2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Dominican Republic

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 10-14 years, 2005:1,035,151
Working children, 10-14 years (%), 2005:5.8
Working boys, 10-14 years (%), 2005:9.0
Working girls, 10-14 years (%), 2005:2.7
Working children by sector, 10-14 years (%), 2005:
     – Agriculture18.5
     – Manufacturing9.8
     – Services57.5
     – Other14.2
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:106.8
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:82.4
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2005:96.3
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:68.4
ILO Convention 138:6/15/1999
ILO Convention 182:11/15/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Most work performed by children in the Dominican Republic is in the informal sector. In urban areas, children work primarily in services, construction, transportation, and tourism; in rural areas, children work mostly in agriculture. Children work in the production of coffee, rice, sugarcane, tomatoes, potatoes, and garlic where they are exposed to pesticides, sharp tools, heavy machinery, harsh conditions, and long hours. Children have been reported mining for larimar stones as they can fit into small spaces and mine faster than adults. Children also work as domestic servants. The Ministry of Education has indicated that in areas where the incidence of child labor is high, only about half the children attend school.

Migrants from Haiti, including children, work in agriculture and construction; Haitian children plant and cut sugarcane. Many Haitian adults and children live in sugarcane worker villages referred to as "bateyes," which lack adequate housing conditions, access to medical services, and other basic needs, and are rife with exploitive child labor. Dominican-born children from parents of Haitian descent are regularly denied citizenship or legal identity documents which preclude access to education beyond the fourth grade, formal sectors jobs, and other basic rights.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a problem, especially in tourist locations and major urban areas. Dominican Government officials have stated that economic need contributes to child prostitution. The Dominican Republic is a source and destination country for the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation. Children are also trafficked internally from rural to tourist areas. Some Haitian children who are trafficked to the Dominican Republic work in domestic service, sex tourism, and agriculture and often live in poor conditions. It has been reported that children, particularly Haitian children, are sometimes "adopted" by families who register them as their own and provide some form of payment to the birthparents. Such children are often exploited as domestic workers or as workers in family businesses.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The legal minimum age for employment in the Dominican Republic is 14 years; however, the Secretary of Labor (SET) may authorize individual permits to those younger than 14 years to work as actors or characters in public shows, radio, television, or movies. Work must not interfere with a minor's education. Children under 16 years may not work for more than 6 hours a day and must have a medical certification; children 16 years of age cannot work at night or more than 12 consecutive hours. Special authorization is needed for minors to work in itinerant sales. Girls 14 to 16 years are prohibited from working as messengers and delivering merchandise.

Minors under 18 years are prohibited from dangerous work such as work involving hazardous substances, heavy or dangerous machinery, and heavy loads. Minors are also prohibited from night work, work on the street, work in gaming establishments, handling cadavers, various tasks involved in the production of sugarcane, and certain work at hotels. Some exceptions are made for apprenticeships and job training for those older than 16 years.

Forced labor is prohibited by law. The Law Against Trafficking in Persons and Alien Smuggling establishes penalties of 15 to 20 years of imprisonment as well as fines for trafficking minors. The Protection of Children and Adolescents Law establishes punishments of 20 to 30 years of incarceration and fines for the transfer of a child to someone else for the purposes of forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography, or other degrading activities, in exchange for compensation. Perpetrators can receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years and fines for involvement in the commercial sexual exploitation of children; the sexual abuse of children under circumstances involving trafficking; or giving a son or daughter to another person in exchange for compensation. Fines are established for transporting minors unaccompanied by their parents without authorization. Promoting or assisting the trafficking of a minor to a foreigner is punishable by 4 to 6 years of imprisonment and fines. Making, distributing, or publishing pornographic photographs of children is punishable by 2 to 4 years of incarceration and fines. The Technology Crime Law penalizes the purchase or possession of child pornography with 2 to 4 years in prison. Crimes involving drug trafficking carry increased penalties if minors were used to carry out the offense. The minimum voluntary and compulsory recruitment age for military service is 16 years.

The SET, in coordination with the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI), is responsible for protecting minors against labor exploitation. CONANI is supposed to receive a minimum of 2 percent of the national budget; however, this is not being met. According to USDOS, the Government has made some efforts to protect children, particularly from exploitive child labor. The SET employs 203 labor inspectors who are trained to detect child labor; of those, 20 inspectors are dedicated to investigate child labor. The national judicial sector has 33 district attorneys who address issues involving the worst forms of child labor. The anti-trafficking unit of the Office of the Attorney General investigates and prosecutes trafficking crimes. According to USDOS, the Dominican Republic lacks effective trafficking law enforcement and victim protection programs.

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

The Government of the Dominican Republic has both a National Plan to Eradicate the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2006-2016) and an Action Plan for the Eradication of Abuse and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Boys, Girls, and Adolescents. The Office of the First Lady coordinates the Programa Progresando ("Making Progress") that offers opportunities for income generation to the parents of children at risk for commercial sexual exploitation. The country's Agricultural Bank has included a clause in its loan agreements that prohibits the recipients from using child labor and guarantees that they send their children to school. Additionally, the Government provides breakfasts to 1,500 schools daily so that children will attend.

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 Prevention Unit of the Department of Alien Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons, which collaborates with the Ministries of Labor and Education, conducts anti-trafficking seminars at schools across the country. The Government supports measures to prevent trafficking, such as posting notices at the international airport regarding the penalties under Dominican law for the criminal offence of sexually exploiting children and adolescents.

The Attorney General's Office and the Ricky Martin Foundation sponsor an anti-trafficking hotline that serves as a resource for the prevention of trafficking. Additionally, the Government trains officials posted overseas in how to recognize and assist Dominican nationals who are trafficking victims abroad.

The SET currently participates in the second phase of a USDOL-funded, 39-month, USD 2.7 million ILO-IPEC project to support the Government's Timebound Program to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The project began in 2006 and aims to withdraw 2,900 children and prevent 2,200 children from exploitive labor. In addition, the Government is part of a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 4 million project, implemented by DevTech Systems, Inc., in association with EDUCA and INTEC, that seeks to withdraw and prevent 8,500 children from exploitive labor by improving the quality of and access to basic and vocational education, and working with public-private partnerships. This includes the development of corporate codes of conduct in sectors prone to the use of child labor.

The Government of the Dominican Republic participated in regional projects funded by USDOL, including a 7-year USD 8.8 million project implemented by ILO-IPEC 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 activities in the Dominican Republic for both of these regional projects, however, have focused on strengthening regional cooperation, legislation, policies, and institutions.

The Government of the Dominican Republic 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. Additionally, an IOM project funded by USDOS supports government and NGO services, including medical assistance, counseling and reintegration services, for trafficking victims.


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