2 million in child labor in Peru

It is almost midnight, and three little silhouettes are moving through the streets of Lima’s center looking for cardboard and plastic. Ada (11), Luis (8) and Carla (6) are siblings. For half an hour we accompanied them on their nightly walk, after convincing them that we are not police of people asking for unusual favors. Ada told us that the family lives off collecting refuse and that they have to do their part, even though that means that they are one or two years behind at school.


More than two million children and adolescents work in Peru, according to conservative figures from the national statistics institute INEI. The figures are low because they exclude under 14s, those working in illegal activities or domestic service, and those who usually work but are currently inactive.

Nor does the state have a clear idea of the level of education in this shadow population, although a study by the
Lima city government and official body Cesip estimates that 7,000 children work in the historic center and that 95% are behind in their studies, by an average of three years. Around 30% have no high-school education.

It is also likely that among the official figures on pupils having to repeat school years (14%) and truancy (7% in six- to eleven-year-olds, 29% in eleven- to sixteen-year-olds) are thousands of stories of children who have to sacrifice their education in order to go to work.

A few days ago, a meeting of mayors called by the Municipality of Lima to start a campaign of returning children to schools, opened a necessary debate on the relationship between education and child labor.

Peru has ratified ILO (International Labor Organization) conventions 138 and 182, thus forming a commitment to define policies to combat child labor, in particular in its most serious forms. However, the state still lacks a defined policy towards the education of working children. It presupposes that children and adolescents should not work, but recognizes that the poverty of some families can only be addressed in the medium and long term.

Its response is the creation of the Alternative Basic Education (EBA), a modification to the General Education Law of 2003 that accepts children of up to nine. Meanwhile, the Ministry for Women has intervened with a program that seeks to help child laborers stay in or get back into school by reducing their hours of work.

The EBA addresses adults, teenagers and children who could not attend school or who need to strike a balance between work and education. Its aims are those of the Regular Basic Education, but with an emphasis on preparation for a working life.

National EBA director Armando Ruiz has stated that more than 40 EBA centers were formed as part of an experimental phase started in 2005; last year it benefited 14,343 children and teenagers. However, it is not known how many of them made it through the course. ILO official Liliana Vega said that the flexibility offered by these centers in an attempt to ensure that no children miss out on the chance at an education may serve only to make permanent the inequalities that the program aims to solve.

“Employers can fail in their obligation to provide time and opportunities for children’s education,” she said. In a study by the development analysis group Grade, it was found that education programs for child laborers ought to incorporate monitoring in the students’ workplace to identify situations that could jeopardize education.

The National Plan for the Eradication of Child Labor (2006-2010) includes the goal that at least 50% of local governments make a register of child labor, allowing officials to determine where children are working in dangerous environments. So far, there has been no apparent progress.

If a child worker is to attend school, they must work fewer hours each day. This is one of the problems being addressed by the government programs Street Teachers, which has been running for 14 years.

It concentrates on children who work on the street, identifying them and trying to give them the incentive they need to return to school. The program is active in 17 cities in Peru, but budget cuts have left it able to help only 3,000 children each year.

With a similar philosophy, Lima’s city government is starting its own program this year to get working children from the historic center back into schools. It includes aid payments worth a total of 320 soles ($100) for each child each year.

We are left with a landscape of programs with different focuses and forces, which have yet to define a way for child laborers to change their lives.

The Numbers
62% of children working in the center of Lima were born in the mountains or the jungle
67% were working by the age of eight
6 out of 10 are girls
58% live in San Juan de Lurigancho

How you can help
To get 500 children back into school, the Municipality of Lima needs to put together aid packages worth just $100 per child. To make a donation, get in contact with the Social Management Office on (oo511) 427-8777.
The Bean is happy to offer free interpreting, translation and guidance: call Rupert on 9147-8822, or email swyves@hotmail.com

20 Responses

  1. […] One of the major issues, and long term effects, of child labor in Peru, is that it takes children out of school either temporarily or permanently. Thus children are either behind in their studies or uneducated once the reach adulthood, which then places children at an increased risk to continue the cycle of poverty and child labor with their own children.  Children like siblings Ada (11), Luis and Carla (6) whose family lives off collecting refuse, of which the children spend their days and nights on the streets scouring for. Their work on the streets to help their family survive has left all of the children one or two years behind at school (2 Million in Child Labor in Peru). […]

  2. i think child labors is bads cuz
    the kids has to does the bads shit.
    i dont approves of it.

  3. Is this site not regulated? The responds are sickening! It saddness me that anyone would make light of this situation. I feel deep empathy for the children who have to work and are cheated out of thier own lives. I feel extreme pity for those who wrote above because they have to suffer with thier own ignorance and be cosumed by thier hate.

  4. i think child labour is very wrong and sad so i think you should all quit at it snd work for your own money not whip defensivless children.

