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05SANJOSE2072 2005-09-02 22:43:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Cable title:  

COSTA RICA UPDATE ON CHILD LABOR

Tags:   ELAB ETRD PGOV PHUM SOCI CS 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAN JOSE 002072 

SIPDIS

DEPT PLEASE PASS TO DOL/ILAB TINA MCCARTER AND DRL/IL
LAUREN HOLT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD PGOV PHUM SOCI CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA UPDATE ON CHILD LABOR

REF: A. STATE 143552

B. 04 SAN JOSE 2293

-------
SUMMARY
-------


1. The Government of Costa Rica is committed to the
elimination of child labor in Costa Rica by 2010. According
to the most recent survey, conducted in 2002, approximately
114,000 children between ages 5 and 17 were working, a figure
which represents just over ten percent of the country's youth
population. (Note: Costa Rican law allows 15- to 17-year-olds
to work under limited circumstances.) Child labor is most
pronounced in the agricultural sector, which employs nearly
half of the country's working children.



2. While Costa Rica continued to pursue numerous legislative,
collaborative and educational programs to eradicate child
labor and child sexual exploitation, it struggled to
effectively enforce compliance with national programs.
Interagency communication and coordination were generally
good, though agency programs were frequently carried out
independently, with poor interagency integration.
Individually, representatives of all government agencies
agree that child labor and commercial sexual exploitation
present grave risks; however, they also noted the difficulty
in implementing effective remedial programs due to budgetary
difficulties.



3. Earlier this year, the government adopted the National
Plan of Action for the Prevention and Eradication of Child
Labor and Special Protection for Adolescent Workers. This
ambitious, rights-based plan calls for aggressive child labor
reduction from 2005-2010, with the goal of complete
eradication of child labor. Unlike the first such plan,
implemented between 1998 and 2002, the new plan contains
specific financing needs and requires each involved
governmental ministry or agency to earmark sufficient
implementation funds in their annual budget requests. The
new plan has sparked optimism among local government and NGO
officials and, if successful, could provide a model program
for neighboring countries struggling with child labor.



--------------------------




A. LAWS AND REGULATIONS


--------------------------





4. Costa Rica has adopted a comprehensive set of child labor
laws, including definitions of the worst forms of child
labor. Children under 15 years old are prohibited from
working, while 15 to 18 year olds may work limited hours.
Costa Rica has ratified International Labor Organization
(ILO) Conventions 138 and 182, addressing minimum age for
employment and the worst forms of child labor, respectively.
Under Costa Rican law, ILO conventions ratified by the
country are treated as national law, and when constitutional
or legislative conflicts arise, the conventions take
precedence.



--------------------------




B. IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT


--------------------------





5. Responsibility for child welfare and labor enforcement is
shared among several ministries and directorates, coordinated
under the National Committee on Child and Adolescent Labor.
The Ministries of Labor, Education, Health and Children's
Issues are all represented on the committee. The Office for
the Eradication of Child Labor and Protection of the
Adolescent Worker (OATIA), an office within the Ministry of
Labor, has principal responsibility for drafting and
implementing action strategies and education programs.



6. Inspection and enforcement of child labor violations are
delegated to the Inspections Directorate of the Ministry of
Labor. Officials within the directorate acknowledge that
their operations and effectiveness are severely restricted by
a lack of resources. While the office represents one of the
most widely dispersed agencies within the Costa Rican
government, with 31 offices located throughout the country,
most offices are under-staffed, poorly equipped and isolated.
The directorate maintains a small pool of official vehicles,
which are based out of the San Jose central offices and are
made available to regional inspection offices on a rotating
basis. As a result, smaller cantonal offices might have the
use of a vehicle for one week per month. Officers frequently
purchase basic office supplies (paper, pens, etc.) out of
their personal funds, and many satellite offices lack desks,
chairs and copy machines.



--------------------------

---


C. SOCIAL PROGRAMS FOR WITHDRAWAL AND PREVENTION


--------------------------

---


7. Costa Rica, either unilaterally or in partnership with the
noted NGOs, is implementing or has recently finished the
following projects:

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION TRAINING


--------------------------


UNICEF is working with the 2500 locally organized development
associations to help establish committees dedicated to child
welfare. The local committees, which are staffed entirely by
volunteers and monitored by a national coordination
committee, maintain schools and playgrounds, organize youth
sporting activities, and monitor their communities for signs
of child abuse. During its initial phase, UNICEF trained 450
associations, 300 of which have established child welfare
committees. The remaining 2,050 associations are scheduled
to receive training over the next three years of the project,
pending approval of funds.

PANI REORGANIZATION


--------------------------


UNICEF is working with the child protection agency to improve
technical capability and bureaucratic efficiency within the
Child Welfare Agency (PANI). PANI's effectiveness to lead
the national council on child welfare has been hampered by an
inefficient bureaucracy. UNICEF intends to restructure the
chain of command, provide technical training and help to
clarify PANI's mission.

COMAGRI


--------------------------


The Project to Combat Child Labor in Commercial Agriculture
(COMAGRI), a DOL project initiated in 1999, seeks to remove
child laborers from agriculture through family education,
scholarships and job retraining aimed at increasing parental
income and reducing the necessity for child employment.
Phase I of the regional project focused on the Turrialba
region of Costa Rica. IPEC estimates that the project has so
far removed 100 children from agricultural labor, and
prevented another 300 from entering.

