The minimum age for full-time employment is 18. Children 14 to 17 years old may work with written parental authorization, if they attend school and do not work more than four hours a day (14-15 years old) or six hours (16-17 years old), and do not work more than a maximum of 24 hours per week.
The maximum administrative penalty for employing a child under age 14 is a fine of Gs. 3.78 million ($674). The law stipulates those who employ adolescents between ages 14 and 17 under hazardous conditions must pay the maximum administrative penalty and/or serve three to five years in prison, but the potential penalties and lax enforcement were insufficient to deter violations.
The government did not effectively enforce laws protecting children from exploitation in the workplace. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for administratively enforcing child labor laws, and the Attorney General’s Office prosecutes violators. The Ombudsman’s office and the Child Rights Committee receive complaints and refer them to the Attorney General’s Office. As of September 30, the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security received 17 complaints regarding child and adolescent workers. Of the 17 complaints, 12 were for boys and five for girls. Most worked as metalworkers, cashiers, sales clerks, helpers, and in other service jobs. In 2016 the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security received 28 complaints from child workers.
Child labor continued to be a problem in retail, sugar, brick, and limestone manufacturing, domestic service, and small-scale agricultural sectors. Children, primarily boys, also worked in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors and in the restaurant and other service industries. According to both the government and the NGO community, 45,000-47,000 children, primarily girls, worked as domestic servants and received no pay under the criadazgo system. In exchange for work, employers promised child domestic servants room, board, and financial support for school. Some of these children were victims of forced child labor, did not receive pay or the promised benefits in exchange for work, suffered from sexual exploitation, and often lacked access to education.
On January 15, the Attorney General’s Office indicted Rosa Delvalle and Anderson Rios for serious bodily damage, attempted homicide, sexual abuse, and torture for forcing a 15-year-old minor to drink caustic soda in Pedro Juan Caballero, Amambay Department. Reports indicated the minor had been living with the couple as a domestic worker under the criadazgo system. Delvalle and Rios remained at large, and the case was pending as of October 13.
On June 14, a court condemned Tomas Eligio Ferreiro Rojas and his common-law wife, Ramona Triflacion Melgarejo Figueredo, to 15 and seven years in prison, respectively, for killing 14-year-old Carolina Marin, who was employed as a domestic worker under the criadazgo system, in January 2016. Defense attorneys for the couple were appealing the sentences.
The worst forms of child labor occurred where malnourished, abused, or neglected children worked in unhealthy and hazardous conditions selling goods or services on the street, working in factories, or harvesting crops. Children were used, procured, and offered to third parties for illicit activities, including commercial sexual exploitation (see also section 6, Children), sometimes with the knowledge of parents and guardians, who received remuneration. Some minors were coerced into acting as drug smugglers for criminal syndicates along the border with Brazil. There were also reports of child soldiers with the EPP. Children reportedly work in debt bondage alongside their parents in the Chaco region (see section 7.b.).
See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/.