEC: Programme Countries, at

[295] USDOL/IPEC program documents: Combating Child Labor in the Shoe Industry of Vale dos Sinos, Brazil, 1995; The Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, September, 2000; and The Prevention and Elimination of Child Domestic Labour in South America, September 2000.

[296] The survey will reach approximately 120,000 households. See USDOL/ICLP, Technical Cooperation Summaries: SIMPOC, internal document, September 1, 1999.

[297] The various programs of the federal government to eradicate child labor are listed in the Government of Brazil's multi-year plan (PPA). U.S. Embassy-Brazil, unclassified telegram no. 1439, September 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 1439]. See also Ministerio Publico do Trabalho, Procuraduria Geral. Comissoes, August 8, 2001, at Among these is the Executive Group to Combat Forced Labor (GERTRAF), the National Forum for the Eradication of Child Labor and the Protection of the Adolescent Worker, and the National Office of Coordination for Combating the Exploitation of Child and Adolescent Labor. State governments have also formed local commissions, such as the State of Rio de Janeiro's Commission on the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor.

[298] U.S. Embassy-Brazil, unclassified telegram no. 1715, November 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 1715]. The list includes such activities as harvesting citrus fruits, driving tractors, performing civil construction, picking garbage, cutting sugar cane, selling alcohol, and working in bars and brothels. The list produced by the Tripartite Commission led to an additional 27 activities being banned for workers between ages 16 and 18. See Mark Mittelhauser, Labor Attache at U.S. Consulate, Sao Paolo, Brazil, E-mail to ICLP official, February 5, 2001.

[299] Unclassified telegram 1439.

[300] In rural areas, these activities include harvesting of sisal and sugar cane, cotton, tobacco, and citrus; producing wood, brick, charcoal, ceramics, and flour; working in salt and other mines; weaving; and fishing. Some urban sector activities include drug trafficking, trash picking, shoe shining, and commerce. See unclassified telegram 1439.

[301] The centers serve as clearing houses for allegations; offer psychological, social, and legal counseling; and attempt to create safer environments for victims. Sentinela currently has 40 centers and aims to have 200 by the end of 2001. Centers work with a network of NGOs and public officials to guarantee the rights of victims of abuse and of children working as prostitutes. See Mark Mittelhauser, Labor Attache at U.S. Consulate, Sao Paolo, Brazil, E-mail to ICLP official, September 28, 2001.

[302] Viviane Lima, O Povo, CE, p. 18, September 9, 2001, as cited in CPI do Turismo Sexual em Fortaleza já tem denúncias, Agência de Noticías dos Direitos da Infancia, at on 09/25/01.

[303] Unclassified telegram 1715. Overall, the Federal Ministry of Welfare and Social Assistance (MPAS) provides guidelines and most of the funding, but state and municipal governments are charged with implementing the bulk of the program locally. The government's PETI has grown from a pilot project in a few municipalities in two states in 1996 to over 160 municipalities in 13 states by the end of 1999. See unclassified telegram 1439.

[304] Mark Mittelhauser, Labor Attache at U.S. Consulate, Sao Paolo, Brazil, E-mail to ICLP official, October 9, 2001.

[305] Secretaria de Educação Fundamental, Ensino Fundamental, Programa de Aceleração da Aprendizagem, at

[306] Ministerio da Educação, Noticias – Dezembro/2001, Programa da Merenda Escolar é destaque en 2001, December 26, 2001.

[307] EFA 2000 Assessment at

[308] According to the survey, 3.8 million children were working. Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estadística Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicilios, PNAD – 1999, as cited in UNICEF, Brasil, Indicadores sobre crianças e adolescentes: Brasil 1990-1999, UNICEF/IBGE 2001 Fundo das Nações Unidas para a Infancia – UNICEF, Tabelas 9 and 153, p. 38, 220. Statistics for Brazil generally employ the term "minors" to refer to anyone below age 12 and the term "adolescents" to refer to anyone between ages 12 and 18. See Estatuto da Criança e Adolescente, Livro I, Parte Geral, Titulo I: Das Disposições Preliminares, at

[309] Ministerio do Trabalho e Emprego, Quantitativo dos Ocupados na Semana de Referencia, PNAD – 1999, 26/09/01. In 1999, an estimated 57 percent of working boys and 52 percent of working girls between ages 5 and 15 lived in rural regions. See Ministerio do Trabalho e Emprego, Ocupados por área geoeconômica Rural ou Urbana, PNAD – 1999, 26/09/01.

[310] "Toil for Tots: Low Wages and Unemployment are Mainstream Concerns in Brazilian Society, but Their Most Painful Sign is the Exploitation of Child Labor," Brazil, July 1998, at on 09/26/01. See also International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Internationally Recognized Core Labour Standards in Brazil: Report for the World Trade Organization General Council Review of Trade Policies of Brazil (Geneva, October 25 and 27, 2000), at ; unclassified telegram 1439; Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Brazil (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001), Section 6d, at; and Xisto Tiago de Medeiros Neto, O Procurador-Geral do Trabalho, Diario de Natal, Opiniao, A crueldade do Trabalho infantil, 21/10/2000 [hereinafter de Medeiros Neto, A crueldade do Trabalho infantil], at

[311] Of those minors who are paid for work, 90 percent receive less than the national minimum wage. See de Medeiros Neto, A crueldade do trabalho infantil.

[312] Unclassified telegram 1439. See also Estatuto da criança e do Adolescente, Capítulo IV – Do Direito à Educação, à Cultura, Ao Esporte e Ao Lazer, Artigo 54, at

[313] UNESCO, The Education for All (EFA) Assessment: Country Reports – Brazil (Paris, 2000) [CD-ROM].

[314] For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see Introduction to this report.

[315] Unclassified telegram 1439. See also Emenda Constitucional no. 20, de 15/12/98, O Ministério Público do Trabalho na Erradicação do Trabalho Infantil e na Proteção do Trabalho do Adolescente [hereinafter Erradicação do Trabalho Infantil], at

[316] Erradicação do Trabalho Infantil .

[317] Violators can be fined and incarcerated for 1 to 3 years. The punishment increases if the victim is younger than age 18. See Erradicacao do Trabalho Forcado at

[318] Unclassified telegram 1439.

[319] In the state of Alagoas, the State Forum for the Eradication of Child Labor reports that low fines and poor fine collection contribute to a sense of impunity among many violators of child labor laws. Ibid.

[320] Ibid.

[321] ILO, International Labour Standards and Human Rights Department, ILOLEX databases at and

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