Child labour in Bolivia

Toby Binder

2014 - Ongoing


While most of the world is trying to diminish child labour, Bolivia has become the first nation to legalize it from age 10 last summer. Supporters of the legislation said that the law guarantees legal protections and fair wages for children, who have been working regardless of laws against it. Under the legislation, 10-year-olds will be able to work as long as they are under parental supervision and also attend school. It sets 12 as the minimum age for a child to work

under contract.

A 2008 study carried out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Bolivian government found that 850,000 children ages 5 to 17 were working in Bolivia, roughly half in the countryside and half in the cities. UNICEF and the ILO have led an international chorus against passing the law. Human Rights Watch has been scathing, with its chief child rights advocate claiming the new rules are “counter-productive” and may “perpetuate poverty”. How is the situation

today for the children in Bolivia?

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  • The brothers Alan (13) and Fredi (7) are working as "Lustrabotas", how the shoe-shine-boys are called here, in La Paz.

  • Antony (5) is one of the youngest. He is selling sweets to cars passing by.

  • Eloy (8) is selling chewing gum at "the Prado", the main boulevard of La Paz. He is working until he has sold the whole box which contains 100 packs of chewing gum. Then he has an earning of 22 Bolivianos.

  • Deisi (12) is helping in the store of her mother every day after school. During holidays she is working there all day long.

  • Oliver (12) is making announcements for the countless mini-buses in El Alto. He is earning 70-80 Bolivianos per day. In the afternoons he is attending school.

  • Mostly the boys working as Lustrabotas are covering their faces not to be recognized by schoolmates. Often they are working in groups and supporting each other.

  • Little girl selling fruits on a main street in El Alto.

  • Many children work on the junctions of La Paz cleaning the windows of cars. So does young José (7). He is working all day long with his sisters Anna (11), Maria (9) and his mother who are selling sweets.

  • Beymar is fourteen years old. In the morning s he has to take care of his siblings, in the afternoons he is working and from 7 to 10 pm he goes to school.

  • A young boy is sitting on a street of La Paz and helping his father to sell lemons, sweets and nuts.

  • Girl selling sweets to people passing by in their cars.

  • A girl washing the dishes after selling food every midday to business people in the centre of La Paz.

  • On the slopes of "Cerro Rico" in Potosí you see children working in many different ways.

  • Jorge (12) is living with his brother and mother on one of the entrances of the mines in Potosí. The family has to guard the entrance on the weekends and at nights. But when the miners are working Jorge also helps to crush and sort out the rocks.

  • Brayan (15) is working inside the mine together with his brother Luis (17) and their cousin Eduardo (29).

  • Gonzalo (15) has been working inside the mine for one year now. He also started with little jobs outside and he says the work inside is much harder. Here he is waiting for one of the many tippers passing by before continuing his way back into the mountain with his team.

  • Sonia (12) is doing the same job than Jorge, she also helps to crush and sort out the rocks in front of the mine. On the weekends she has to wash the clothes of the family. Her father died inside the mine before she was born.

  • Luis (17) started the same work when he had the same age than Brayan has now. Their cousin Eduardo says people here have been doing this always like this.

  • Jorge (15) in front of one of the many entrances into the mountain with a tipper.