The National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina (INDEC) released today a new report regarding the impact of child labor across the country. It found that 10 percent of Argentine children between the ages of five and 15, and 31.9 percent of adolescents between 16 and 17 years old currently work to some extent.
The contrast between the rural and urban regions is stark. If you separate out the urban dwellers and only look at those living in rural areas, the numbers jump up to 19.9 percent and 43.5 percent respectively.
These jobs can demand over 36 hours a week from the youth, most of whom are simultaneously attending school. The governmental study indicates that “among adolescents aged 16 and 17, more than one in four males – 26.3 percent in the urban environment and 26.6 percent in their rural counterpart – equate their working time with that of a full-time occupied adult.”
The report defines these “productive activities” as any work in the production of goods to be sold, work in the selling of products or “intense” domestic work. Most adolescents in urban areas work in stores, workshops, childcare, house cleaning and cooking. In rural areas, it consists mostly of farmwork like harvesting crops, working with animals and making products to sell at markets.
The report attributes these rates to financial necessity, claiming that “the main reasons that drive [children] to the labor market are to help their family and to make money for household expenses.”
The impact of this work runs deep and is most obviously seen in the education system. In rural areas, the school attendance rate for adolescents is 75.1 percent. However, 45 percent of men and 23 percent of women who work don’t attend school at all. And those who do attend while working on the side, frequently arrive to school late.
One in three child laborers reported being worn out by work, and one in three also reported getting excessively hot and/or cold in the workplace.
Furthermore, the report highlights that the gender divide in the traditional work setting around the world is mirrored in child labor as well. For workers aged between five and 15 years old, there is a 22 percent difference in wages for boy and for girls. This gap only intensifies as the youth grow older — men between 16 and 17 in urban areas are given 40 percent more money than their women coworkers. In rural areas, the wage gap is a staggering 58 percent.
Similarly, the report states that women in Argentina are more likely to go to school full-time, and that men are more likely to work full-time instead of going to school.
Continuing the cycle, 87.7 percent of households that have a child worker in rural areas are headed by people who did not graduate from high school.
In Argentina, the legal working age is 16 years old.