Minor Labor Falls 12% in Brazil, But There Are Still Over 3 Million Children Working

Child work in Brazil Brazil had 3.1 million workers aging 5-17 years old in 2013, the year when the latest National Household Sample Survey (Pnad) was conducted. The results were published September 18 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). A reduction of 12.3% (438 thousand children and adolescents) was reported in this number compared to 2012. 

“We can put this decline down to schooling, and people’s permanence in school”, says survey coordinator Maria Lucia Vieira.

The study further reveals that the employment rate among individuals at the age of 5 to 17 in Brazil was 7.4% in 2013, against 8.4% in 2012. Their monthly household per capita income was estimated at US$ 238.20, and the average number of hours at work was 27.1 per week. The employed population from 5 to 13 years of age was mostly found engaging in agriculture-related activities (63.8%).

In the group surveyed, teenagers aging 14-17 made up the majority (2.6 million). Compared to the previous year, the total amount indicates that 362 thousand young people had left the labor market in 2013. Among 5-9 year-olds, 24 thousand stopped working, a drop of 29.2% from 2012, although child labor is forbidden by Brazilian law.


Nearly a thousand people gathered last June, on Botafogo Beach, south Rio de Janeiro, to form the image of a pinwheel, the international symbol of the fight against child labor. The action was staged as part of a worldwide campaign rolled out by International Labor Organization (ILO), with the support of the city government and a number of institutions that carry out social activities aimed at children and adolescents.

ILO representative Maria Cláudia Falcão explained that Brazil was chosen to launch the campaign because it was the country chosen to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

“It’s a very special moment, because we have a large number of tourists here. And, thanks to a wonderful coincidence, the World Day Against Child Labor is June 12, when the World Cup is scheduled to begin. So we decided to start the campaign earlier in an effort to draw people’s attention to this global problem,” she noted at the occasion.

She further said that the pinwheel as the symbol of the fight against child exploitation was an idea that came about during a campaign developed by ILO Brazil which the other counties subsequently chose to adopt as well.

“This pinwheel has five colors representing race and gender diversity, and also the continents. It’s a toy whose movement generates energy and stands for our fight against child labor.”

Pedro Gabriel Duarte, a 14-year-old student, was among the volunteers who contributed to shaping the human pinwheel. In his view, no child should work before finishing school. “A child who works prematurely ends up not having the basis necessary for studying or working in the future,” he stated. Figures have revealed that 3.5 million children in Brazil aging from 4 to 17 were victims of exploitation in 2012.

According to Brazilian law, adolescents are allowed to have a job as of 16 years of age, but after turning 14, a teenager has already permission to work under the title of apprentice.

“The problem in Brazil is that over 80% of working children are over 14, but most of them work without any register as apprentice. We need a greater effort so that all these children may join the labor market in a formal way and with all of their rights assured,” explained Cláudia Falcão. She also stressed, however, that Brazil is internationally known for having reduced child labor by 58% over the course of 20 years.



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