Child labor in Mexico: Illegal and underpaid

For a few coins, Mixtec children from the age of six upward work from dawn to dusk at plantations in Michoacán

Child labor in Mexico: Illegal and underpaid
Erick Emanuel Saavedra Maldonado, an elementary school teacher, claimed that although education is free, parents often refuse to let their children go to school - Photo: Rodolfo Ayala/EL UNIVERSAL
English 09/05/2019 16:26 Carlos Arrieta Mexico City Actualizada 18:31

For just a few coins, Mixtec children from the age of six upward work from dawn to dusk at chili and tomato plantations in the Coyahuana municipality of Michoacán. They leave their homes at five in the morning and get back at 7 p.m., making no more than MXN$20 a day (one dollar).

They study in their spare time, otherwise their parents wouldn’t allow it. They face malnutrition and neglect every single day. Thus, in this scenario of modern slavery, the Mixtec children have little to celebrate on Children’s Day.

The labor cost of children working at the plantations is of barely MXN$1.6 an hour. It represents 5.7% of what an adult makes. Adults are paid MXN$350 a day. Farmers have no problem employing children because they don’t eat much, they don’t complain, and don’t require job benefits.

Their parents’ neglect is also added to the lack of attention from both state and federal authorities. Parents prioritize work over education in their children’s lives. Out of nearly 400 child laborers working at the Coahuayana plantations, only half of them go to school three hours a day, with teachers who are very young and don’t usually speak their language.

The director of the Center for Migrant Workers of Coahuayana, Baudelia Gabino Arceo, claimed that while the kids are between six or seven and can cut any type of fruit, their parents take them to work in the fields.

“Day laborers only care about money. They don’t care if their kids have eaten or gone to school. All they care about is money,” she stated.

Erick Emanuel Saavedra Maldonado, an elementary school teacher, claimed that although education is free, parents often refuse to let their children go to school.

The Center for Migrant Workers provides healthcare services, as well as food and education. It houses 40 families with around 80 children. However, Coahuayana mayor Roberto Nevares Domínguez claimed that the workers often decide not to access the center’s services since they are constantly under pressure from people with political interests who convince them not to go.

Local deputy Lucila Martínez claims that the fight against poverty should be a top priority in Mexico’s public policies. In the framework of the World Day Against Child Labor, celebrated on April 15, the member of the 74th legislature in the state congress urged the government to take action and strengthen children’s rights.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment around the world. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labor and almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous conditions.

Martínez pointed out that Michoacán ranked among the states with most child labor in the country. She claimed that these children barely survive under conditions of misery. Many of them work for more than 12 hours a day and are not even given a choice to go to school.

She stressed that the children had their individual rights systematically violated, notably their right to live in dignity, their right to food, health, education, play, and their right to their own identity. “This has to change and for that to happen, this vulnerable group should stop being forced to work,” she concluded.

Statistics show that seven of every 10 workers between the ages of five and 17 live in Mexico’s rural areas; the rest live in big cities.
 

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