Children

Bolivia Lowers Legal Age of Employment to Help Poor Families

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Children working in an American factory in the early 1900s.

Bolivia has lowered its minimum age of employment from 14 to 10-years-old, giving it the distinction of being the nation with the lowest legal age of employment. But while the idea of tiny tots slaving away for payday may make some queasy, it's actually a positive step for one of the poorest countries in Latin America.  

And the legislators in Bolivia recognize that:

The bill's sponsors say lowering the minimum work age from 14 simply acknowledges a reality: Many poor families in Bolivia have no other choice than for their kids to work.

However, the bill, they say, does offer working children safeguards.

"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," said Sen. Adolfo Mendoza, one of the bill's sponsors.

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. Those children would also have to attend school.

Of course, not everyone views this as a positive step for the country and the kids. Before the bill became law, three organizations against the legislation sent a letter to Bolivia's president telling him not to sign the bill and pointing out that the country has signed treaties to the contrary. The letter argues:

If children as young as 12 are permitted to work, they will miss out on education during the very formative years of their development and risk being trapped in repetitive tasks, eroding their skills and prospective employability in future. In this process they would inadvertently enter into the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy which would not be easy to dismantle. Child labour as a double edged dagger could further deprive adults from decent working conditions because employers will always prefer children over adults for they do not demand minimum wages and cannot stand up for their rights.

These organizations may mean well, but they're missing one big point: banning child labor doesn't make it disappear. Nor does it miraculously pull families out of poverty and give them the opportunity to send their kids to school, as David Boaz of the Cato Institute points out

If we say that the United States should abolish child labor in very poor countries, then what will happen to these children? … They're not suddenly going to go to the country day school. … They may be out selling their bodies on the street. That is not an improvement over working in a t-shirt factory.

In fact, when India banned employing children under the age of 14 in manufacturing, reasearchers found that child wages actually decreased and child labor increased.

In an ideal world, children would spend everyday learning, playing, and generally having the sort of childhood of Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years. But we don't live an ideal world, and therefore goverments shouldn't take away a child's best alternative to poverty.

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  1. Surprising.

  2. Meanwhile in this country, having already done away with employment for children and teenagers, our benevolent overlords are figuring out how to free adults from the cruel fate of working for a living as well.

    1. FUNEMPLOYMENT!!

  3. At least there’s one civilized country in the Americas. I long for the day when I can pay a 10-year old Irish immigrant to set up lines of blow for me to snort off the backs of catamites.

  4. So Bolivia’s gona full Anti-Oprhans.

    THE ORPHANS SAY, “THANKS A LOT, BOLIVIA!”

  5. Bolivia’s ‘socialist’ government seems less and less so as time goes on. They and Ecuador are kind of going in the corporatist direction.

    1. So sideways on the scale of shit.

  6. In fact, when India banned employing children under the age of 14 in manufacturing, reasearchers found that child wages actually decreased and child labor increased.

    Unintended consequences, how do they work?

    Good for Bolivia for not ignoring reality in favor of what they wish the world was.

  7. “If children as young as 12 are permitted to work, they will miss out on education during the very formative years of their development and risk being trapped in repetitive tasks, eroding their skills and prospective employability in future.”

    I worked my way through boarding school.

    Started working on farms and such at 14, really bugged the hell out of me that I had to settle for less wages than I could have gotten otherwise if not for the child labor laws. Took a legit job in a saw mill once I turned 16. It was having those earlier, shitty jobs that gave me a leg up on the competition once I graduated.

    I feel sorry for all the kids who are trapped in repetitive tasks in public schools in the formative years of their development. Many of them don’t acquire the work ethic and attitude necessary to maintain their employability in the future.

    1. This – I started pitching papers (remember when kids did that?) when I was 11. Kept at it till I could get a “real” job at 16.

      What great lessons – you gotta do it EVERY day, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done, and you don’t get paid, gotta collect from customers, gotta pay yer bills….excellent training.

      And my mom and dad, never, ever drove me in the car. I spent every day either riding my bike or walking it (usually in the winter when the snow was too deep to ride).

      Had a job – and money – ever since. Fuck welfare, fuck not working.

      1. Yeah, you need to learn that stuff when you’re a kid.

        Also, it never stopped irking me that the government was taking money out of my paycheck–to help the poor and other people who “couldn’t” work for some reason.

