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Cablegate: Costa Rica Response: Forced Labor and Child Labor in The

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0519/01 1682215
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 162215Z JUN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9852
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000519

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN RBEAL, DRL/ILCSR MMITTELHAUSER, G/TIP SSTEINER AND
DEPT OF LABOR DOL/ILAB FOR RRIGBY.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ELAB EIND ETRD PHUM SOCI ILO CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA RESPONSE: FORCED LABOR AND CHILD LABOR IN THE
PRODUCTION OF GOODS

REF: A) State 43120, B) 07 San Jose 2041, C) San Jose 194

1. SUMMARY: In response to Ref A, the Costa Rican Ministry of Labor,
UN agencies and NGOs reported no new information regarding
exploitative child labor (Ref B) and only sparse, anecdotal
information regarding forced labor in the production of goods.
Agricultural production on family farms and small third-party farms
characterized the majority of child labor used in the production of
goods - specifically tomatoes, oranges, sugar cane, melons, coffee
and bananas. A very small percentage of child labor is also present
in the fishing industry. Per ILAB's definition, this labor is
exploitative in the sense that the nature or circumstances of the
work is likely to harm the health or safety of the child workers. As
for industrial labor, because the Costa Rican manufacturing sector
is relatively formalized and in many cases requires technical skills
(one of the largest employers is Intel, for example), forced labor
in "maquila" type settings was reported by all not/not to be a
problem. Two agencies that worked with human trafficking issues
reported that stories circulated about forced labor in fisheries in
the Pacific region and in farming (Ref C). However, one of those
told us that Costa Rican officials had not investigated nor
confirmed these reports and that no statistics were available on
numbers of potential victims. END SUMMARY.

-----------
CHILD LABOR
-----------

2. The Ministry of Labor's Office for the Eradication of Child Labor
and Protection of the Adolescent Worker (OATIA, Spanish acronym)
reported that child labor is not/not considered a problem in the
formal economic sector (manufacturing and larger-scale
export-oriented agriculture). However, child labor is existent in
informal agricultural sectors. The ILO (OIT, Spanish acronym) office
in Costa Rica corroborated that assessment. The latest available
child-labor statistics for Costa Rica are from the 2002 Household
Survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC,
Spanish acronym). Post reported these statistics in its 2007 Worst
Forms of Child Labor Report (Ref B).

3. The ILO child labor office in San Jose (OIT-IPEC, Spanish
acronym), produced in 2003 an analysis of INEC's 2002 data entitled,
"Informe Nacional de los Resultados de la Encuesta de Trabajo
Infantil y Adolescente en Costa Rica" (National Report on the
Results of the Survey of Child and Adolescent Labor in Costa Rica).
In that analysis, OIT-IPEC reported that 113,523 children and
adolescents age 5-17 worked. That figure represented approximately
10 percent of the total age 5-17 population of 1,113,987. They
further reported that over half of those workers, about 57 percent,
were adolescents age 15-17. Just under half, about 44 percent, were
age 5-14 (12 percent age 5-9 and 32 percent age 10-14). Therefore,
roughly 5 percent of the total youth population was children age
5-14 who worked. For a summary of the 2003 report, see also the
ILO/OIT's "Trabajo Infantil en Agricultura en Cifras -
Centroamrica, Panam y Republica Dominicana" (Child Labor in
Agriculture by Figures - Central America, Panama and the Dominican
Republic) available at http://white.oit.org.pe/ipec/
documentos/cifras_agricultura_ca.pdf

-------------------
CHILD LABOR - GOODS
-------------------

4. Although the Childhood and Adolescence Code (Law No. 7739,
Article 92) set the minimum age for work at 15 years, children under
15 were involved in the production of some agricultural and fishery
products. As reported by OATIA, child labor and labor insertion at
an early age were more characteristic of rural areas and the
production of tomatoes, oranges, sugar cane, melons, coffee and
bananas for local consumption as part of a family subsistence
economy or for small-scale commercial farms. In the case of the
production and export of oranges and melons, outsourced operations
in some instances involved child workers. OAITA added, however, that
child labor was rarely if ever present in large-scale,
export-oriented production, since these operations required
certification. OIT-IPEC corroborated this assessment.

