Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 13:18 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Brazil

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 - Brazil, 18 April 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d74881c.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

In 1992, the Government of Brazil became one of the six original countries to join ILO-IPEC.451 USDOL has funded four ILO-IPEC projects in Brazil. A program in the Vale dos Sinos area, funded in 1995, addressed child labor in the local shoe industry. A regional program, funded in 2000, was initiated in Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru to combat the problem of child domestic workers. A third, also funded in 2000, addresses the commercial sexual exploitation of minors in two border cities between Brazil and Paraguay.452 The fourth USDOL-funded project, a collaboration between the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics and ILO's SIMPOC, has collected field data and is in the process of preparing the final report on a child labor survey as part of Brazil's National Household Survey.453 In addition, ILO-IPEC, the MERCOSUR governments and the Government of Chile have developed a 2002 – 2004 regional plan to combat child labor.454

The federal government administers numerous programs under different ministries and has formed various commissions to combat and address issues related to child labor in Brazil.455 These programs to eradicate child labor are listed in the Government of Brazil's 2002-2003 multi-year plan.456 In September 2002, the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) created the National Commission to Eradicate Child Labor (CONEATI), whose main goal is to implement ILO Conventions 138 and 182. The CONEATI will also work to increase coordination among federal efforts to address child labor.457 In May 2000, the MTE established the Tripartite Commission,458 which produced a list of 81 activities in September 2001 defined as "worst forms" of child labor.459

Each Brazilian state has a Special Group to Combat Child Labor and Protect the Adolescent Worker (GECTIPA), which is responsible for reporting upcoming local activities and their outcomes to the MTE.460 In some regions, councils defend the rights of children and adolescents at the federal, state, and municipal levels.461 The Federal Ministry of Welfare and Social Assistance (MPAS) has launched a program to create centers and networks to assist children and adolescents who are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.462 Early in 2002, Brazil initiated a Global Program to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, which includes the targeting of victims who are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.463 A Parliamentary Investigative Commission on Sexual Tourism began functioning in September 2001 in the state of Fortaleza.464

The MPAS Program on the Eradication of Child Labor (PETI) gives stipends to families who remove children from work and keep them in school.465 In addition, PETI offers target children an after school program which includes school reinforcement, sports and art-related activities.466 By July 2002, PETI had provided services to approximately 800,000 children.467 In cooperation with the MTE, MPAS also has a program that provides skills training to adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17 for future employment and encourages them to become involved in the social development of their communities.468 The Ministry of Education (MEC) has developed Bolsa Escola, a preventive counterpart to the PETI program, which provides mothers with a monetary stipend. In return, the mothers agree to ensure that their children maintain at least an 85 percent attendance rate in school.469 Bolsa Escola, now providing stipends for over eight million children throughout Brazil, is the largest program of its kind in the world.470 The government has also designed special classes to address the problem of students who are forced to repeat grades,471 created a school lunch program which seeks to promote children's attendance,472 and raised the average wage paid to teachers by 12.9 percent nationally and up to 49.2 percent in the Northeast region.473 These programs are partly supported through the new Fund to Combat Poverty.474

The World Bank provides assistance for seven projects in Brazil,475 including Projeto Nordeste and FUNDESCOLA, which aim to improve primary education mainly in the poorer region of the Northeast.476 The IDB is assisting the Ministry of Education with three projects that address shortcomings in secondary and higher education, especially in impoverished regions and among disadvantaged groups.477 In addition, the IDB approved a USD 500 million loan to Brazil in August 2002 to support country investment in monetary transfer payment programs for poor families in the areas of nutrition, primary school attendance, child labor prevention, and youth skills training.478 These projects make up part of the federal social service umbrella program, Projeto Alvorada, which attempts to integrate the various education, health, income and employment generation, and social development cash-grant projects financed by the federal government for states and municipalities with families living below the average Brazilian human development index.479

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, the ILO estimated that 14.4 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Brazil were working.480 Of all males ages 5 to 14 years, 11.7 percent were working; of all females ages 5 to 14, 6 percent were working.481 Child labor occurs more frequently in northeastern Brazil than in any other region and is particularly common in rural areas.482 Children work on commercial citrus, sugar cane, and sisal483 farms; in traditional sectors of the Brazilian economy, including the informal footwear, mining and charcoal industries;484 and as domestic servants485 and scavengers in garbage dumps.486 Children are involved in prostitution,487 pornography,488 and the trafficking of drugs,489 and are victims of internal trafficking networks that transport them to mining and construction sites and tourist areas for the purposes of prostitution.490 A 2002 report revealed that adolescent girls are being trafficked internationally with falsified documents for the purposes of prostitution.491 Children are also reported to serve as "soldiers" in drug gangs that control most of Rio de Janeiro's shantytowns.492 Approximately 90 percent of working children are found in the informal sector, and nearly half receive no income.493

