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Politics & Current Affairs

Bolivia’s Juvenile Labor Force

Nearly 1 million children work full time in Bolivia’s tin mines, in cemeteries, on buses, or in the markets. It’s a tough life, but at least they’re unionized.

Across Bolivia, 10,000 working children — employed by the mines, but also cemeteries, markets, and buses — are unionizing and working with the government to rewrite labor laws. ‘We’re asking the government to come up with laws not because they sound good, but because they’re realistic,’ says Ernesto Copa, the 17 year-old president of UNATSBO, Bolivia’s largest union of child workers. ‘We’re in a state of mobilization.’ Bolivian children entered the workforce en masse in the 1980s, when the privatization of national industries forced more than 100,000 adults out of work.


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