Cablegate: Nicaragua Update of Child Labor Information For
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 MANAGUA 002140
DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/IL LAUREN HOLT, USDOL/ILAB FOR TINA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EIND ELAB ETRD PHUM SOCI NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA UPDATE OF CHILD LABOR INFORMATION FOR
MANDATORY REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
REF: A. STATE 135338
B. 04 MANAGUA 2368
C. 03 MANAGUA 3312
1. This cable is submitted in response to reftel A request
for information on Government of Nicaragua child labor
practices for compliance with Trade and Development Act
provisions. Because post submitted reports in response to
similar DOL tasking cables in 2003 and 2004 (reftels B and
C), and because relatively little has changed in the child
labor situation in Nicaragua in the last two years, post is
sending updates only in this cable. As requested in reftel,
copies of all original data sources will be sent to DOL via
SPECIFIC EDITS AND UPDATES TO THE 2004 CHILD LABOR REPORT
2. The following information contained in DOL's draft 2004
Child Labor report on Nicaragua should be updated as follows:
--As of May 2005, minimum wages were between 769 cordobas
(USD 44) per month in agriculture and 1838 cordobas (USD 110)
in banking and construction.
--The National Coalition against Trafficking in Persons
includes, and is led by, the Ministry of Government, which is
responsible for law enforcement in Nicaragua and controls the
police. There is no Ministry of "State" in Nicaragua.
--The National Police have an anti-migrant smuggling unit
that also handles anti-trafficking in persons efforts. The
police do not have a unit dedicated solely to trafficking in
--The anti-trafficking in persons office that opened in the
Ministry of Government in July 2004, in addition to serving
as a reference library and a primary point of contact for
actors in the anti-trafficking campaign, has also taken on
anti-trafficking policy coordination roles for both the
Ministry of Government and the national anti-trafficking
LAWS AND ENFORCING REGULATIONS TO PREVENT THE WORST FORMS OF
3. According to Ministry of Labor officials, since the
significant reforms to Nicaragua's child labor laws carried
out in October 2003 (reftel C), there have been no major
changes in laws affecting child labor.
MECHANISMS TO ADDRESS COMPLAINTS
4. Statistics from the Ministry of Labor on labor inspections
and information on cases of illegal child labor remain
limited. The Ministry of Labor carried out 999 general labor
inspections (out of a total of 1514 that were planned) in
2004. These general labor inspections included inspections
of locations where children are known to work in Nicaragua,
including agriculture, mines, and fishing. A total of 1268
follow-up inspections were scheduled and 487 were actually
carried out. Separately, the ministry carried out 453 (out
of 485 planned) health and safety inspections countrywide.
Ministry of Labor officials informed poloff in July that the
National Commission for the Progressive Eradication of Child
Labor (CNEPTI) is in the process of analyzing the results of
its 2001-2005 action plan to reduce child labor, as well as
drafting its national plan for the next five years. They
said that CNEPTI is also working on a list and analysis of
the most dangerous forms of child labor existing in
Nicaragua, and that both this list and the new five year plan
to combat child labor should be complete by the end of the
year. Ministry officials added that their institution
remains active in providing seminars and other forms of
training for employers, unions and others on child labor
issues. They also said that the Ministry is working closely
with UNICEF in an effort to increase the number of labor
inspections in areas where child labor is known to occur.
5. Unlike in previous years when the Ministry of Labor was
unable to provide any detailed information on cases of child
labor encountered during its inspections, the ministry's
annual statistical report for 2004 does contain some specific
child labor information. The ministry found 56 specific
cases of labor carried out by minors during its regular labor
inspections. 54 of the 56 cases were agricultural, and they
were virtually all found in northern Nicaragua, where there
is a long history and a culture of child agricultural labor,
particularly in the areas of coffee, tobacco, lumber,
ranching, and mining. In these cases, the ministry found a
total of 121 infractions of child labor laws, affecting a
total of 2102 minors. 114 of these infractions were in the
agricultural sector. The most common infractions included
excessive working hours, contract violations, health and
safety issues, and the failure to make legally-required
social security payments.
SOCIAL PROGRAMS TO PREVENT CHILD LABOR
6. The ILO/IPEC is working with the GON and local and
international NGOs to carry out a wide variety of programs in
Nicaragua to combat child labor. Most of these programs are
funded by the governments of the United States, Spain, Canada
and Holland. Some of the more significant of these projects
are described below. In a July 11 meeting with poloff at the
Ministry of Labor, Lydia Midence, the Executive Secretary of
CNEPTI, and senior Ministry of Labor officials complained
that the ILO/IPEC has tended to freeze out the Ministry of
Labor (and the GON more generally) as it carries out its
programs to combat child labor in Nicaragua. Midence said
that the regional ILO/IPEC office in San Jose and the local
office in Managua "completely ignore" the Ministry of Labor
and do nothing to involve it in anti-child labor programs
funded by USDOL. They said that without institutional
involvement of the Ministry of Labor, the ILO/IPEC programs
are unsustainable over the long term and that the ILO/IPEC
seems to be trying to create its own parallel institutions
rather than work with the Nicaraguan government. Midence and
her colleagues said that this ILO/IPEC attitude also prevents
the Ministry from providing independent verification of the
success or failure of the programs. According to the
Ministry of Labor, the ILO/IPEC approach also leads to
considerable waste of resources and duplication of efforts.
