Nearly 10% of Bolivia's population.
Most children and adolescents who work in urban areas are salespeople (42%), while in rural areas 85% work in agriculture, reveals a report by the International Child Labor Eradication program (IPEC, in Spanish).
Patricio Serrudo Quispe, 9 years old, is one of them. He sells jello on Paraguá Avenue on the corner of the 2nd ring. For each box he sells at Bs. 100, he earns Bs. 30. To do so, he must leave his humble home located in Barrio Urkupiña in the Plan Tres Mill sector of Santa Cruz, very early. He arrives at his corner at 5:30 a.m. and immediately begins to sells among the lines of cars until midday. In the afternoon he studies at the Diviño Niño school.
His brother, Roberto, is 14 years old and also sells jello. With their earning they help maintain their home and pay for their clothing and studies. Their mother, who sells newspapers and taffy, taught them to work at a very young age.
According to IPEC statistics, 848,000 children between the ates of 5 and 17 work in Bolivia; that is, just under 10% of the population of Bolivia Works. Johnny Alejo Mamani is one of these. Every day he leaves his home in the Plan 4000 of Santa Cruz and heads to the Abasto open market where he works pushing a wheelbarrow.
He, along with Luis Carrasco ahd Jhonatan Vásquez Martínez, are just some of the over 200 children who work by helping homemakers with their purchases. There are others who are members of the Abasto Farmers Market Association, as indicated by the vests they wear.
The Director of the Defensoría de la Niñez (Bolivia’s version of Child Protective Services) Rossy Valencia, said that the Mayor’s Office of Santa Cruz can only intervene it its jurisdiction and it is the Labor Department that must take action at the state level. In 2009, the Ministry of Labor announced actions to prohibit children and adolescents from working, especially those who put their lives at risk. Law No. 2016 allows children to work as of 14 years of age; however, authorities agree they must not work in dangerous environments or those that are undignified. In addition, adolescents who work in companies or industries must have their work contracts approved by the Defensoría, as it is necessary to guarantee their labor and social rights.
Valencia indicated that six employment agencies have been reported to the Fiscalía (public prosecutor’s office) for contracting minors and violating their rights. She said some do not register the identity of the company or employers, nor the conditions under which the children will work; they are often mistreated and even sexually abused.