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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 9 May 97 09:19:16 CDT
From: sejup@ax.apc.org
Subject: Brazil: 3.8M children in work-force
Article: 10594

3.8 million children in work-force

SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz), News from Brazil, No. 271, 7 May 1997

According to 1995 statistics of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) 3.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years work in Brazil. The Brazilian Constitution forbids children under 14 to work. On May 01 the Folha de Sao Paulo carried a special supplement on children in the work-force and what follows is data extracted from this publication.

One of the most negative aspects of the presence of children in the work-force is the effect this has on their education. Typical is the situation in the States of Pernambuco, Bahia and Sao Paulo. In the Zona da Mata region of the State of Pernambuco where sugar-cane employs a significant amount of child labor, 74% of the children do not succeed in passing the examination at the end of the school year in order to move on to the next class. In the entire state 71% of the children are less advanced in school than they should be for their age. In the State of Bahia this figure stands at 62% and in the State of Sao Paulo at 29%. According to a survey carried out by the Datafolha organization, the principal reason why children leave school before they complete their studies is the need to work. 32% replied that they left for this reason followed by 20% who replied that they left school when they moved to a different city or neighborhood.

The study carried out by the Folha showed that in most cases children earn very little. In Bahia 84% of the children who are working earn less than US $27 per month - the average monthly wage for children in the state is approximately US $23. In the State of Sao Paulo the average monthly salary for children is five times higher - an average of US $110. According to the Datafolha survey children also enter the workforce earlier in Bahia - 53% begin working when they are between 6 and 8 years of age. In Pernambuco 37% of the children enter the work-force when they are in this age bracket; in Sao Paulo 13% begin work at this age. In Bahia and Pernambuco most of the children work in agricultural activities such as sugar-cane planting and harvesting; in Sao Paulo most work in commercial activities. In the latter state for example 30% work as shop assistants and 7% on construction sites. In states where children are involved in agricultural work, injuries are high - 65% of the child workers in Bahia and 53% in Pernambuco have been involved in work accidents. In Bahia for example 16% sustained cuts from the large knives used in the sugar-cane harvesting. In Sao Paulo 31% of child workers have suffered accidents. In all three states the children spent their earnings in broadly similiar ways. In Sao Paulo 46% of the salaries and in Pernambuco 49% of the salaries were spent on clothes. In Bahia a slightly larger percentage of the earnings were spent on ice-cream and candy. In Pernambuco 22% of the children hand over their earnings to their parents; in Sao Paulo 12% do so and 7% in Bahia.

According to the Folha supplement at least 3 thousand children betwen 9 and 15 years of age work in drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro. During the first three months of 1997, a third of child offenders attended in the Second Infant and Juvenile Court in Rio were involved with the trafficking of drugs. This percentage has grown at an alarming rate. In 1991 the percentage of children involved with drug trafficking stood at 4.59%; in 1995 at 17.99% and during the first three months of 1997 at 38%. In the area of drug trafficking the children pass through different grades from watch-outs for the police earning approximatelu US $45 per week to selling drugs on the streets which gives a return of approximately US $180 per week.

According to the Brazilian Constitution under 14 year olds are forbidden to work. However the employer is subject only to fines of less than US $500 if underage workers are found by government inspectors. A loop-hole in the constitution allows 14 year olds to be taken on as apprentices. This exception leaves ample room for unscrupulous employers to sidestep the law. In recent years the federal government has tried to eliminate the child labor by offering monthly grants of approximately US $45 to parents in regions where child labor is prevelent to keep their children in school. In some regions this program has had limited success, in others it has had a very limited impact in reducing the number of child workers.