Social Issues

Growing poverty spurs rise in child labor in Venezuela

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, Oct 13 (EFE).- The lack of public policies in Venezuela to protect the rights of children has contributed to an increase in the number of youngsters who find themselves compelled to abandon their education and work to help put food on the table.

Results of the latest Living Conditions Survey, conducted annually by Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, show that nearly 95 percent of Venezuelans subsist below the official poverty line, while the proportion of children and adolescents attending school was less than 65 percent, down from around 70 percent in 2019-2020.

On the streets of Caracas, it is not unusual to see a score of kids gathered at a traffic light waiting for the chance to clean drivers’ windshields, an activity that may brings in up to $6 a day. Carlos Trapani, coordinator of Cecodap, an NGO engaged in activism and advocacy on behalf of young people, said that one obstacle to addressing the plight of children is the absence of official statistics.

“Not having disaggregated, updated and reliable data, we can’t identify the magnitude and extent of the problem of children on the street,” he told Efe.

Eddy Blanco, 19, says he was 16 when he made the decision to start working so his family wouldn’t have to do without.

Blanco, who had ambitions to be an athlete, tells Efe that while he never imagined he would have to clean windshields to survive, he prefers working to stealing.

“Here, sometimes, they come at us with insults, with obscenities, they pull guns on us. But what are we going to do? We have to keep our heads down and keep working,” he says, recounting that he has seen kids as young as 9 cleaning windshields on the busy street where he works.

“It’s not good, they should be in school,” Blanco said. “Instead of having a bucket and a brush, they should have a notebook and a pencil.”

The current reality of children in Venezuela is offensive in multiple ways, Cecodap’s Trapani said.

“An entire set of rights are being infringed,” he said. “Not just life, health, an adequate standard of living, the right to a family, the right to protection, the right to school, to rest, to recreation, to relaxation.”

In the 2017-2019 period, 3,738 Venezuelan minors died violently, Cecodap said in a recent report and the situation has grown worse during the last two years, according to Trapani.

“The Covid-19 context aggravated and deepened the gaps and inequalities that children are experiencing,” he said.

For the last three weeks, 10-year-old Yeinerson has been selling sweets in a Caracas square under the watchful eye of his mother.

Declining to reveal her identity, she tells Efe that she decided to let him go to work after the family went an entire day without food in the house.

She says that it is increasingly common for entire families to take to the streets in pursuit of earnings “to make it through another day.” EFE


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