Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 21:11 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Costa Rica

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Costa Rica, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa4695.html [accessed 23 September 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.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor893
Working children, 12-14 years (%), 2004:5.7
Working boys, 12-14 years (%), 2004:8.1
Working girls, 12-14 years (%), 2004:3.5
Working children by sector, 12-14 years (%), 2004:
     – Agriculture40.3
     – Manufacturing9.5
     – Services49
     – Other1.3
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:110
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2004:91.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:87
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes
* Must pay for miscellaneous school expenses.

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Costa Rica, the rate of child work is higher in rural areas (91 percent) than in urban areas (9 percent). In rural areas, children work principally in agriculture, forestry, and service activities while in urban areas, children work mainly in trade and repair activities and construction.894

According to the National Institute for Children (PANI), commercial sexual exploitation of children is a problem in Costa Rica, with an unknown but significant number of children involved. Children in San José, Limón, and Puntarenas are at high risk. From January to March 2007, 34 sexual exploited minors were assisted.895 Children are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation and forced labor. The Costa Rican Government identified child sex tourism as a serious problem, and girls are trafficked into the country from other countries for commercial sexual exploitation.896

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years. Minors under 18 years are prohibited from working at night; in mines, quarries, and other dangerous places; where alcohol is sold; and in activities where they are responsible for their own or other's safety. They are also not allowed to work with dangerous equipment, contaminated substances, or excessive noise.897 Employers of youth ages 15-17 must maintain a child labor registry. Violations of minimum age and child labor standards are punishable by fines.898

Costa Rican laws on work hours for children state that adolescents ages 15 to 17 are prohibited from working for more than 6 hours a day or 36 hours a week.899 Children may work longer hours in agriculture and ranching.900 When PANI determines that child labor is performed to meet the family's basic needs, economic assistance must be provided to the family.901

Slave labor is prohibited under the law.902 Costa Rica does not have armed forces, and the minimum age for recruitment to the police force is 18 years.903 The penalty for paid sexual relations with a minor under 13 years is 4 to 10 years in prison; if the victim is 13 to 15 years, it is 3 to 8 years imprisonment; and if the victim is 15 to 18 years, then it is 2 to 6 years incarceration.904 The penalty for profiting economically from the prostitution of a minor under 13 years is 4 to 10 years in prison, and 3 to 9 years if the victim is 13 to 18 years old.905 The production of pornographic materials with minors is punishable by 3 to 8 years in prison. The penalty for possession of pornography involving minors is 6 months to 2 years.906 The penalty for promoting, facilitating, or aiding the trafficking of minors for commercial sexual exploitation or slave labor is 4 to 10 years in prison.907

The Inspections Directorate of the Ministry of Labor is responsible for investigating child labor violations and enforcing child labor laws.908 According to USDOS, informal sector enforcement of child labor laws is limited by a lack of resources.909

PANI, the Special Prosecutor for Domestic Violence and Sexual Crimes, and various ministries are responsible for preventing and prosecuting crimes involving commercial sexual exploitation of children. PANI leads public awareness campaigns and provides assistance to minors involved in commercial sexual exploitation.910 Several investigations into commercial sexual exploitation of children have been started by various agencies, although there have been few successful prosecutions.911

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

The National Agenda for Children and Adolescents 2000-2010 includes strategies to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor.912 In addition, the Government of Costa Rica has launched the Second National Action Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor and Special Protection of Adolescent Workers 2005-2010.913 It has also approved its third National Plan to Eradicate Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which aims to raise awareness; increase institutional capacity to address risk factors in target regions and populations; develop mechanisms to guarantee victims' access to psycho-social services; strengthen the judicial system to defend victims' rights; and create mechanisms to strengthen the National Commission against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.914 In May 2007, the Costa Rican judicial system also implemented a database system for tracking cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children.915

Since 2006, the Costa Rican Government has been carrying out "Avancemos" (Let's Get Ahead), a conditional cash transfer program (CCT) that encourages low-income children to remain in school or return to school. In 2007, 94,621 children benefited from the program.