Basic education (grades one through eight) is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 14.494 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 154.1 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 95.3 percent.495 Child labor contributes to the "age-to-grade" distortion of children in school, a widespread characteristic of the Brazilian education system.496 In 1998, 89.9 percent of children ages 5 to 14 were attending school.497

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for general employment was raised from 14 to 16 years and the minimum age for apprenticeships from 12 to 14 years after a 1998 Constitutional amendment.498 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 working in settings where their physical, moral or social being is at risk.499 Trafficking is also addressed in Brazilian laws. Under the Penal Code, it is illegal to hire workers with the intention of transporting them to another state or national territory.500 Brazil's Federal Criminal Statute provides for prison terms and fines to anyone caught prostituting or trafficking another individual (domestically or internationally) or running a prostitution establishment, with increased penalties for involving adolescents ages 14 to 17 years in such activities.501 Located throughout the country, offices of the Centers for the Defense of Children and Adolescents are responsible for reporting violations of children's rights.502

The Ministry of Labor and Employment is responsible for training inspectors to determine child labor work site violations.503 In 2000, inspectors began to focus more on the informal sector although they were unable to enter private homes and farms where a large proportion of child labor is found.504 In the first eight months of 2002, an estimated 3,250 inspectors conducted more than 19,500 inspections involving cases in which workers were under the age of 18.505 Employers that violate Brazil's child labor laws are subject to monetary fines, but the initial levying of fines usually occurs only after several violations.506

The Government of Brazil ratified ILO Convention 138 on June 28, 2001 and ILO Convention 182 on February 2, 2000.507


451 ILO-IPEC, All About IPEC: Programme Countries, [online] August 13, 2001 [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/about/countries/t_country.htm.

452 ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Labor in the Shoe Industry of Vale dos Sinos, Brazil, program document, BRA/95/05/ 050, 1995. See also ILO-IPEC, The Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, program document, Geneva, September 2000. See also ILO-IPEC, The Prevention and Elimination of Child Domestic Labour in South America, program document, RLA/00/P53/USA, Geneva, September 2000.

453 ILO-IPEC, Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC), project document, Geneva, September 1999. See also ILO-IPEC official, electronic communication with USDOL official, August 28, 2002.

454 Cristina Borrajo, "Mercosur y Chile: una agenda conjunta contra el trabajo infantil: La defensa de la niñez más allá de las fronteras," Encuentros, Año 2 Numero 6 (August 2002), [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/spanish/260ameri/oitreg/activid/proyectos/ipec/boletin/numero6/ipeacciondos.html.

455 Among these is the Executive Group to Combat Forced Labor, 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. See Public Labor Ministry, Procuraduria Geral: Comissoes, [online] November 14, 2001 [cited September 13, 2002], 1; available from http://www.pgt.mpt.gov.br/comissoes.html.

456 Ministry of Labor and Employment, Trabalho Infantil no Brasil, online, 1 [cited October 4, 2002]; available from http://www.mte.gov.br/Temas/TrabInfantil/Conteudo/Publicacoes.asp?Acao=Imprimir&.

457 U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394, October 23, 2002.

458 The Tripartite Commission is made up of members from the federal government, workers and employers organizations. Ministry of Labor and Employment, Trabalho Infantil no Brasil, 9.

459 Ibid. The list includes such activities as harvesting citrus fruits and cotton, driving tractors, performing civil construction, picking garbage, cutting sugar cane, selling alcohol, and working in bars, underground or with toxic chemicals. See also Ministry of Labor and Employment: Secretary of Labor Inspection, Anexo 1: Quadro descritivo dos locais e serviços considerados perigosos ou insalubres para menores de 18 anos, online, September 3, 2001, Portaria No. 20 [cited October 4, 2002]; available from http://www.mte.gov.br/Temas/TrabInfantil/default.asp.

460 Within the Ministry, the Secretariat of Labor Inspection uses the data from the GECTIPA reports to inform a periodic map of child and adolescent labor, which is then used to select locations and identify activities for future eradication of child labor programs. Ministry of Labor and Employment, Trabalho Infantil no Brasil, 2, 3.

