2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nicaragua

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2005:1,300,494
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005:8.4
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005:13.5
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005:3.2
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2005:
     – Agriculture70.7
     – Manufacturing9.6
     – Services19.2
     – Other0.5
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:115.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:89.8
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2005:84.9
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:53.7
ILO Convention 138:11/2/1981
ILO Convention 182:11/6/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in the agricultural sector of Nicaragua work in the production of crops such as coffee, bananas, sugarcane, and tobacco. Children also work crushing stone, extracting pumice, mining for gold, and collecting mollusks and shellfish. In addition, children work in street sales and personal services, such as domestic service in third-party homes, as well as in restaurants and hotels. Some children engage in construction, manufacturing, and transport. A significant number of children work in the informal sector, and some are engaged in garbage dump scavenging.

Child prostitution and sex tourism are problems in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is a source and transit country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation. Some children are trafficked within Nicaragua for sex tourism and to work as domestic servants. Children, especially girls, from poor rural areas are among the most vulnerable to trafficking. The victims are often deceived with promises of good jobs and then forced to work as prostitutes in neighboring countries. The Government reported that trafficking was linked to organized crime, including prostitutes and brothel owners who recruit trafficking victims. The Government has also acknowledged that the lack of life opportunities, increased regional trade, semi-porous borders, and the development of communications technology have been factors contributing to the recruitment of children and youth into sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years. Children 14 and 16 years must have parental permission and be under the supervision of the Labor Ministry in order to work. Children 14 to 18 years cannot work more than 6 hours a day or 30 hours a week. Minors are also prohibited from engaging in work that may interfere with their schooling or that endangers their health and safety, such as work in mines, garbage dumps, and night entertainment venues. The Ministry of Labor has published a list of types of work that are harmful to the health, safety, and morals of children. An inter-ministerial resolution specifically prohibits children under 14 years from work in export processing zones, while another prohibits contracting children under 16 years for work at sea. In July 2008, the labor code was revised to include stricter requirements for employers who contract adolescents to work in their homes, such as obligating employers to facilitate and promote the education of those adolescent workers.

The law provides for fines in cases of violations of child labor laws. Within the Ministry of Labor, the National Commission for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor and Protection of the Young Worker (CNEPTI) receives revenues from fines that are put toward drawing attention to the rights and protection of minors.

The Constitution prohibits forced labor, slavery, and indentured servitude. The Constitution was amended in 1995 to prohibit military conscription. The minimum legal age for entry into the Armed Forces is 18 years.

Prostitution is legal for individuals 14 years and older. The new penal code published in May 2008 increased penalties related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The law establishes a penalty of 5 to 7 years of imprisonment for those found guilty of recruiting children under 16 years into prostitution, and 4 to 6 years of imprisonment for recruiting children between ages 16 and 18. Promoting, filming, or selling child pornography is prohibited. Trafficking of children under 18 years is penalized by 10 to 12 years in prison. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws. The Ministry of Labor's Inspector General's Office is responsible for conducting all inspections, including those regarding child labor. Although the law imposes fines for violators and allows inspectors to close establishments employing children, according to USDOS, the Ministry of Labor does not have sufficient resources to adequately enforce the law, with the exception of the small formal sector.

The Ministry of Government is responsible for combating trafficking, operates an anti-trafficking unit, and leads the National Coalition against Trafficking in Persons. However, USDOS notes that a lack of sufficient funding and coordination weakened the Government's anti-trafficking efforts at the national level.

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

The Government's Policy on Special Protection for Children and Adolescents includes special protections for victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking in persons. As a member of the Central American Parliament Commission on Women, Children, Youth, and Family, the Government is participating in a regional Plan to Support the Prevention and Elimination of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.

The Government provided oversight to the 5-year National Plan against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (2003-2008) and a 10-year National Action Plan for Children and Adolescents. The Ministry of Labor (CNEPTI) supports a 10-year plan (2007-2016) to end child labor that requires that all government programs and projects to include child labor prevention and eradication initiatives. First Lady Rosario Murillo, in coordination with the Ministries of Family, Health, Education and Government, launched a child labor initiative called Program Amor (Love) that targets 25,000 street children and their families primarily in Managua. The program aims to eliminate child labor and provide education for children and vocational training for parents.

The Government of Nicaragua is participating in a USDOL-funded 3-year USD 5 million initiative implemented by the American Institutes for Research. The project aims to withdraw and prevent 10,045 children from exploitive labor in the Departments of Madriz, Jinotega, and Managua through the provision of education and training opportunities.

The Government of Nicaragua participated in regional projects funded by USDOL, including a 7-year USD 8.8 million project implemented by ILOIPEC which concluded in April 2009 and sought to combat commercial sexual exploitation through a variety of activities, including capacity building and legal reform. In addition, the project targeted 713 children for withdrawal and 657 children for prevention from commercial sexual exploitation in Central America. The Government also participated in the 4-year USD 5.7 million Child Labor Education Initiative regional project implemented by CARE that worked to strengthen the Government and civil society's capacity to combat child labor through education and withdrew or prevented 4,105 children from exploitive child labor.

The Nicaraguan Government participated in a regional ILO-IPEC project that ended in August 2008 and was funded by the Government of Canada to prevent and combat the worst forms of child labor by strengthening the country's labor ministry. The Government of Nicaragua also participated in a Phase III USD 3.3 million regional project to eradicate child labor in Latin America, funded by the Government of Spain and implemented by ILO-IPEC.


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