The Government of Costa Rica continues to participate in a USD 8.8 million regional project implemented by ILO-IPEC, which seeks to combat commercial sexual exploitation through a variety of activities including capacity building and legal reform. In addition, the project aims to withdraw 713 children and prevent 657 children from commercial sexual exploitation in the region.916 In coordination with the Government, CARE-USA is implementing a USD 5.5 million regional project funded by USDOL to combat exploitive child labor through the provision of quality basic education. The project aims to withdraw and prevent 2,984 children and adolescents from exploitive child labor in the region.917 The Government of Costa Rica also participates in a USD 1.2 million regional project funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by ILO-IPEC in support of the Timebound Program. In addition, it participates in a USD 0.5 million regional project funded by the Government of Canada to combat the worst forms of child labor through the strengthening of labor ministries and workers.918 The Government of Costa Rica participated in a Phase II USD 2.6 million regional project and a Phase III USD 3 million regional project to eradicate child labor in Latin America, funded by the Government of Spain and implemented by ILO-IPEC.919


893 For statistical data not cited here, see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see Government of Costa Rica, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, (1998), article 78; available from http://www.asamblea.go.cr/ley/leyes/7000/7739.doc. See also U.S. Department of State, "Costa Rica," in Country Report on Human Rights Practices – 2007, Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/. See also Government of Costa Rica, Constitución Politica, (1949), article 78; available from http://www.cesdepu.com/nbdp/copol2.htm.

894 ILO-IPEC, In-depth analysis of child labour and education in Costa Rica, 2004, 21-26; available from http://white.oit.org.pe/ipec/documentos/cr_in_depth.pdf.

895 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Costa Rica," section 5. See also Melissa A. Lépiz and Doris G. Mosquera, Persiste Impunidad ante Explotación Sexual de Nuestra Niñez, [online] May 17-23, 2007 [cited December 12, 2007]; available from http://www.primeraplana.or.cr/version2006/articulos_x_id.php?id_tipo_articulo=1&id_edicion=29&id_articulo=223 .

896 U.S. Department of State, "Costa Rica (Tier 2)," in Trafficking in Persons Report-2007, Washington, DC, June 12, 2007; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82805.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Costa Rica," section 5.

897 Government of Costa Rica, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, articles 2, 78, 92, 94, 95. See also, Government of Costa Rica, Código de Trabajo, Ley No. 2, (1943), articles 88 and 89; available from http://www.ministrabajo.go.cr/Codigo/Indice.htm.

898 Government of Costa Rica, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, 1998, articles 98, 101.

899 Government of Costa Rica, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, article 95.

900 Government of Costa Rica, Código de Trabajo, article 89.

901 Government of Costa Rica, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, article 92.

902 Government of Costa Rica, Constitution, articles 20, 56.

903 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Costa Rica," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=821.

904 Government of Costa Rica, La Reforma y Adición de Varios Artículos al Código Penal, 4573, (August 30, 2007), article 160; available from http://ministeriopublico.poder-judicial.go.cr/publicaciones/legislacion_dia/2007/02-2007.pdf.

905 Ibid., article 171.

906 Ibid., article 173.

907 Government of Costa Rica, Codigo Penal de Costa Rica, (1970), article 172; available from http://www.unifr.ch/ddp1/derechopenal/legislacion/cr/cpcr5.htm.

908 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Costa Rica," section 6d. See also Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, Poder Ejecutivo Directriz: Manual de Procedimientos de la Dirección Nacional de Inspección, San José, 2-3; available from http://www.ministrabajo.go.cr/Documentos/Inspeccion_manual.doc.

909 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Costa Rica," section 6d.

910 Ibid., section 5.

911 Ibid.

912 Government of Costa Rica, Agenda Nacional para la Niñez y la Adolescencia: Metas y Compromisos, 2000-2010, San José, September 2000, 21.

913 Government of Costa Rica, Segundo Plan Nacional de Acción para la Prevención, Erradicación del Trabajo Infantil y Para la Protección Especial de las Personas Adolescentes Trabajadoras, Costa Rica, 2005-2010, San José, 2005; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/ipec/documentos/plan_eti_costa_rica.pdf.

914 Government of Costa Rica, Plan Nacional para la Erradicacion de la Explotacion Sexual Comercial de Ninos, Ninas, y Adolescentes 2008-2010, San José, 2007; available from http://white.oit.org.pe/ipec/documentos/plan_nac_esc_costa_rica.pdf.

915 ILO-IPEC, Stop the Exploitation: Contribution to the Prevention and Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Technical Progress Report, San José, September 30, 2007, 16.

916 ILO-IPEC, 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, San José, 2005.

917 CARE USA, APRENDO Project. Combating Exploitive Child Labor Through Education in Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) and the Dominican Republic, Project Document, 2004.

918 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, December 12, 2007.

919 ILO-IPEC official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, February 4, 2008.

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