Child Labor in Mexico is More Serious Due to COVID Pandemic

Child Labor in Mexico is More Serious Due to COVID Pandemic

Curiously, Children’s Day and Labor Day in Mexico are separated by only 24 hours. The high rate of child labor in Mexico is mainly due to that nearly half of the population is experiencing a high rate of poverty.

3.3 million child labor in Mexico in 2022

In this country, 3.3 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 are employed. It is a sad fact that makes Mexico the second country in Latin America with the highest rate of child labor, only behind Brazil. More than half of them are not paid for their work.

COVID pandemic makes Mexican child labor rate increase by 5.5%

The pandemic has played against us. The school dropout rate caused by almost two years of school closures has driven thousands of children to work. According to Inegi’s Survey for the measurement of the COVID-19 impact on education, 4.3% of the country’s children and adolescents were not enrolled in the 2021-22 cycle. Among the reasons are that the child started working and that the additional income makes it less attractive for them to be in the classroom.

The year 2021 was declared the International Year for the Eradication of Child Labor, Challenges and Opportunities. In a forum held in November 2021, Thea Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs of the U.S. Department of Labor, stated that the child labor rate in Mexico would grow by 5.5% from 3.1 million in 2019 to 3.3 million in 2022 precisely because of the COVID-19 contingency. The institution he represents gave US$180 million to the Mexican government to support the implementation of the labor reform and combat child labor. Some part of the money was used for Inegi’s National Child Labor Survey (ENTI) in 2019. In the same forum, Alejandro Encinas Nájera, head of the Labor Policy and Institutional Relations Unit of the Ministry of Labor, added that the Legislative Branch made reforms to raise the minimum working age and banned jobs for children under 18. Well, nothing could be further from the reality we have in the year 2022.

The Federal Labor Law (LFT) prohibits the work of minors under 15 years of age and allows the work of adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age who have completed their compulsory basic education and prohibited the work of minors under 18 years of age in activities that put their development and their physical and mental health at risk.

The Ministry of Labor to raise the minimum working age for child labor

On April 6, 2022, the Ministry of Labor published in the Official Gazette of the Federation the decree that reforms Article 176 of the LFT where it announces that now, adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age will be able to work in agricultural activities and others that had been prohibited because they were considered dangerous for their age. However, Luisa María Alcalde Luján, in charge of this Ministry, promised to create a regulation that prioritizes the rights of adolescents.

This adjustment is worrying because it not only goes against the eradication of underage employment but also discourages social mobility through study. These young people should be in the classroom, not having the green light to work in any job. The government is not seeking to eradicate child labor, but to whitewash a situation that will not change.

Until 2019, 1.2 million adolescents who worked did so in dangerous tasks, such as construction, mining, agriculture, bars and canteens. What will this reform bring? Only to clean up the numbers of dangerous work and improve statistics. In agriculture, for example, there is 31.6% of the child and adolescent labor force; but that is only in an Excel table: there are no funds necessary to control that the new labor rules are complied with throughout the country.

Mexico-United States-Canada Agreement (T-MEC) prohibits the importation of products with child labor

In addition, there is another issue that is not minor: the labor chapter of the Mexico-United States-Canada Agreement (T-MEC) prohibits the importation of products with child labor. This reform undoubtedly violates that part of the agreement. Source: Barbara Anderson @ba_anderson.