Child Protection

Special Protection

Prevention of Child Abuse


Child Labour Exploitation

© UNICEF RD/P.Guzman/2007

With their delicate and small hands,
They start an arduous and never ending day,
A daily ordeal that they have to go through,
In order to survive in their homes.

When dealing with child labour exploitation, key definitions are needed:
Childhood, a stage that children should live through without fear, safe from violence, protected against ill-treatment and exploitation; child labour is an activity that undermines children’s physical development and interferes with their school schedule or forces them to leave school early because they have no time for their studies.

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) International Child Labour Eradication Programme defines child labour as “dangerous and harmful for a child’s physical, mental or moral welfare, and it forces them to combine their studies with hard work that takes up much of their time”. It also mentions the help they provide for their parents in the home, helping in a family business or the chores they carry out outside the school day or during the holidays in order to earn pocket money.

Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize laureate for Economics in 1988, defines poverty as a lack of basic skills. “Food is not so much about satisfying the sense of taste, it is necessary for healthy living; being literate is not important for practical use, but for what the person can become when they know how to read and write”, says Sen.

Current situation

According to the ILO’s International Child Labour Eradication Programme, in 2004 218 million children were forced to work, excluding domestic work. It is estimated that 216 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 do dangerous work. The organization says that children represent about 40% of all victims of forced labour or 5.7 million children trapped in work, in conditions of servitude.

In the National Labour Survey conducted in 2000, the data on child labour revealed that 436,000 children and adolescents in the Dominican Republic are working, 60% of them in farming and 64% under the age of 14.

ILO Project Officer Dabeida Agramonte recently highlighted several factors that contribute to the existence of child labour: “Social and economic factors like poverty, lack of employment and low household income; lack of access to quality inclusive education, the lack of alternative recreational spaces in communities and the existence of broken families. Also, cultural values linked to a perception of the formative value of work, and the generational transmission from parents to children”.

Nonetheless, during a workshop on child labour, communications and public opinion coordinated by the ILO and UNICEF, several arguments in favour of child labour were aired: it serves as a support for low income families, or it benefits children and their economic independence, or if child labour is not dangerous it is now a problem.

Where there is child labour there is always exploitation

According to a study on Dominican Perceptions of Child Labour conducted by the ILO/PUCCM University in 2006, in order for the Dominican mindset to change its perception of child labour, in general, public awareness about the problem must be raised and information needs to be generated in order to launch campaigns aimed at tackling the problem. People need to be educated about the negative effects of child labour, and the State’s actions and policies need to be strengthened in order to implement international agreements and the country’s existing legal framework.

Impact on education

According to the Ministry of Education (SEE), the main cause of school desertion is work, especially between 6th and 8th grades. Only four out of every ten children complete their primary education and these come from large families with four or more children. One of each two parents of child labourers interviewed had barely completed 4th grade of primary school. The parents who were interviewed do not have work contracts, insurance or pensions and are paid on a daily or weekly basis; but in most cases their monthly income is less than RD$5,000.

According to the National Strategic Plan for the Eradication of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in the Dominican Republic 2006 – 2016, the ultimate objective is to eradicate child labour in the country.

The ILO Official envisages a world without child labour as “a fair and equitable world where the most vulnerable are protected against exploitation and developing in conditions of wellbeing and happiness. This is a world with a focus on Rights, where children and adolescents are granted priority, and placed at the centre of the development agenda.

She imagines seeing them all at school with educational achievements and with regular attendance, and “their parents will also have decent work and will be protected against exploitation. They will have greater opportunities and skills, which will increase their future chances of better employment and increased wages”.

By: Sarah Carrasco
August 2009




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