Costa Rica urges the Americas to become the world’s first child labour free region

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On Thursday 11 February, through a webcast, Costa Rica encouraged the region to join efforts to end the deprivation of children due to child labour.

The message, delivered by the Vice-President of the Republic Marvin Rodríguez, was made in the framework of the launch of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour in the Americas, an event promoted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The event was attended by Iván Duque, President of Colombia; Alejandro Giammattei, President of Guatemala; Francisco Sagasti Hochhausler, President of Peru; Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization; Vinicius Pinheiro, ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean; Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC; Uoussouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean; Alberto Echevarría, Representative of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE); Cícero Pereira da Silva, Secretary for Social Policies of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA); Sofía Mauricio, Peruvian activist for the rights of domestic workers; and Gabriela Frías, journalist for CNN en Español.

The country’s presence at the event was due to the fact that Costa Rica is one of the Latin American countries with the lowest rate of child and adolescent employment and is best placed to meet the goal of ending child labour in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Vice President of the Republic expressed the country’s commitment to fight to eradicate child labour in the region.

“It is so timely this celebration and the declaration of 2021 as the international year for the elimination of child labour, because in such difficult times as we are going through, where the consequences of COVID-19 are not limited to the health sphere, but also translate to the economic and social sphere, it is necessary to meditate on the importance of strengthening the protection of our children and adolescents,” said Rodriguez in her speech.

“It is not possible that children are deprived of their right to study, that the full exercise of their human rights is limited when they join the labour market with the intention of supporting their families. This situation further aggravates our reality in such complicated times, since a country that does not protect its children is a country that compromises its future, therefore, we must remain united, fight against this scourge and not lose focus on the fulfilment of target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025,” he said.

“I believe that as a region we have set an example of unity for the world, so let us show that it is possible to become the first child labour free zone in the world,” the Vice President urged.

Costa Rica as an example

In 2011, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), the country had 42,571 minors in this situation. By 2020, the figure dropped to 6,706 minors.

This reduction has taken place thanks to a tripartite national strategy called: “Roadmap to make Costa Rica a Country Free of Child Labour and its Worst Forms 2010- 2020”. This national strategy was declared of public interest by executive decree: 41172-MTSS. It has helped the country to have low rates of child labour.

In addition to this strategy, the country implemented the “Child Labour Risk Indicators Model”, a statistical tool developed by the ILO and ECLAC in the framework of the Child Labour Free Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Initiative, which makes it possible to identify and classify the cantons with the highest probability of child labour and hazardous adolescent labour, made up of various risk indicators.

In addition, the implementation of agreements has benefited from this reduction. For example, the signing of the Inter-institutional Cooperation Agreement between the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Joint Institute for Social Assistance (IMAS), granted a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) aimed at working people under the age of 18. For 2020, the benefit was granted to 422 students for a total amount of 136,384,000 colones invested.

Ending child labour and guaranteeing fundamental rights for children and adolescents has been at the heart of the ILO’s decent work agenda since its creation in 1919. This 2021 has been declared by the UN General Assembly as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

“It is a historic opportunity to reaffirm commitments, take action and inspire broad partnerships to preserve the gains made on child labour and related issues such as social justice, inclusion and the reduction of inequalities,” the ILO said in its call for the event.

The Child Labour Free Latin America and the Caribbean regional initiative is a tripartite cooperation platform composed of 30 countries, 7 employers’ organisations and 7 workers’ organisations.

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