Section 7. Worker Rights
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14. The law allows children between the ages of 14 and 18 to engage in light work if the work does not damage the child’s health or development or interfere with compulsory education. The law prohibits children under the age of 16 from working more than six hours per day and 34 hours per week; those under the age of 18 are prohibited from working at night or in occupations considered hazardous. The Ministry of Labor maintained a list of the types of work considered hazardous and prohibited for children, which include repairing heavy machinery; mining; handling weapons; fishing and harvesting mollusks; and working at heights above five feet while doing construction, erecting antennas, and working on billboards. Children who are 16 and older may engage in light work on coffee and sugar plantations and in the fishing industry so long as it does not harm their health or interfere with their education.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws but did so with limited effectiveness. The law specifies a default fine of no more than $60 for each violation of most labor laws, including child labor laws; such penalties were insufficient to act as a deterrent. The ministry’s labor inspectors focused almost exclusively on the formal sector. As of June, the ministry reported that it had conducted 511 inspections related to child labor during which inspectors reported two incidents of child labor and three incidents of adolescents working without permits. There was no information on any investigations or prosecutions by the government. The ministry lacked adequate resources for effective enforcement of child labor laws in the agricultural sector, especially in coffee and sugarcane production, or in the large informal sector.
The government continued to participate in an ILO project to provide educational opportunities to children while offering livelihood alternatives for their families. Through this project the Ministry of Education promoted child labor awareness and encouraged school attendance, including operating after-school programs in 2,000 schools during the year. The ILO project concluded in March. During the year the ministry developed a permanent work plan for child labor verification aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labor and creating a culture of compliance and respect for the law among employers.
Child labor remained a serious and widespread problem. According to the 2015 Permanent Household Survey published in 2016, there were approximately 140,700 child workers (between the ages of five and 17). The worst forms of child labor occurred in coffee and sugarcane cultivation, fishing, mollusk shucking, and fireworks production. In order to survive, orphans and children from poor families frequently worked as street vendors and general laborers in small businesses. Children also worked as domestic servants and endured long work hours and abuse by employers. Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children) and were recruited into illegal gangs to perform illicit activities related to the arms and drug trades, including committing homicide.