Peru Human Rights: Indentured and Child Labour

Indentured and Child Labour

According to a May 2011 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, the problems of forced and child labour are still fairly widespread in Peru. Though the government has shown a “strong will” to combat these practices, she warned that “a lot remains to be done, in particular by enforcing existing legislation, introducing separate criminal sanctions for all forms of slavery, developing comprehensive protection mechanisms, as well reintegration and compensation schemes for victims, and strengthening implementation and monitoring of programs at regional and local levels.” She highlighted the use of forced labour in the logging and illegal mining industries, the recruitment of underage boys in the Peruvian armed forces, poor conditions for domestic workers and continued instances of child labour as particular priorities for government intervention.

Aside from these legislative and institutional shortcomings, there are other reasons for the persistence of child labour in Peru. One of the primary factors is poverty, from which approximately 60% of Peruvian children suffer (according to a 2008 report by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática). For many living in such conditions the short-term need for earnings is so acute that they (or their parents) decide to sacrifice education in favour of generating income.

UNICEF reported in 2009 that more than one third of all Peruvian children were involved in some form of paid work. Labour rates are highest in urban areas where many sell crafts or sweets, perform tricks or beg. Others are engaged in more hazardous activities such as brick-making or rubbish recycling. Outside of urban centres, one industry where both child and forced labour is highly prevalent is informal mining. Gold extraction in the Madre de Dios region in south eastern Peru is a particular centre for “a whole range of slavery-like practices”, according to the Special Rapporteur. Some are subject to forced labour or debt bondage, which are both expressly prohibited by international law. Curtailing such practices however, has often proved extremely difficult given the remoteness of the region and the limited state presence there.