2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Uruguay

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population children, 5-14 years:
Working children, 5-14 years (%):
Working boys, 5-14 years (%):
Working girls, 5-14 years (%):
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:115.0
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:99.7
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:93.1
ILO Convention 138:6/2/1977
ILO Convention 182:8/3/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

*In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Uruguay work in domestic service, as street vendors, and in construction. They also work cleaning cars, begging, minding parked cars, running errands, preparing foods for sale, and sorting garbage. In rural areas, children are found working in agriculture, forestry, beekeeping and fishing activities.

The Government found that many minors who resorted to prostitution did so to assist their families. Children are trafficked internally to border areas and tourist locations for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Prostitution rings are reported to exploit children in border areas near Argentina and Brazil, as well as within the capital of Montevideo.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years. The Adolescent Labor Division of the Institute for Children and Adolescents (INAU) may grant permission to minors 13 to 15 years to engage in light work. However, Uruguay has not yet legally defined "light labor." Adolescents between 15 and 18 years require Government permission to work. Adolescents must undergo physical exams prior to beginning work and must renew these exams yearly. The Government only grants work permission to minors who either have finished 9 years of compulsory education or who are enrolled in school and are completing compulsory education. Work permits are not granted for hazardous, fatiguing, or night work.

The Government of Uruguay's National Committee for the Eradication of Child Labor compiled and maintains a list of the 50 hazardous jobs prohibited for children. The types of hazardous jobs by their condition include work with machines, at heights, with hot or toxic substances, handling animals, or with sharp tools. Jobs that are hazardous by their nature include work involving long workdays, isolation, mistreatment or abuse, or exposure to immoral, illegal, or socially unacceptable situations. Minors are not allowed to work for more than 6 hours per day within a 36-hour work week. Further, minors must rest 1 day per week, preferably Sunday, and cannot work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law. The law prohibits child pornography, imposing prison terms of 2 to 6 years for its production; 1 to 4 years for its commercialization; and 6 months to 2 years for its distribution. The penalty for using or facilitating the prostitution of a minor is 2 to 12 years in prison. This penalty is increased for those who are in a position of authority. Trafficking of children into or out of the country for the purpose of sexual exploitation is penalized with 2 to 12 years in prison.

The minimum age for voluntary military conscription is 18 years.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security has primary responsibility for enforcing child labor laws and works with INAU to investigate child labor complaints. INAU has five inspectors who specialize in child labor. However, USDOS reports that a lack of resources and the concentration of child work in the informal sector make enforcement difficult. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for investigating trafficking in persons.

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

The Interdepartmental Commission for the Prevention and Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation, in conjunction with INAU, has a national plan of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children. The goals of this plan are to strengthen victims' rights, to reinsert children back into school, to develop alternative means of income for families, and to improve protection measures for victims and witnesses. However, according to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Government needs to dedicate more resources to understanding the nature of the problem of child labor and sexual exploitation of children, and its prevention.

The Government of Uruguay provides some assistance to trafficking victims through NGOs. The Government worked to raise awareness and cooperated with the IOM to combat trafficking in border and tourist areas. The Ministry of Education has produced anti-trafficking public service announcements on national television.

The Government is participating in an IDB-financed program that includes initiatives to address child labor, reduce school attrition, and improve children's performance in school. The program aims to assist 800 children working in the streets. UNICEF is implementing a project to raise awareness of children's and adolescents' rights that includes a component on child labor. The Government of Uruguay participated in a four-year Phase III USD 3 million regional project to eradicate child labor in Latin America, funded by the Government of Spain. The IDB is also funding a regional project to combat the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The project aims to strengthen local organizations that work in prevention, detection, and victim assistance.

The Government of Uruguay and other associates and member governments of MERCOSUR are carrying out the Niño Sur (Southern Child) initiative to defend the rights of children and adolescents in the region. The initiative aims to raise awareness of commercial sexual exploitation, improve country legal frameworks, and exchange best practices to tackle issues related to victim protection and assistance. Uruguay's Ministry of Tourism and Sports is part of the Joint Group for the Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism, which conducts prevention and awareness-raising campaigns to combat the commercial exploitation of children in Latin America. It was created in 2005 and includes the Ministries of Tourism from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.


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