461 U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 1439, September 18, 2000.

462 As an urban partner to the Program on the Eradication of Child Labor (PETI) program, the Sentinela Program provides child/adolescent victims of commercial sexual exploitation with psychological, social and legal counseling and safer environments for victims. Centers work with a network of NGOs and public officials to guarantee the rights of child victims of abuse and of children working as prostitutes. The program also works with victims' families to help raise incomes. See Mark Mittelhauser, Labor Attache at U.S. Consulate in Sao Paolo, Brazil, electronic communication to USDOL official, September 28, 2001. The program has 323 reference centers in capital cities, particularly in areas where commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking occur most frequently. See U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394.

463 U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 868, September 6, 2002.

464 Viviane Lima, O Povo, CE, September 20, 2001, 18, as cited in CPI do Turismo Sexual em Fortaleza já tem denúncias, Agencia de Noticías dos Direitos da Infancia.

465 U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 1715, November 9, 2000. While state and municipal governments are responsible for implementing a large part of the program at the local level, the Federal Ministry of Welfare and Social Assistance provides guidelines and most of the funding. See U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 1439. The government's PETI grew from a pilot project in a few municipalities in two states in 1996 to all 26 states and the federal capital by the end of 2001. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Brazil, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 2647-57, Section 6d [cited December 13, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/wha/8305.htm. In 2002, the PETI program adopted the MTE list of worst forms of child labor as a framework for selecting labor activities to include in the program. U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394.

466 Ministry of Welfare and Social Assistance, Programa de Erradicação do Traballho Infantil – PETI: Manual de Orientações, Brazil, May 2002, 1st Edition, 9-10.

467 U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394.

468 Ministry of Labor and Employment, Programas em Parcerias: Agente Jovem, online, [cited October 4, 2002]; available from http://www.mte.gov.br/Temas/TrabInfantil/Programas/Conteudo/agente.asp.

469 Mittelhauser, electronic communication, September 28, 2001.

470 U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394.

471 Ministry of Education/Secretary of Basic Education, Ensino Fundamental, Programa de Aceleração da Aprendizagem, [online] [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://www.mec.gov.br/sef/fundamental/ proacele.shtm.

472 Ministry of Education, Programa da Merenda Escolar é destaque en 2001, (Noticias – Dezembro/2001), [online] December 26, 2001 [cited October 6, 2002]; available from http://www.mec.gov.br/acs/asp/noticias/ noticiasId.asp?Id=1883&idOrgao=001006.

473 UNESCO, Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports – Brazil, prepared by National Institute for Educational Studies and Research, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 52/84, [cited December 13, 2002]; available from http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/brazil/contents.html.

474 The Salário-Educação, made into law in 1996, is a social contribution in the amount of 2.5 percent of the payroll of businesses and industries with more than one hundred employees. This contribution is deposited into the budget that supports public basic education. See U.S. Department of Labor, Needs Assessment for the Brazil Child Labor Education Initiative, prepared by Dr. Flavia S. Ramos, pursuant to request by DOL, May 15 – July 5, 2002, 18, 20.

475 World Bank, O Banco Mundial e a educação no Brasil, [online] [cited October 4, 2002]; available from http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/external/lac/lac.nsf/4c794feb793085a5852567d6006ad764/ db89b189f2a19a7d8525693f0069dbda?OpenDocument.

476 World Bank, Memorandum of the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation to the Executive Directors on a Country Assistance Strategy Progress Report for the Federative Republic of Brazil, online, 22116-BR, May 1, 2001, 7, [cited October 4, 2002]; available from http://wwwwds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2001/05/19/000094946_01050804481522/Rendered/PDF/ multi0page.pdf.

477 Inter-American Development Bank, Diversity in Access to Higher Education, 1406/OC-BR, June 7, 2002, [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/br1406e.pdf. See also Inter-American Development Bank, Improvement and Expansion Program for Secondary Education, BR-0300, November 1999, [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/br1225e.pdf. See also Inter-American Development Bank, Sector Program to Build Human Capital, BR-0360, December 2001, [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/br1378e.pdf.

478 Inter-American Development Bank, IDB Disburses $250 Million to Support Investment in Human Capital in Brazil, [press release] August 2, 2002 [cited August 8, 2002]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/PRENSA/2002/ cp16202e.htm.

479 Projeto Alvorada, Descrição do Projecto, [online] [cited October 4, 2002]; available from http://alvorada.planejamento.gov.br/frame_descricao.asp?Opcao=Descricao.

