Published On : Fri, Feb 16th, 2007
Share This

(February 16, 2007) A study by Chile’s National Service for the Protection of Minors (Sename) has revealed that 100,000 children in the country are illegally employed in jobs that are classified as “unacceptable” for children. The Sename study, carried out in conjunction with the University of Arts and Social Sciences and the International Labor Organization (OIT), found that 200,000 children are working illegally in Chile. Of these, more than half are involved in activities such as pornography, drug trafficking, and underground labor.

Under Chilean law, children below the age of 15 are not allowed to carry out any form of paid employment. The only exception to this law is in the entertainment industry, where certain conditions are required to allow children to work in fields such as television and theater.

Minors between the age of 15 and 18 are allowed to work, but only with parental consent. Workers aged between 15 and 16 are legally obliged to provide proof that they are taking part in some form of educational program.

According to Paulina Fernández, director of Sename, incidences of child exploitation are higher during the summer and harvest periods, given that a lot of child labor is used in the agricultural industry. The situation is particularly bad in Chile’s Regions I and IX, where many children miss two months of school annually during the pine nut harvest. In Colchane in the I Region, child labor is seen as a rite of passage between “infancy and adulthood,” the study revealed.

Sename considers the worst forms of child labor as those involving some kind of physical, social or psychological experience that does not correspond to a child’s level of development. For this reason, children’s involvement in the sex and drug trafficking industries are particularly worrying.

To solve this problem, Sename is working together with Chile’s Police Force to compile a register of the worst cases of child exploitation in the country, and intervene where possible. By September last year, 2,194 children had been registered as working illegally. Children who are found in these situations are removed and given psychological treatment, and are placed in foster care if necessary.

Although Chile has one of the lowest rates of child exploitation in Latin America, this figure is expected to rise after a new, more in-depth study is released this coming March. This later study, also conducted by the OIT, is expected to generate more detailed information about children’s involvement in Chile’s commercial sex trade.

In an attempt to raise public awareness of the child abuse issue, the OIT launched a campaign late last year with the slogan: “There are no excuses: commercial sex with children under the age of 18 is a crime.”

By Cate Setterfield (

About the Author

The Santiago Times Team