Brazil to Miss Child Labour Targets

Brazil will not achieve targets set for the eradication of the “worst forms” of child labour in the country by 2015, according to a range of experts, including government figures responsible for its reduction.

Brazil's Northeast region has worked hard to combat child labour. Photo by Leonardo Sakamoto.

Brazil’s Northeast region has worked hard to combat child labour. Photo by Leonardo Sakamoto.

The project, titled the National Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labour and Protection of Working Teens, also sets out to eradicate child labour altogether by 2020.

Child labour has fallen from 19.6% of five- to 17-year-olds in 1992 to 8.3% in 2011, O Globo newspaper reports. However, despite undeniable progress being made over the past twenty years, Brazil still has around 3.7 million working minors, according to the 2011 National Survey of Households (PNAD) conducted by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics).

More worryingly, some believe as many as 1.97 million children continue to work in “dangerous or insalubrious activities,” from agriculture and domestic activities to working in the sex trade. The government’s estimate is more conservative, at 1.5 million.

Data from the 2000 and 2010 Censuses shows that all states in Brazil’s Northeast region – an area historically associated with child labour – saw a reduction in child labour in ten- to 17-year-olds, with the biggest decrease in Piauí state where child labour was reduced by 30%, meaning 36,000 fewer children in work.

But while some states continue to make strides against the practice, the reduction in the number of children working in other states has gone into reverse, particularly in Brazil’s North and Centre-West regions: Amapá state recorded an increase of 67%.

Some officials say that the true number of children working is difficult to calculate but that the government is making real progress and can achieve the targets; they cite social help centres, better schools and programs such as Brasil Carinhoso, which provides extra care for children living below the poverty threshold, as having been proved effective against child labour.

But Minister Lélio Bentes, from the Superior Labour Court and Commission for the Eradication of Child Labour, says that while the number of minors working in Brazil and Latin America has roughly halved since 1992, Brazil will fail to reach the targets set for the eradication of child labour.

“New strategies are needed. The Bolsa Família (family benefit) has been an effective tool but, alone, it is not working,” Bentes told O Globo newspaper, arguing that informal work activities on family farms and domestic labour are part of the reason the problem persists.

Brazilian NGO Repórter Brasil says data from the 2010 Census shows that there were 1.5% more children from the most vulnerable group – those aged ten to thirteen years old.

Experts say that all too often children are not allowed to complete their basic cycle of education, with parents justifying their actions by saying that children need to start work early to get on in life. It is estimated that over five million children in Brazil of compulsory schooling age fail to attend classes.

Charities say children are also often sent to landfill sites to pick through the refuse to salvage items that can be fixed and sold, as well as being exploited by drug traffickers and in the sex trade.

Jonathan Hannay, Secretary General of ACER Brasil – an NGO working with 5,000 children in Diadema, São Paulo state – says that the reality for most minors involved in child labour, those in urban areas, is extremely lowly-paid piece work – such as gluing novelty shopping bags at a rate of R$7 (US$3.26) per thousand – and being forced to clean the house and look after siblings.

Read the full published article on The Rio Times website

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