A minor who leaves school to work, once they are an adult, will earn three times less than a professional, and working at a young age plunges them into inequality where they will possibly remain for the rest of their life.
Viviana Díaz Frias
Few social ills cause sadness in the world so much as child labour and exploitation, and although many advocate for its eradication, in Honduras thousands of children today live in the shadow of this scourge.
National legislation considers child labour to be every activity that underage minors participate in, whether that is manufacturing, selling goods or providing services, which prevents them from accessing, performing and remaining in education or which they carry out in dangerous environments, producing negative effects on intellectual, physical, psychological, moral and even social development in childhood.
According to estimates from the Spanish Statistical Office (INE), every year five thousand people between 5 and 17 years old enter the job market, which means that currently half a million children are suffering from this problem, 16.5% of this age group.
These figures turn Honduras into one of the countries with the highest rate of child labour in Latin America.
Rural areas have a higher concentration of this social ill, with 68.2%, although it is believed that the situation of labour exploitation is much more severe than what is reflected in the reports.
Meanwhile, 31.8% child labour is recorded in urban areas, with the cities that have a higher recorded level of this scourge being Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Progreso.
According to the INE, 74.4% of these “little workers” are children, and 25.6% are girls, which denotes a strong gender-based component associated with chauvinism and the vision of the man as the main household breadwinner. Different formal and informal sectors of the Honduran economy have support from child workers, the same as inside of the family context where many boys and girls are forced to carry out household chores from very young ages.
The areas with the highest levels are agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing with 52.6%; wholesale and retail commerce with 18.6%; the manufacturing industry with 11%; construction with 4%; transport and warehouse work with 1%, and mining and quarrying with 0.2%.
Even when the Code for Children and Adolescents, the country’s laws and multiple international treaties supporting underage minors establish their fundamental rights in this social sector, in Honduras the outlook is plainly unfavourable and the worst thing is that there are no signs of an immediate solution.
Childhood cut short
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), poverty is the fundamental factor in the proliferation of child labour.
On a global scale, more than 250 million children live in conditions of labour exploitation, statistics from the International Labour Organisation suggest, mainly through the need to contribute to the family’s finances.
In Honduras, a country with a palpable political crisis, the situation of families and the under-18 cohort is not at all favourable.
Monetary poverty significantly affects children and teenagers in this country: 53.7% of six-year-old minors, 55.75% of those of school age and 47.5% of the teenage population, the INE warns.
It is not necessary to say that the consequences of child labour on little ones are negative, with often permanent aftereffects throughout their lives and later as adults. It is a toxic phenomenon for physical, mental and social development in childhood.
It includes numerous risks of contracting infectious or other types of diseases, suffering an accident at work that can compromise their physical integrity, and even cases of sexual abuse, particularly towards girls and teenagers. It also produces low academic achievement and high probabilities of dropping out of school for children who work and study at the same time. (PL)
(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)