Bolivia Brings in World's Lowest Working Age

Work by 10-year-olds legalized

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 18, 2014 3:25 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Bolivian government has brought in the lowest working age of any country in the world, giving the OK for children as young as 10 to work as long as they are self-employed and also go to school. Children 12 and over will be allowed to work for others as long as their parents consent.The government says it isn't trying to get more kids into the labor force, but it is simply changing the law to reflect reality in a poor country where hundreds of thousands of children as young as five work, some of them shining shoes on city streets and others laboring in mines, the BBC reports.

"Child labor already exists in Bolivia and it's difficult to fight it. Rather than persecute it, we want to protect the rights and guarantee the labor security of children," one of the bill's sponsors says. But the United Nations says children under 14 shouldn't be allowed to work, and the children's rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch says the law is a step in the wrong direction. "Bolivia's move is out of step with the rest of the world," she tells the AP. "Child labor may be seen as a short-term solution to economic hardship, but is actually a cause of poverty," she says, explaining that children who start work at a young age end up making less money as adults than those who stayed in school, perpetuating a cycle of poverty in which their own children are more likely to have to work.

Lucas, 13, polishes shoes on a street in La Paz, Bolivia.
Lucas, 13, polishes shoes on a street in La Paz, Bolivia.   (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
A boy walks under backpacks that belong to children who work as porters at the El Abasto market in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
A boy walks under backpacks that belong to children who work as porters at the El Abasto market in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.   (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
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