2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Guatemala

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 7-14 years, 2003:2,550,744
Working children, 7-14 years (%), 2003:21.1
Working boys, 7-14 years (%), 2003:26.2
Working girls, 7-14 years (%), 2003:16.0
Working children by sector, 7-14 years (%), 2003:
     – Agriculture62.3
     – Manufacturing11.4
     – Services24.2
     – Other2.0
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:113.4
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:95.0
School attendance, children 7-14 years (%), 2003:73.6
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:68.3
ILO Convention 138:4/27/1990
ILO Convention 182:10/11/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Guatemala work in the production of gravel, coffee, sugarcane, corn, broccoli, and fireworks. According to the most recent child labor census, the total number of working children in Guatemala increased by almost 30,000 between the years 2000 and 2006. Half of all working children are of indigenous heritage. The majority of child labor occurs in the agricultural sector in rural areas. According to ILO-IPEC, almost 39,000 children, most of whom are indigenous girls, work in third-party homes as domestic servants, where they are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. Indigenous girls also work frequently in street sales and in the packaging of flowers and vegetables. Indigenous boys work in agriculture, in rubber and timber production, and as shoe shiners and bricklayers' assistants.

Children in Guatemala are trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation to Mexico and within the country. In border areas with Mexico, child migrants are vulnerable to forced prostitution and begging. Children are trafficked into begging rings in Guatemala City. Children from neighboring countries are trafficked into Guatemala for commercial sexual exploitation by organized groups.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Constitution and the Labor Code set the minimum age for employment at 14 years. In some exceptional cases, the Labor Inspectorate can issue work permits to children under 14 years, provided that the work is related to an apprenticeship, is light and of short duration and intensity, is necessary because of extreme poverty of the child's family, and does not interfere with the child's ability to meet compulsory education requirements. In August 2008, Guatemala passed a comprehensive list of hazardous occupations, which prohibits minors 14 to 17 years from working in a variety of activities, including with explosive or toxic substances, in mining, underwater, with agrochemicals, and in bars or other establishments where alcoholic beverages are served. Prohibited activities that are hazardous due to their conditions include those that keep minors from attending school, domestic service, overtime, and those that carry the risk of physical or sexual abuse. The workday for minors less than 14 years is limited to 6 hours per day or 36 hours per week. While the Labor Code allows minors 14 to 17 years to work 7 hours per day or 42 hours per week, a 2006 governmental agreement, which outlines child labor law regulations, limits total weekly work hours to 38. Legislation also establishes requirements for children working in industrial, commercial, or agricultural sectors to undergo an annual medical exam. The law sets fines for violations of child labor laws.

The law prohibits child pornography and prostitution. Procuring and inducing a minor to engage in prostitution are crimes that can result in fines and 2 to 6 years of imprisonment; the penalty increases by two-thirds from 3.3 to 10 years of imprisonment if the victim is younger than 12 years. Guatemalan law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The Government passed a new law against trafficking in February 2009 that increased penalties for trafficking of minors to a range of 8 to 18 years in prison. The law protects children from military recruitment and deployment into armed conflicts.

The Ministry of Labor's Child Workers Protection Unit is responsible for enforcing child labor regulations as well as educating children, parents, and employers regarding the labor rights of minors. Out of a total of 245 labor inspectors, the Labor Inspectorate has six specialized child labor inspectors. In 2008, 1,025 adolescents between 14 and 17 years requested permission to work.

In collaboration with a local NGO, the Government conducted 15 raids through September 2008, which rescued 24 sexually exploited minors. The Government prosecuted and convicted eight people on crimes related to trafficking during the reporting period. USDOS reports increased governmental attention to rescuing foreign child trafficking victims through a repatriation protocol. However, it also reports that Government agencies responsible for combating trafficking were underfunded and understaffed. In addition, some local officials reportedly compromised police investigations and raids of brothels by taking bribes.

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

The Government of Guatemala is continuing to implement the National Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor and the Protection of the Adolescent Worker. The Government, under the coordination of the Secretariat of Social Welfare of the Presidency, is implementing the National Plan of Action against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Guatemala. In addition, the Secretariat is responsible for coordinating the Protocol to Detect and Assist Child and Adolescent Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, which focuses on prevention, eradication, awareness raising, and the promotion of public policy and legislation on the issue. As part of its efforts to address the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the Government provides services to child victims of commercial sexual exploitation through centers of protection and assistance.

As a member of the Central American Parliament Commission on Women, Children, Youth, 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. An Inter-Agency Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Related Crimes coordinates initiatives in combating trafficking and adopted a national action plan in 2008. In February 2009, the Government of Guatemala established a Secretariat within the Vice President's Office to coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking. In August 2008, Guatemala passed an inter-institutional protocol to coordinate the Government's health, education, and legal services to adolescent workers.

The Government's attention to rescuing children from commercial sexual exploitation increased in the reporting period. During 2008, the Public Ministry worked with a local NGO to train government officials about commercial sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking. The Government continued running seven shelters for child trafficking victims and also referred victims to NGOs to receive services. The Guatemala City municipal government offers free meals and scholarships to families with former child workers in the gravel, coffee, broccoli, and fireworks industries. In April 2008, the Government of Guatemala initiated the My Family Progresses (Mi Familia Progresa) program, which provides cash transfers conditioned on withdrawing children from work and ensuring their school attendance. According to the Government, this program reintegrated 3,700 children back into school.

The Government participated in regional projects funded by USDOL, including a 7-year USD 8.8 million regional 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 a USD 5.7 million 4-year child labor education project implemented by CARE that worked to strengthen the Government and civil society's capacity to combat child labor through education. The project ended in March 2009 and withdrew and prevented 4,105 children from exploitive child labor in the region. Guatemala also participates in a 2-year USD 550,000 ILO-IPEC global program funded by Canada to build the capacity of labor ministries, as well as worker and employer organizations. In addition, Guatemala participates in a 4-year Phase III USD 3.3 million ILO-IPEC regional initiative to eradicate child labor, funded by the Government of Spain.


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