They said that their cooperation with other organizations,
including UNICEF and Save the Children, is much better, and
they held up the USDOL-funded "Cumple y Gana" labor project
as an example of how programs to promote labor rights work
better when they are implemented in close cooperation with
the Ministry of Labor. (NOTE: ILO/IPEC officials have told
poloff that they do work with the Ministry of Labor to the
extent possible on their full range of projects. END NOTE.)
7. On July 13, poloff met Cecilia Sanchez, a child labor specialist at the Ministry of the Family (Mifamilia) to obtain an update on the ministry's efforts to eradicate child labor in Nicaragua. Sanchez provided poloff an overview of Mifamilia's Comprehensive Attention Program for At-Risk Children and Adolescents (PAINAR). The PAINAR program is designed to address many problems facing young people in Nicaragua, including violence, sexual abuse and drug addiction, but working to eliminate child labor is one of its major components. In cases of child labor, the PAINAR program seeks to remove the child from the work environment, provide counseling to the child and parents on the rights of children, labor rights, and the value of education, and then work with other institutions to get the child back into school and provide follow up support. Mifamilia coordinates with the Ministry of Education to keep the child in school, with the Ministry of Health to provide any necessary medical care, with the police in cases where drug or sexual abuse are involved, and with NGOs to obtain psychological counseling for the child when it is necessary. According to statistics provided by Sanchez, the PAINAR program assisted 7854 child laborers in 2004, out of a total of 16383 minors who participated in the program that year. Sanchez said that Mifamilia keeps parents and families involved in all phases of the PAINAR program in the hope of breaking the culture and tradition of child labor once and for all over the long term. Sanchez added that Mifamilia is also starting a pilot program with the municipality of Managua to increase recreational and cultural opportunities for at-risk children in the hope of giving additional alternatives to such children and their families. Other programs currently in the works include a systematic, statistical study of the causes of child labor in Nicaragua and a program to help poor families who have migrated to Managua from rural areas because of a lack of economic opportunities in their home regions to return home and reintegrate socially and economically there.
8. As an example of one specific sub-program within PAINAR that is designed to combat child labor, since 1998 Mifamilia has had an ongoing "traffic light plan" (Plan Semaforo) that works to reduce the number of children begging and selling small items at Managua intersections and move them into the school system. Aside from missing out on educational opportunities, the children working at the intersections are in considerable danger of being hit by passing vehicles. Although Mifamilia lacks the resources to implement the plan on a year-round basis, it does so at regular intervals, particularly during holiday periods when the number of children working at intersections tends to peak. Mifamilia reported that when it implemented the plan in December 2004, it succeeded in getting 251 children off the streets and working with the Ministry of Education to place them back into the school system. In such cases, the two ministries work with the parents of the children and provide follow up to ensure that the children stay in school once they are there. They also provide school uniforms and other educational materials that the parents would otherwise have to purchase. In cases when parents prove uncooperative and continue to send their children into the streets to work or beg, Mifamilia can remove the children from their custody. Despite the moderate success of the program, there is, unfortunately, a constant flow of new destitute children into the streets to replace those who have been moved into the school system by Plan Semaforo.
9. In a separate program that focuses on ensuring that poor children go to school, rather than fighting child labor specifically, the Ministry of Education has begun providing meals to 600,000 destitute children in the poorest areas of the country in return for their attendance of school. The Ministry is trying to expand the program to additional areas of the country by soliciting the financial support of the private sector. Additional funding is already provided by the World Bank, The United Nations World Food Program and Mifamilia.
10. Various government and non-government organizations continue to work on a variety of regional programs to reduce child labor. In Northern Nicaragua, the Institute for Human Promotion (INPRHU) is working to educate business owners, teachers, and parents on the risks of child labor in the agricultural sector and to return children to the classroom. In April 2005, INPRHU reported that it had helped over 230 children in Nueva Segovia department. In May 2005, the NGO Save the Children signed an agreement with the Nicaraguan government to carry out a program to educate children and parents on labor rights and the value of education. The new program is also to promote means to reduce domestic violence and commercial sexual exploitation of minors. Finally, in late 2004, Care USA, Catholic Relief Services and other organizations began implementation of a 5.5 million USD, four-year (2004-2008) regional program funded by USDOL called "Aprendo." This project is intended to combat child labor throughout Central America. In Nicaragua, the project is being implemented by CARE, in coordination with local NGOs and government agencies, and it seeks to increase awareness of the importance of education, strengthen government and non-government institutions dealing with child labor and implement pilot programs in select communities to return children to school and keep them there.