480 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002. In 1998, UNICEF estimated that 8.9 percent of children ages 5 to 14 in Brazil were working. Children who are working in some capacity include children who have performed any paid or unpaid work for someone who is not a member of the household, who have performed more than four hours of housekeeping chores in the household, or who have performed other family work. See Government of Brazil, Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicilios, Understanding Children's Work, [online] 1998 [cited October 1, 2002]; available from http://www.ucw-project.org/cgi-bin/ucw/Survey/ Main.sql?come=Tab_Country_Res.sql&ID_SURVEY=135.

481 Government of Brazil, Pesquisa Nacional.

482 Ministry of Labor and Employment, Quantitativo dos Ocupados na Semana de Referencia, PNAD – 1999, September 26, 2001. 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 Ministry of Labor and Employment, Ocupados por área geoeconômica Rural ou Urbana, PNAD -1999, September 26, 2001.

483 A plant that yields a stiff fiber used for cordage and rope.

484 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Brazil, 2647-57, Section 6d.

485 UN Wire, Child Labor: U.N.-Sponsored Seminar in Brazil Looks at Problem; More, United Nations Foundation, [online] March 20, 2002 [cited March 21, 2002]; available from http://www.unfoundation.org/unwire/util/ display_stories.asp?objid=24840. ILO estimates indicate that there are over 500,000 children and adolescents employed as domestic servants in Brazil. U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394.

486 A 2000 national survey on basic sanitation estimated that of 25,000 trash pickers nation-wide, 22 percent were younger than 14 years. "Brazil: Children Put to Work in Dump, Official Says," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, July 14, 2002.

487 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Brazil, 2647-57, Section 6d. See also Protection Project, "Brazil," in Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, March 2002, "Scope of the Problem: Statistics and Cases" [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://209.190.246.239/ver2/cr/ Brazil.pdf.

488 Xisto Tiago de Medeiros Neto, A crueldade do Trabalho infantil, (Diario de Natal, Opiniao), [online] October 21, 2000 [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.pgt.mpt.gov.br/noticias/noticia17.html. See also UNICEF, Pornografia Infantil é Crime Denuncie!

489 Dr. Jailson de Souzza e Silva and Dr. André Urani, Brazil: Children in Drug Trafficking: A Rapid Assessment, ILO, Geneva, February 2002.

490 Protection Project, "Brazil."

491 PESTRAF-BRASIL, Pesquisa sobre Tráfico de mulheres, Crianças e Adolescentes para Fins de Exploração Sexual Comercial: Relatório Nacional, Brasilia, June 2002, 48, 49 and 51.

492 Report Spotlights Children in Rio's Drug War, CNN Online, [online] December 13, 2002; available from http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/americas/09/10/brazil.child.soldiers.ap/index.html.

493 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Brazil, 2647-57, Section 6d.

494 U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 1439.

495 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002.

496 "Age-to-grade distortion" refers to the number of children that are older than the average age that corresponds to a particular grade. For example, the average age for grade one is 7 years (but an example of age-to-grade distortion is a child of 9 years who is in grade one). U.S. Department of Labor, Needs Assessment for the Brazil Child Labor Education Initiative, 9.

497 Government of Brazil, Pesquisa Nacional.

498 U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 1439. See also Emenda Constitucional no. 20, de 15/12/98, Public Labor Ministry, O Ministério Público do Trabalho na Erradicação do Trabalho Infantil e na Proteção do Trabalho do Adolescente, [online] [cited March 27, 2002]; available from http://www.pgt.mpt.gov.br/trabinfantil/ index.html.

499 Public Labor Ministry, Erradicação do Trabalho Infantil.

500 Violators can be fined and incarcerated for one to three years. The punishment increases if the victim is younger than age 18. See Public Labor Ministry, Trabalho Escravo: O Ministério Público do Trabalho na Erradicacao do Trabalho Forcado, [online] [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.pgt.mpt.gov.br/trabescravo/ atuacao.html.

501 A prison term may be anywhere from 1 to 10 years for such offenses. See Government of Brazil, Federal Criminal Statute, Articles 227-231, [cited August 23, 2002]; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/ StatutesPDF/Brazilf.pdf.

502 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Brazil, 2647-57, Section 6d.

503 U.S. Embassy – Rio de Janeiro, unclassified telegram no. 1439.

504 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Brazil, 2647-57, Section 6d.

505 U.S. Consulate- Sao Paulo, unclassified telegram no. 1394.

506 Ibid.

507 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited September 13, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

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