Latin America: The Problem of Child Labor – Part I

Child labor is a sad reality in Latin America, and often many residents throughout the region become so used to seeing working children that they don't even realize it. Who has not used the services of a shoeshine boy or a young caretaker of cars? Awareness campaigns and other steps are being taken to change all of this. In observance of the World Day Against Child Labor 2009, which will be held on June 12, members of the Global Voices Latin American team helped to find related blog posts and links about this issue in their own countries for part one in this two part series.

Photo by Francesca Rauchi and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Francesca Rauchi and used under a Creative Commons license.

From Guatemala, Marcial Pérez Guillermo Herrera of Haciendo Camino [es] writes about perceptions of the business sector in a report on child labor in the coffee industry, an area of production that utilizes huge amounts of this illegal labor:

El objetivo del diagnóstico es establecer un referente de conocimientos, información, causas y efectos del trabajo infantil en el sector caficultor de Guatemala, así como ofrecer insumos que orienten las estrategias de sensibilización, capacitación y divulgación sobre la problemática. Entre otros temas, el diagnóstico aborda el enfoque del sector con respecto al trabajo infantil, sus causas, el papel de la familia, la certificación y legalidad, el relevo generacional y la mano de obra, y la educación y el trabajo.

The goal of this diagnosis is to establish a benchmark of knowledge, information, causes and effects of child labor in the coffee sector in Guatemala, as well as to provide inputs geared to the strategies to increase awareness, training and disclosure about the issue. Among other issues, addresses the diagnostic approach in this sector regarding child labor, its causes, the role of the family, certification and legality, the generational workforce, education, and work.

In Ecuador, the situation is very similar, except the banana industry is changed for the coffee industry. One of that country's presidential candidates Álvaro Noboa has been a businessman in the banana industry, and has come under heavy criticism for the the use of child labor. Decio Machado of the blog Let's Change the World [es] writes about some of the findings from Noboa's industries:

En abril de 2002 Human Rights Watch emitió un reporte en el que denunciaba que “encontró que niños ecuatorianos, tan jóvenes como de ocho años, trabajando en plantaciones de banano en condiciones precarias”. Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole, La Favorita y Bonita fueron acusadas de ser provistas por plantaciones que empleaban niños como trabajadores.

Noboa, en un acto de sinvergonzonería sin igual, aseguró que no puede ser acusado de propiciar el trabajo infantil en sus haciendas bananeras, dado que el trabajo de menores en el área agrícola en general formaba parte desde hace muchos años de la cultura de la gente del campo en Ecuador. Según Noboa, los padres obligaban a trabajar a sus menores con el fin de evitar que el ocio los conduzca por el camino de la delincuencia.

In April 2002, Human Rights Watch issued a report in which it denounced that it “found Ecuadorian children, as young as eight years old, working on banana plantations in poor conditions”. Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole, La Favorita and Bonita were accused of being supplied by plantations that employed children as workers.

Noboa, in an act of unparalleled shamelessness, said that he cannot be accused of being in favor of child labor on his banana farms because it has been part of the farm culture in Ecuador for many years. According to Noboa, parents forced their children to work with the aim of avoiding idleness that is the path towards crime.

Photo by Luis Carlos Diaz and used with permission.

Photo by Luis Carlos Diaz and used with permission.

The Argentine website Taringa [es] publishes a detailed report about child labor in that country [es]. In addition to a providing a large list of companies that use children in its work, it focuses on the company Telefónica Argentina, the largest telecommunications company in Spain, as one of the companies most responsible for child labor. The report includes a photograph of a child distributing telephone guides in downtown Buenos Aires. There is also a hidden camera video of the La Alameda Cooperative in the province of Mendoza that captured images of children working in rural labor [es].

The SES Foundation [es] in Buenos Aires has been working with young people and social issues. On its blog, they write about the problem of child labor in Argentina [es]:

El Trabajo infantil es un problema que crece. En la Argentina trabaja alrededor de medio millón de chicos y chicas menores de 14 años, según datos de UNICEF – Argentina. Fundación SES en convenio con el Ministerio de Educación, ha iniciado durante el mes de Mayo la sistematización de dos experiencias educativas de erradicación del trabajo infantil en las Provincias de Córdoba y Tucumán.

En Córdoba visitamos la Escuela Primaria Polo Godoy Rojo. … Es una escuela atravesada por diferentes problemáticas, pero una de ellas … son los niños y niñas que trabajan como cortadores de ladrillos o los que dejan de asistir en tiempos de la cosecha de la papa o de la vendimia, entre otras. En Tucumán visitamos la experiencia “A través de un Trabajo Interministerial, construimos un futuro distinto para los chicos de Santa Ana” que tiene como propósito favorecer el desarrollo de estrategias de inclusión, reinserción y o permanencia de los niños y las niñas que se encuentran en situación o en riesgo de trabajo en el Sistema Educativo Formal.

Child labor is a growing problem. In Argentina, approximately half a million boys and girls under of the age of 14, according to UNICEF – Argentina. In May, the SES Foundation, in an agreement with the Ministry of Education, started the systematization of two educational experiences of the eradication of child labor in the provinces of Córdoba and Tucumán.

In Córdoba, we visited the Elementary School Polo Godoy Rojo. … It is a school that is going through various problems, but one of them … are the children who work as brick cutters or those that leave for a period of time to harvest potatoes or the grape harvest, among others. In Tucumán, we visited the campaign “Through an Interministerial Project, we construct a different future for the boys and girls from Santa Ana,” which aims to promote development strategies for inclusion, reintegration and/or the retention of boys and girls that find themselves in the situation or at risk of labor in the Formal Educational System.

Part II will be published tomorrow.

Special thanks to Renata Avila, Milton Ramírez and Celeste Calvet for their help with this post.


  • […] to find related blog posts and links about this issue in their own countries for part two in this two part […]

  • […] : Around The Blogosphere 11 June 09 ; où je retiens plus : Latin America : The Problem of Child Labor. Je reviens sur un autre sujet récurent chez Dave L. : Xiaxue ; Wendy Cheng. C’est vous qui […]

  • […] more on Latin America, check out a great two-part series at Global Voices Online here and […]

  • […] Arellano, con ocasión de esta conmemoración, publica en Global Voices un artículo en dos parte (parte 1, parte 2) sobre la situación de los niños trabajadores en América […]

  • […] Pracujące dzieci są smutną rzeczywistością w Ameryce Łacińskiej, a nierzadko wielu mieszkańców tego regionu przywyczaja się do ich widoku tak bardzo, że w ogóle już tego zjawiska nie zauważa. Kto nie korzystał z usług chłopca czyszczącego buty lub pilnującego samochodów? Podejmuje się jednak kroki ku zwiększeniu świadomości i zmianie tego zjawiska. Z obserwacji  Światowego Dnia przeciw Pracy Dzieci 2009 planowanego na 12-go czerwca, członkowie Global Voices Ameryka Łacińska pomogli znaleźc posty na blogach i linki związane z tym tematem  dla drugiej części tej serii. […]

  • Hannah

    This is a good site for my projects thanks

  • […] labor in Latin America is not a new problem. In 2009, at Global Voices we published a series of posts [en] on child labor [en] in the region; more recently, in 2011 we tackled the issue of child […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site