5. According to OATIA, 42 percent of the 5 percent of the children
age 5-14 who worked (approximately 23,394 youth) were children age
5-14 working in agriculture; the remaining 58 percent age 5-14 were
working in construction, fisheries and domestic service. Therefore,
approximately 2.5 percent (exact percentage undefined) of the total
youth population of Costa Rica was children age 5-14 working in the
production of goods, mostly in agriculture and fisheries.
Additionally, OIT-IPEC reported in its 2003 analysis that the
predominant economic activities for all the working youth were
agriculture, fishing in the sea or rivers, and working in fish
farms, which represented 44 percent of all youth economic activity.


6. UNICEF confirmed that child labor in Costa Rica was markedly
seasonal, especially in rural areas where the greatest amount of
child labor takes place during the coffee, melon, watermelon and
sugar cane harvesting seasons between November and January; this
season coincides annually with Costa Rican summer vacation from
school.

---------------------------------------------
CHILD LABOR LAWS, RISKS AND GOVERNMENT ACTION
---------------------------------------------

7. The government institution in charge of the fight against child
labor is OATIA, which coordinates policy and actions taken by other
government agencies. For a discussion of labor laws and government
measures undertaken to end child labor, please see Ref B.

8. Regarding exploitative child labor, OATIA reported that children
age 5-14 years faced safety and health risks such as accidents with
tools due to work without appropriate safety equipment and lack of
knowledge of how to safely operate machinery. They received low
minimum salaries and did not receive health insurance. Some
adolescents age 15-17, while legally permitted to work, did not
receive the minimum salary, annual leave, or Christmas bonus
required by law, and they had to work more than 6 hours, contrary to
labor laws. OIT-IPEC provided a report about child health and safety
risks in coffee production entitled: "Fichas de Seguridad y Salud
Sobre Trabajo Infantil Peligroso en el Cultivo del Caf" (Markers of
Security and Safety on Dangerous Child Labor in Coffee Cultivation)
available at http://white.oit.org.pe/ipec/documentos/
ficha_ti_peligroso_cafe.pdf

9. OATIA told us that children and adolescents in Costa Rica entered
the economically-active population because of two main
socio-economic conditions or lifestyle factors. Either they lived
in extreme poverty and their families could not meet basic needs
(some of these children either left school or studied and worked in
family subsistence farms) or they did not study due to family
beliefs that education was not important because the parents
themselves did not finish school.

------------
FORCED LABOR
------------

10. The Ministry of Labor reported that forced labor is not a
problem in Costa Rica, stating that most irregular labor is
performed by migrants (including itinerant indigenous peoples near
the Costa Rican-Panamanian border) who work the coffee harvests but
are not trafficked nor forced to do so. An ILO (OIT) official
corroborated that assessment.

11. The International Organization for Migration (OIM, Spanish
acronym) and the Rahab Foundation, two agencies that worked with
human trafficking victims, reported that stories circulated about
forced labor in fisheries in the Pacific region and in farming (Ref
C, Post's 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report). However, a Rahab
Foundation project manager told us that Costa Rican officials had
not investigated or confirmed these reports and that no statistics
were available on numbers of potential victims.

12. Significant GOCR efforts were not in place to combat forced
labor in the production of goods since it was not an "agenda" issue
for Costa Rica, as one OIT official put it. However, the National
Coalition against Trafficking in Persons, a government/NGO
partnership, was working to combat human trafficking and its
resultant forced sexual and labor exploitation, which was geared
predominantly toward services (Ref C). Recently, the Coalition
completed draft legislation to make internal trafficking for
purposes of sexual or labor exploitation a crime in Costa Rica, and
that language was added to an omnibus public security bill currently
before the legislature. Government officials were hoping to see the
bill passed by the end of this year. If this bill is passed, then
potential identified victims of internal trafficking for purposes of
agricultural or fishery production, among others, will have a legal
basis for filing a complaint against their traffickers. Post will
continue to monitor and report progress on this and other
trafficking-related and labor issues.

CIANCHETTE

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