  5. u know u wanna babe

  6. hello m yname is taylor and i am discusted in this. CHILD LABOUR HAS TO STOP. there are adults out there with out a job but yet there are children younger then 10 working as labour’s stop this now or i will. this is not fair. give chiuldren the life that you would love to have your self! i aM DISCUASTED THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LETTING THIS GO ON SHOULD BE DEAD! AND I BET THAT THEY DONT EVEMN HAVE JOBS! YOU LAZY CUNTS!

  7. Besides, the horrible grammar on most of these ignorant comments, I am completely irked by those that think that child labor is not a problem. Having a childhood should not entail having to hold a job to support the family. It should not entail being forced to work a job with seemingly endless hours, low wages, and poor conditions. I think that the attitudes of those that are okay with these conditions would feel very differently if it was their own child.
    And the racist comments are too much as well. They make me too ashamed to be white. So congratulations to you ‘whitemanChris,’ ‘Whitepower,’ and ‘KKK.’ You are all ignorant fools who fail to realize that the real problem is your closed-minded racism. As a member of your race, I deem you all to be disgusting people.

  8. i like child labor

    back in far country china i go to work every single day for government issued apartment in shanghai. i like honorable chairman mao he is very good man who do lot for china and i support him

    kill a nigga
    pull a trigga

  9. there’s a problem in our neighborhoods of the United States of America


  10. aye chicos!

    I no all the stuff goin down wid peru, cuhz
    ppl think i mexicano, naw fool, i peruvian and my lil cousin is in child labor for the surenos
    the surenos are murderers, cuhz

    yah know what i sayin???? they kill ma father so i keep bangin wid my chicano cholo homeboys to get my revenge!!! puto

  11. To stephanie- I totally agree with you. I’m ashamed to be white if this is what the world sees us as. No matter how much pain we have seen in the world today it can not be compensated in such a slovenly way. Great even the asains are even trying to ruin their reputation. But even if famlies have been lost in your world, doesn’t mean that you have the right to take away their life.

  12. i have live in lima all my life, and i’ve seen little kids working at the streets getting on buses asking for money. Peru is such a low country, but this problem starts with the respect that people have to others. you can see that nobody have respect for nothing. If you see a kid on the streets, what would you do? you answer should be nothing… because if you help them, if you give him money, other older guys will look where you took your money out and they will still all ur stuff.
    i think the only way to cut this is to put police to work, we all pay taxes, we all give money to the goverment. they do not give us anything back but self reward. Every time a mayor do something put his name everywhere. But of course he did it with our money.
    We pay 19% of taxes, in US the state of Va they pay only 5% corruption is the worse thing that can happend. Treason between us, between peruvians… i wonder who loves that white and red, but who love it for real. I mean, school force us to love that flag, we dont choose, and our history is the history of a country that always loose.

    i’m only 19 years old and if more people stand up and really want to change this country then is to do it.

  13. This is sickening. I am doing a project on this and I am 13 and this is incredible. I can’t believe this is happening. I’ve known that this has been a problem in our world but now that I am learning more about it, this needs to stop. It is a serious problem and we can all do something to stop it.. We can change this world and stand up against this horrific problem.
    I am incredibly disappointed in those of you who chose to write those comments, which appear to be racist.. I know for a fact that you wouldn’t want to be whipped for hours on end and be payed less than a dollar to help support your family. Upsetting. It is so unfortunate that you would even consider posting that on a public website.

  14. Jeg har lige været på rejse i Peru. Stod tidligt op og gik rundt i gaderne i Arequipa ca. kl. 06.45.
    Mødte børn ca. 10 år med masker for næsen i færd med at gennemrode affaldet. Kørte gennem Pampassen, gennem ørkenen, huse, bygninger… ingen mennesker. Ingen planter , ingen blomster, intet liv. De børn, der burde have været der, fordi de skulle i skole,,, Hvor var de? – Hvor er skolerne?

  15. david, i know hay mucho curuption pero no deja los malditos destuir tu futuro.
    Every human has the right to have a child hood. Revenge will only make justice harder to implement. I lived in lima for half a year , i know about the andian kids and the amazona kids selling caramelos and working the buses. Its hard not togive money, sometimes you do, but only if you already have the change in your hand. America and other counties in europe that exploit silver and other drug resorces need to give up some of their profit and pay a fair price for the product , including cocaine, coffee, cotton,potatos, asparigas, and copper, gold and silver. But that is unlikely while us has debts also! I knew a women 15 who sold produce at the markets. her baby was 1 year old and lay on his back all day as she was too busy play with him.hay muchas problemas pero solo una solucion, amor.

  16. My name is Chris, I’m 17 years old and I am doing a research project on working children in Peru. After reading this, I can easily say that I am absolutely disgusted with how children in Peru are being treated. This is not how a child should spend their childhood, they should be going to school to get an education, spending time with their friends, and just having fun like any child does.

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