Brazil still struggling to end child labor

The country failed to fulfill its commitment to eradicate child labor

Published on 12/06/2018 - 16:05 By Jonas Valente and Andréia Verdélio - Brasília

This Tuesday (12), on the World Day Against Child Labor, Brazil’s National Forum for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor launched a campaign entitled “Not Protecting Childhood Means Condemning the Future,” in partnership with the country’s Prosecution Service for Labor and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The efforts focus on the so-called “worst forms” of labor, like tasks linked to agriculture, the household, drug dealing, sexual exploitation, and informal work in urban centers. Due to the risks involved, the employment of boys and girls aged up to 18 in these tasks is forbidden. Under other circumstances, work is allowed as of 16 years of age, and also from 14 onwards, when minors have apprentice status.

According to forum adviser Tânia Dornellas, over 2 million children and adolescents within the 5–17 age group are employed in Brazil. An official survey conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) showed that 2.7 million children and adolescents were working illegally in the country in 2015.

“What future will these children have? A working child cannot concentrate or use the energy as required by studying. The mere fact that the state doesn’t provide them with quality public education is an aggression in itself—that, coupled with precocious employment, dooms these children,” she stated.

The goal of the initiative launched today is to draw the attention of public agencies, companies, organizations and society at large to the problem, and to promote efforts to help fight this practice, especially the most severe cases affecting the lives of boys and girls. The campaign is to take place in a decentralized fashion throughout the country.


Brazil failed to fulfill the commitment made at ILO Convention No. 182 to eradicate all worst forms of child labor by 2016. The commitment was revised, and now the target is to eradicate all of the forms of child labor by 2025, as per the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We can hardly meet the target,” Dornellas said. “The state must focus on a political project aimed at bolstering social inclusion and quality education.”

“What we’ve noticed in the last few years, with the political and economic crisis the country has faced, is an impact, all throughout society, especially among socially vulnerable families. One of the causes of child labor is social inequality and poverty. What we have seen, especially with the new direction public policies have been given, is a stronger focus on economic recovery than on social inclusion,” she went on to say.

According to Brazil’s Health Ministry, 136 boys and girls were reported to have died while performing dangerous activities from 2007 to 2017. Forty thousand accidents involving people aged 5–17 were notified in the same period. Of these, over 24 thousand were serious accidents resulting in bones broken and amputated limbs.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Maria Claudia / Mariana Branco

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