Photo via Argenticias

After 13 years without official figures, new data covering child labor in Argentina has been published. The Survey of Activities of Girls, Boys and Adolescents (Eanna), a study spearheaded by the Ministry of Labor, along with with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Unicef and other NGOs, compiled information together to gauge the most accurate numbers regarding child labor in Argentina.

La Nacion got the exclusive release of the survey, which estimates there are about 715,484 children ages 5-15 currently working in the country. The figures will officially be announced tomorrow at the IV World Conference on Sustainable Eradication of Child Labor, which will take place in Buenos Aires.

Child labor, by definition, is any economic activity or survival strategy, paid or not, carried out by children under 16 years of age. The definition refers to any mental, physical, social, or morally dangerous and harmful activity for children that can interfere with schooling or force them to leave school.

In Argentina, legislation surrounding child labor is covered in the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Agreements with the ILO and Law number 26,390 which details the Prohibition of Child Labor and the Protection of Adolescent Labor. Legislation regarding teens between 16-17 years permits work as long as it is not hazardous child labor which is defined as prohibited activities of a painful, dangerous or unhealthy nature.

As Jorge Triaca, Minister of Labor emphasized, “The children have to be playing or studying, never working.” “The Eanna data gives us a clear picture to strengthen the programs and the national plan, which go in that direction,” he added.

According to the organizations, child labor is classified into 3 categories:

Economic activity for the market: work that generates goods and services that have economic value in the market (textile workshop or in construction).

Activity for self-consumption: production of primary goods for household consumption (help in construction or arrangements at home, care of the garden or animals).

Intense domestic activity: cleaning, cooking or arranging the house, as well as the care of siblings or someone living in the home. The intensity of these tasks is established according to the time commitment as well as whether they do it on their own, or aided by a parent.

Results from Eanna study. Source: La Nacion
Results from Eanna study. Source: La Nacion

The last Eanna study was conducted back in 2004. Although those numbers indicated that there were 496,318 children violating child labor laws, the organizations state that those past numbers are not accurate or comparable with the current numbers for multiple reasons. For example, the old study had a much limited territorial scope and only included children up to 13 years old. The 2017 Eanna study was conducted in a much more comprehensive manner and included children up to 15 years old, as teens are more likely to perform labor tasks.

According to José Anchorena, undersecretary of Statistics, Labor Studies and Policies of the Ministry of Labor, “although we do not have the final numbers, we can say that child labor was reduced by almost half [since 2004]. The reasons may be that there has been a continuity in policies and legislation to fight against child labor, and another question to consider is whether the AUH had any influence in preventing children from leaving school and starting to work.”

Officials clarified that even though the overall numbers grew, when compared to the last study, conducted in 2004, they claim they decreased because the percentage of children in these conditions has effectively decreased.

Of the 2017 Eanna study, some of the most interesting results indicate the majority of minors do intensive domestic tasks (4.3%), over economic tasks (3.7%) or self-consumption (2.8%). This greatly differs from the numbers back in 2004 which published that economic work (6.5%) exceeded intensive domestic work at (6.1%).

As Gustavo Ponce of ILO Argentina asserted, “We must pay special attention to combating intensive domestic work. Their causes are multiple, ranging from informal work of their parents, deficit of care centers – especially in rural areas – as well as cultural factors on the distribution of work in the care of siblings, and domestic tasks that fall mainly on girls.”

The data also revealed that women and adolescents are the most affected by domestic labor. The numbers show that about 13% take care of children and the elderly, while 10% make bread and other foods to sell. In contrast, the percentage of these numbers is much lower for men.

In reference to this information, Sebastián Waisgras, a specialist in social Inclusion at Unicef told La Nacion, “in Argentina we have a pending challenge, which is care, although we have a plan for early childhood that aims to increase the coverage of centers of care and education, including the so-called Harvest Gardens, the offer is still limited, this means that the girls are left to the care of their younger siblings or that the children accompany their parents to work.”

As for the different regions of Argentina, the 2017 figures reveal interesting information. Although the Pampean region leads the ranking of the highest number of cases of child labor with an estimate of 195,406 children and Greater Buenos Aires follows closely behind with 188,612, the Northwestern region is actually the one with the greatest incidence of child labor at (13.2%) followed by the Northeast at 11.9%.

More information regarding child labor in Argentina and combative tactics will be released tomorrow at the conference.