A Bad Precedent

Bolivia has passed a law lowering the legal age for children to work to 10. It was 14. The authors of the law say they are acknowledging a reality since many children below the age of 14 are already working. For the children who work, it’s a necessity. Those families would not survive without their labor. While child labor is fought against by human rights advocates, there are those who believe that the necessity trumps the principle. And while there’s truth to that argument, it’s also short sighted, because too often child labor perpetuates conditions of poverty. To the credit of the Bolivian law, it stipulates that working children must attend school. To work under contract children must be 12, and they too must attend school. A 2008 study found 850,000 children age 5-17 working in Bolivia, and nearly nine in 10 were in the worst kinds of jobs which include harvesting sugar cane and underground mining, which have been proven to shorten lives. The UN says that since 2000, child labor is down a third and that Latin America accounts for 13 of the 168 millions working children worldwide. If children under 14 were working illegally, why then not enforce the law rather than enact a new one, particularly since the present law is bound to be difficult to enforce—will children working as miners really be able to attend school? Maybe Latin America does not have as many working children as other continents, still this law sets a bad precedent.