LA PAZ – Bolivian lawmakers have approved the use of child laborers as young as 10 years old, under a new law that lays out specific conditions for employing children.
Congress passed the measure by consensus on Wednesday, mandating procedures employers must follow to ensure the children’s physical and mental health, and to prevent child exploitation.
“The age limit, as defined formally by the Code for Children and Adolescents, is 14 years old,” Senator Adolfo Mendoza said after the enactment of the bill, which he co-sponsored.
But the new code allows exceptions, when legal criteria have been met, so that children may begin “working for others from age 12, which is allowed by international conventions, and in self-employment from age 10.”
The senator stressed that the child must make a voluntary decision to work. There must also be consent from the parent or guardian and permission from the public ombudsman.
The previous code, which allowed no exceptions to the 14-year-old minimum, had prompted protests from critics who said many children in Bolivia face no alternative but to earn money.
By reducing the legal limit, lawmakers hope to help eradicate extreme poverty from the South American country by 2025, said bill co-sponsor Javier Zavaleta.