CSEC


--------------------------


Another regional DOL program, this one launched in 2003,
seeks to end commercial sexual exploitation of children
(CSEC) by training prosecutors and strengthening anti-CSEC
laws. The Costa Rica-specific portion of the project has
focused on the Limon region. Project organizers state that
arrests and prosecution rates in Limon have increased
dramatically, resulting in the strongest enforcement regime
in Central America.

CHILD LABOR EDUCATION INITIATIVE


--------------------------


Just launched in 2005, the DOL's Child Labor Education
Initiative is a global project intended to improve
children's, access to basic education. The program is
currently in the bidding process.

RURAL CHILD LABOR EDUCATION PROJECT


--------------------------


This recently launched project, undertaken in conjunction
with the Ministry of Public Education (MEP), will provide
sensitivity training to teachers that will help them identify
children at risk of entering the workforce. It also will
provide training and counseling to parents and children,
highlighting the risks of child labor and helping them to
find alternative means of increasing family income.

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH CURRICULUM


--------------------------


In April, 2004, the Government of Canada partnered with the
MEP and MTSS to design primary school curriculum for teaching
occupational health and safety. The program was designed to
instill a cultural awareness of workplace safety from a young
age, and included printed materials and teacher training.
The program was carried out as a limited pilot, but has not
been implemented country-wide due to lack of funds for
printing, distribution and training expenses.

Canada has also worked with the ILO's International Program
for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) to focus on child
domestic workers, which represent some 8% of Costa Rica's
child laborers.



--------------------------




D. NATIONAL POLICY


--------------------------





8. This year, the OATIA issued its second National Action
Plan for the period 2005-2010. Drafted in conjunction with
some twenty governmental offices and NGOs the plan
ambitiously seeks to eradicate child labor in Costa Rica by
2010 through implementation of eight rights-based goals.
Each general goal is accompanied by specific goals,
strategies and action plans calling for significant
involvement and contribution from diverse child governmental
agencies and NGOs Among the strategies to be implemented are
training of teachers, parents and labor inspectors, detailed
regional information gathering, and aggressive
poverty-reduction campaigns.



9. The five-year plan appears carefully crafted, and
represents a concerted effort to address the problem of child
labor. Its success will depend heavily on the availability
of financial, human and political resources to carry out each
of its strategies. In recognition of the budgetary problems
that greatly diminished the effectiveness of the first
five-year plan, from 1998-2002, drafters this year
incorporated strict financial planning guidelines. Under the
new rules, each involved governmental ministry or agency is
required to include in its annual budget requests sufficient
funds earmarked for implementation of the plan. Should the
funds requested be insufficient to meet projected costs, the
budgets must be rejected. To assist participant agencies in
crafting their budgets, detailed cost estimates are included,
which specify the funds necessary to assist each child
laborer within specific age ranges.



--------------------------




E. COUNTRY PROGRESS


--------------------------





10. Costa Rica is making a determined effort to eradicate
child labor. The National Plan represents the country's most
comprehensive program yet, and is notable for its attention
to detail and broad interagency integration. In addition,
efforts to reform PANI represent a significant step toward
developing responsive, child welfare-focused government
agencies. However, while the National Plan has sparked
optimism among governmental and non-governmental leaders that
child labor will soon be eradicated in Costa Rica, a number
of significant obstacles remain:

--Education: Approximately forty percent of students leave
school before secondary education. Of those that enter
secondary schools, approximately one third drop out before
completing their high school degree. In response to space
and personnel shortages, the Ministry of Education
implemented three-shift school days in many rural and urban
schools, under which each student receives roughly three
hours of classroom instruction per day. When faced with the
prospect of longer daily commute times than actual
instruction time, many students in rural areas have dropped
out.

--Poverty: Using a food basket measure formulated in 1987,
official statistics indicate a 21 percent poverty rate.
UNICEF, however, estimates the current poverty rate at 26
percent when using the government standard, and 35 percent
using an updated necessities scale. Poverty is the lead
factor in contributing to domestic child labor; nearly one in
ten child laborers are domestic workers.

--Immigration: Notably absent from child labor surveys is an
accounting of child laborers from Nicaragua. The 2002 survey
did not identify respondents by nationality, but the results
are generally interpreted to include both Costa Rican and
foreign national children. Immigrants and migrant workers
from Nicaragua make up a sizable proportion of the country's
population, with higher-than-average proportions in the
principally agricultural provinces of northern Costa Rica,
where nearly 18 percent of children are working. Given the
generally poor living conditions encountered by many
undocumented Nicaraguan immigrants, the proportion of
children working among their communities is likely much
higher than the national average. The national plan contains
no immigrant-specific programs.

--Reliance on NGO collaboration: IPEC feels that local
government agencies have come to rely on ILO's coordination
and funding, and lack the institutional will to initiate and
complete their own programs. For this reason, IPEC intends
to incrementally diminish its role in policy-making in Costa
Rica, though it will continue to operate its regional office
in San Jose and to partner with DOL for country- and
region-specific projects.
FRISBIE