If You Are 5, You Can Work in Brazil

     If You Are 5, You Can 
Work in Brazil

    Despite still having
    some dire problems, Brazilians are
    commemorating the reduction in child labor in recent years. From
    1995 to 2002, the number of working children and adolescents
    in the 5-15 age bracket in Brazil decreased 42.95 percent,
    which corresponds to 2,159,670 children and adolescents.
    by: Luciana

    Instead of books and games, work. At an age when this kind of concern shouldn’t
    exist, thousands of Brazilian children work like adults. According to the
    most recent PNAD (Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílio—National
    Residential Sample Survey), 2,988,294 Brazilians between 5 and 15 years old
    are already working.

    To remove children from
    this type of activity, Brazil’s Ministry of Social Development wants to take
    care of an additional 100 thousand boys and girls in 2004 through the PETI
    (Programa de Erradicação do Trabalho Infantil—Program for
    the Eradication of Child Labor).

    The program currently
    benefits 810 thousand children in 2,606 Brazilian municipalities. The PETI
    is designed to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, the ones considered
    dangerous, burdensome, unhealthful, or degrading, such as in charcoal kilns,
    brickyards, sugarcane fields, and tobacco plantations.

    The PETI pays a grant
    to families with 7-15 year old children engaged in activities of this nature.
    In return, the family must commit itself to removing the children from work
    and enrolling them in school.

    Besides the grants, municipalities
    receive funds to implant the Expanded Schedule, which offers cultural, athletic,
    and tutoring activities during the hours when the children are not in the

    According to the Ministry’s
    National secretary of Social Assistance, Márcia Lopes, the intention
    of the government is to transform the PETI into a major national policy.

    "Our goal is the
    eradication of child labor. We want to be able to say in a few years that
    we have no more children working, because they are in school, in their communities,
    and are protected, and their parents are working," she said.

    Lopes therefore asks state
    and municipal governments to participate. "The more states and municipalities
    we have as our partners, the fewer working children we shall have," she

    Lopes commemorated the
    reduction in child labor in recent years. During the period 1995 to 2002,
    the number of working children and adolescents in the 5-15 age bracket decreased
    42.95 percent, which corresponds to a total of 2,159,670 children and adolescents
    freed from the obligation to work. "We are certain this will continue,"
    she affirmed.

    The secretary presented
    the program at a world congress on child labor last month in Italy. "One
    hundred and fifty children from around the world took part and made important
    declarations, saying that they want to attend school, play, learn a profession,
    and develop as citizens. It would be very important if world leaders, those
    responsible for the world’s social and economic policies, realized this,"
    Lopes remarked.

    According to her, during
    the congress child labor was regarded as the world’s great scourge. "We
    want to end this great scourge," she asserted.

    Family Help

    The discovery, earlier
    this year, by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that over a half
    million Brazilian children and adolescents are involved in domestic labor
    is mobilizing the government, NGO’s, and the ILO.

    But the fight against
    domestic labor is a difficult task, because the problem occurs within homes,
    and this type of exploitation ends up being hidden from government authorities.
    Last year, the federal government was able to rescue 240 thousand children
    from labor situations, but only 13 thousand were domestic workers.

    According to Lopes, the
    biggest problem authorities face is to identify the places where child labor
    is used.

    "Domestic child labor
    is secret and hard to verify. It is necessary for society to denounce the
    occurrence of this practice in order for us to improve and perfect the government’s
    strategy to stop the use of child labor," the secretary emphasized.

    For Lopes, it will only
    be possible to combat child labor when all of society becomes involved. "Brazil
    possesses very diverse realities, and only by getting acquainted with each
    reality shall we be able to transform this country," she says. The hiring
    of child labor can be reported to the Children’s Courts, the Tutelary Councils,
    and the Regional Labor Superintendencies in the states.

    According to Lopes, the
    federal government will spend US$ 167 million (500 million reais) this year
    to combat child labor. The Program to Eradicate Child Labor serves 810,792
    children, 495,982 in rural areas and 314,810 in urban areas. It is projected
    that another 90,000 children will enter the program this year.

    The ILO develops projects
    in various capitals to end domestic child labor. According to the coordinator
    of the ILO’s Project to Confront Domestic Labor, Renato Mendes, projects are
    being developed in Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife, and Belém, and
    will be expanded this year to Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraíba,
    and Maranhão. According to Mendes, the ILO operates in cities where
    it forms partnerships to combat domestic child labor. (DAS)

    Brazilian legislation
    only authorizes domestic labor for youths over the age of 16.

    Luciana Vasconcelos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
    agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

    from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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