Peru Child Labor: US Must Help End Human Rights Violations


Peru is a country known for its beautiful landscapes and for being the home to Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world; it is also one of the poorest countries in South America. Those living in poverty account for 31.3% of the population according to the CIA World Fact Book. Child labor makes about 28% of the workforce, according to the International Labour Organization. The age range of children employed is between 6 to 17 years old, often  the children work in dangerous conditions. Many times children are forced to choose between helping the family or going to school. The latter normally prevails.

Thanks to $13 million from the U.S. government, Peru is proposing a new four year plan to eliminate child labor. What separates this plan from previous initiatives is the direction from Peru's Ministry of Employment,. The plan has five key pieces such as, fortifying public policies to end child labor, making access to education mandatory for children, and assisting farmers with growth of crop return for income so their children will not have to work in the fields. These are some of the ideas that the country tested in an earlier pilot program.

Now that the proposed plan has been unveiled to the public, what are the country's next steps, and what's the U.S. involvement behind this program? As a country, the issue of child labor has long been ignored by the government. Never has it been tackled in a serious way, so why now? 

I think the reason Peru is committed to implementing this plan is due to U.S. funding. The U.S. probably agreed to assist, only if the country opened up to continued exploitation of minerals and natural resources. When does the U.S. do anything without self interest being the motivating factor? In regards to next steps, the country must now convince millions of poor families why it is better to have your children attend school and not contribute to household income. Good luck.

This task seems daunting to say the least; livelihoods will be disrupted not to mention other problems. Common ground needs to be reached between those who are poor and the government in order to see from both angles. Just because these children who work are poor, it doesn't mean the families are ignorant of the benefits of education. On the contrary, they are aware. Something has to be done to end the exploitation of children working in dangerous conditions. This is what the plan should focus on, not on ending child labor in general. Peru needs to commit to this proposal. All nations are watching.