        Nothing infuses a developing mind with the appropriate hatred of government and resentment against the sick, twisted people who support its redistribution systems, like being a self-supporting 16-year old working a shitty job–and having money taken out of your paycheck for…the less fortunate?

        1. My first “real” real job, when I dropped out of college, was programming computers. $15K/year, 1985.

          I will never, ever forget getting my first paycheck in that job. Working fast food, selling auto parts – hourly wages, taxes never hit a nerve. That first check in a salaried job where I got paid once a month – the top of my head almost came off.

          I used to say “that’s when I became a conservative”…but since, like the President, I’ve “evolved”, I now say, “that’s when I started to understand and care about my liberty”.

          1. I was never really hungry…until I got a lazy ass girlfriend.

            If I had to choose between getting back together with her or getting into a motorcycle accident? I’d rev my bike out into the closest wall.

            Anyway, the last time I got really angry was when Clinton got his income tax hike for the working poor. I was going to school and working full time, and it meant that I lost about another $30 out of every paycheck. I drop that on lunch now, but back then? That meant that instead of running out of food on the Thursday before I got paid, I’d run out of food on Tuesday.

            I could get some toast at the hospital I worked at, so Wednesday wasn’t too bad, but Thursday was. And by Friday after work, when I could cash my check and get something to eat, I was livid. I’d see Bill Clinton on the TV all smug about how he’d raised taxes on the rich to help the working poor, and for that, I never hated a politician the way I hated him.

            1. That was me my last tern of school. Literally bought canned food at 4/$1, one can of green beans was lunch, one can of baked beans was dinner. I weighed a lot less back then, I will say that…

      2. I started worked at my dad’s garage when I was 10; started managing it at 16. It was awful; I worked hard every day and made enough money to buy myself a car.

        1. Oh, you poor abused child!

          You must have all kinds of inner-anger.

          How have you managed to cope?

    2. I started my crappy entry job later in life around 17 or 18. Graduate studies finished off whatever work ethic I had. Fuck working. Hard work is for mooks.

    3. I feel sorry for all the kids who are trapped in repetitive tasks in public schools in the formative years of their development. Many of them don’t acquire the work ethic and attitude necessary to maintain their employability in the future.

      Like I always tell people: I believe that child labor laws should be overturned so the less fortunate can be given the same opportunity I was.

  8. If children as young as 12 are permitted to work…they would inadvertently enter into the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy…

    So they would suddenly become illiterate? Twelve is like sixth grade so their literacy should be pretty firmly established by that point.

    1. Don’t you know that working causes you to become illiterate, Tonio? Look at NutraSweet.

      1. SugarFree might not be the best example, since he had…the….accident.

        It’s not his fault that it affected his ability to communicate in a….normal manner.

      2. Apparently working also causes poverty, somehow.

        1. Well, it seems to be that child workers work for no money, or something. Why they would do that is beyond me, but hey, I don’t know what’s best for everyone else so I really don’t get to tell everyone else what to do.

        2. I let that slide because leaving school to enter the workforce generally limits your long-term earning ability.

          1. It certainly impoverished Bill Gates.

    2. Not only that, but if the assumption is that you can get a job without being literate then why is it necessary in the first place?

      “If children get jobs, then they won’t learn the joy of attending soul-killing assemblies in the gym”

      “if children get jobs, then they won’t learn how to make handprint turkey pictures for Thanksgiving!”

      “if children get jobs, then they won’t get suspended for making an administrator think about guns!”

      There’s probably a million unnecessary things kids wouldn’t learn if they didn’t have to attend school.

  9. These organizations may mean well

    Well, they don’t. Obnoxious, self-righteous busybodies who appoint themselves the saviors of everybody are evil people.

  10. Help or victimize? I think we all know the answer.

  11. Child labour as a double edged dagger could further deprive adults from decent working conditions[…] employers will always prefer children over adults for they do not demand minimum wages and cannot stand up for their rights.

    What did I tell you? There’s no well-meaning here. It is all about shielding adults – especially unionized adults – from competition.

  12. But I like keeping the monocle polishers off the books.

  13. and generally having the sort of childhood of Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years.

    If I recall, that involved a lot of anxiety and angst.

    1. Yeah but he got to kiss Danica Mckellar and that makes up for a lot

  14. So, an article on a libertarian site in favor of loosening child labor laws. Are you sure you aren’t trolling prog sites?

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