Child Labor in Brazil May Be 7 Times Higher than What Research Shows

A study based on World Bank data estimates that 5.7 million children aged 7 to 14 are in this situation

The number of Brazilians aged between 7 and 14 working in some form of child labor may be about seven times higher than official statistics indicate, according to an unprecedented study that measured the underreporting of child labor — a problem that compromises both the supervision regarding the formulation of public policies.

In 2015, data showed that 2.5% of Brazilian children in this age group worked, equivalent to 738,600 people, according to the most recent data from the World Development Indicators, a compilation of international statistics from the World Bank.

But a study by Brazilian researcher Guilherme Lichand from the University of Zurich (Switzerland), and Sharon Wolf, from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) concluded that this percentage would actually be 19.15 percent, or 5.658 million children.

The survey follows data aggregated by the International Labor Organization, based on surveys carried out in different countries. "These surveys usually follow a methodology in which adults are first asked if their children work. If they lie — out of fear of punishment, shame or otherwise — the statistics end up being reduced," he said.

The parameters used to define child labor, explain the researcher, follow the definitions of international organizations, such as the United Nations Children's Fund, and were made with children enrolled in schools.

"If the child is less than 12 years old, whatever the number of hours worked, and receives some type of remuneration, child labor is already considered. If the child is between 12 and 14 years old, it is defined as 14 hours weekly, as long as they are not dangerous occupations. From 15 years old, over 41 hours," he explained.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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