Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 22:55:01 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: ILO: LATIN AMERICA: Millions of Children in Virtual Slavery
/** ips.english: 496.0 **/
Millions of Minors in Virtual Slavery, states ILO
By Pilar Franco, IPS, 19 February 1999
MEXICO CITY, Feb 19 (IPS) - Child labour is akin to slavery in several Latin American countries, but abolition would push many families deeper into poverty, warned international organisations, union groups and other experts meeting here.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) told the meeting that millions of the world's children currently work exhaustingly long days.
"Slavery is the darkest side of child exploitation," converting them into objects "which can be bought, sold or traded," said the ILO in the meeting entitled "Child Labour in Mexico City," this week.
According to this organisation, child labour affects 250 million children, 30 percent of them in Latin America.
There are a large number of slave children employed in agriculture, domestic service or exploited by prostitution networks. The problem is particularly serious for children in indigenous and migrant communities.
ILO raised discussion of a draft convention for consideration in the coming International Labour Conference, in June, in order to reinforce the international legal framework aimed at eradicating child labour.
The draft document was drawn up on the basis of answers to a questionnaire presented to 108 countries and a similar number of companies and workers' organisations.
For the ILO, the future convention has aroused great interest, meaning prompt ratification by a large number of nations once it is adopted by the Conference.
Convention 138 - on the minimum working age - demands signatory States take measures to eradicate child labour, but this has been ratified by fewer than 10 Latin American nations since it was passed in 1973.
The Latin American Workers' Centre (CLAT) stressed in its presentation that none of the nations which signed on to convention 138 "has advanced further than mere formalities on the issue, with few concrete applications."
CLAT stated there wre no real policies, strategies or programmes involving the government and various social sectors in a joint effort to palliate the issue of child labour.
In some countries partial laws were approved but they have scarcely been applied, whereby child labour is already a structural part of the economy in many countries, it added.
And to understand the true extent of the problem consideration must also be given to the fact that working children "contribute additional income for their survival and that of their families," said the union.
Therefore, if child labour were totally and immediately suppressed, poverty would worsen in the poorer families, sharpening marginalisation.
In order to turn the situation around, CLAT proposed linking efforts for the eradication of child labour to the struggle for decent jobs, fair pay, quality education and effective professional training.
Child labour will keep growing in the urban informal sector as under age agricultural workers continue to migrate to the cities.
In 1992, the ILO set up the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), active in more than 20 countries and initially aiming to do away with the most intolerable forms of the phenomenon.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) and the System for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF) calculated there are 115,000 children working in the streets, markets, tourist and other areas of 108 cities in Mexico.
Seventy percent are boys and 30 percent girls, and around 60 percent of them are found in just 20 cities.
The study released in the meeting called by the Federal District Legislative Assembly recommended a policy of differentiated attention for the various cities.
More than 1.2 million working Mexcian children aged between 10 and 14 years old are dealt with under the Integral Attention for at Risk and Street Children and Young People, said the DIF.
This care covers guidance, health services, recreational, sporting and cultural activities, and hostels.
In 1998, the Mexican Social Security Institute affiliated 11.1 million workers, 29,075 of whom were aged under 15 years old, and 1.4 million between 15 and 19, showing the increasing participation of children in the formal workforce in Mexico.
The Federal District Legislative Assembly, with its opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party, which rules Mexico City, called the forum intending to consult a broad swathe of society on how to gradually eradicate child labour. (END/IPS/tra-so/pl/mj/sm/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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