11. The La Chureca garbage dump in Managua remains one of the worst areas of child labor in Nicaragua, where generation after generation of children and adults continue to eke out a living by scrounging food and other items to use or sell. According to a recent study by a pastoral group seeking to help those living and working in the dump to find other means of making a living, 136 families, 96 of which included children, were living in the dump. Many more children from the nearby neighborhood of Acahualinca work in the dump. According to a May 2004 study by the NGO Dos Generaciones, 29 percent of the 2156 children living in the neighborhood were not in the school system and almost all of the absentee children were working in the dump in one way or another. In ongoing programs organized by the ILO and funded by USDOL since 2001, Dos Generaciones and other NGOs have worked to educate the children and their parents on the importance of obtaining an education. The NGOs also provide seminars on economic alternatives to working in the dump and work with the Ministry of Health to provide similar seminars on health and nutrition. According to the latest statistics provided by the local ILO office, during the first half of 2005, a total of 2131 students from schools near the dump participated in various aspects of the program, and the program succeeded in getting a total of 104 students to start attending school.
12. Another ILO program funded by USDOL is ongoing in the Department of Chontales in central Nicaragua, where large numbers of children work in agriculture and ranching. In a program that began in 2001, the ILO has worked with GON agencies and local NGOs to educate ranchers, farm owners, parents and children on Nicaragua's child labor laws and the importance of education. The program also works with local teachers to improve the quality of their classes and provides remedial classes for child workers who have fallen behind their peers because of the amount of school they have missed. According to the ILO, 180 local teachers have participated in the program so far, 1950 ranchers and farm owners have been educated on child labor and Nicaraguan laws, and 1575 children have participated in educational seminars.
13. At a meeting with poloff on July 14, Anyoli Sanabria of the local UNICEF office for education programs, said that UNICEF's anti-child labor programs in Nicaragua are primarily comprised of financial and technical support for GON institutions and local NGOs. Most of these efforts focus on education and are part of UNICEF's wider education campaign in Nicaragua. At the moment UNICEF is funding a new Ministry of Education remedial education program designed to enable child workers to catch up to their peers and reenter the regular school system. Sanabria also noted that UNICEF is an advisor to CNEPTI and will be supporting it as it carries out a new survey of the extent of child labor in Nicaragua later this year. As noted by the Ministry of Labor (paragraph 4), UNICEF assists the ministry by providing it lists of areas where significant child labor has been found so that the ministry can target its inspections on those areas. UNICEF has trained all of the ministry's inspectors on labor laws and human rights issues relating to child labor, as well as to properly document child labor cases they find. UNICEF also provides funds to the ministry to enable its inspectors to travel from the departmental capitals where their offices are located out to the rural areas where most child labor occurs.
OTHER ELEMENTS OF THE CURRENT CHILD LABOR SITUATION
14. The situation of minors working as domestic servants has received considerable attention during the last year. The ILO estimates that tens of thousands of children, mostly girls, are carrying out such work in Nicaragua and believes that work is preventing at least half of these children from attending school. Most such child domestic workers are paid virtually nothing, they work long hours and their labor rights are regularly violated, and they are often subject to physical and sexual abuse by their employers. The ILO is implementing a program in Masaya and Granada to remove 300 children from domestic work and place them into either regular school or vocational training. Another ILO program just getting underway is intended to carry out a series of workshops to train over 500 rural school teachers to identify cases of child domestic labor that are interfering with school attendance and to work with students and parents to find ways to keep such children in school.
15. A 2004 study by Codeni, an umbrella group of NGOs working on children's issues, based on interviews with 173 working children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the northern and western parts of the country, found that virtually none had completed primary school and that 25 percent were illiterate. Sixty-seven percent of the children stated that they were regularly physically abused by their parents. This and other studies during the year emphasized that the primary factor behind child labor in Nicaragua was not so much poverty as the low level of education of the children's parents.
16. Both the Ministry of Labor and the media continue to report that children as young as six are working in significant numbers in agriculture in northern Nicaragua, particularly in coffee fields. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Labor lacks sufficient inspectors to cover all of the farms. In the department of Jinotega alone, for example, there are estimated to be over 1500 different coffee farms. Because of its inability to carry out comprehensive inspections, it is very difficult for the Ministry of Labor to monitor the rural child labor situation and apply sanctions. Instead it is forced to rely heavily on efforts to educate employers, families, and workers on their rights and responsibilities in an effort to break the culture and tradition of rural agricultural child labor.
17. According to a new study of the child labor situation in Nicaragua carried out in 2004 by the ILO, approximately 314,000 children in Nicaragua either were working or had worked at some point in their lives. This represents 17 percent of the population of the country between the ages of five and seventeen. Of these working children, 14 percent were between the ages of 5 and 9, 42 percent between 10 and 14 and 44 percent between 15 and 17. Of the total of 314,000 children who had worked at some point, 253,000 were estimated to be working at the time of the study. Fifty-one percent of the 314,000 were not attending school. As always, the most common areas of work were agriculture, lumber, fishing and domestic work. President Bolanos referred to all of these statistics in a June 2005 speech in which he stated that his government had worked with the ILO and other organizations to carry out 19 different programs to reduce child labor in Nicaragua. According to the president, these programs collectively had aided 20,000 child workers and their families.