Legislators in Bolivia say a new law that allows children to start working at the age of 10 is actually a safeguard against exploitation.
The legislation was approved by Congress in early July, and Vice President Alvaro Garcia signed it into law Thursday, while President Evo Morales traveled. One of the bill's sponsors said that some poor families have no choice but to send their children to work, and this will help them. "Child labor already exists in Bolivia and it's difficult to fight it," Sen. Adolfo Mendoza told The Associated Press. "Rather than persecute it, we want to protect the rights and guarantee the labor security of children."
The law states that 10-year-olds can work as long as they still go to school and have parental supervision, and children 12 and older can work under contract, as long as they still attend school. Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, believes that this new law does nothing to stop the cycle of poverty. She said that children who work receive less education and earn lower wages as an adult, and are more likely to send their own children to work. "Child labor may be seen as a short-term solution to economic hardship, but is actually a cause of poverty," she added.
The U.N. estimates that 168 million children are working around the world, down one-third since 2000.