La infancia perdida

La Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) calcula que 90 millones de niños entre los ocho y los quince años forman parte de la fuerza laboral de los países en desarrollo; a nivel mundial, la cifra es mayor. Frecuentemente trabajan en condiciones peligrosas, manejando sustancias químicas tóxicas, inhalando vapores nocivos y levantando pesos excesivos. Generalmente se les explota, están mal alimentados y mal pagados (cuando se les paga).

Aunque muchos países han adoptado leyes que prohíben el uso (y abuso) de los niños en la fuerza laboral, no hay que ser optimistas sobre las condiciones que afrontan los niños que trabajan. Esa conclusión surge de un hecho innegable: las familias de la mayoría de los niños trabajadores dependen de su labor para sobrevivir.

Dado que la mano de obra infantil significa mano de obra barata, con frecuencia los pequeños son más utilizables en economías en desarrollo plagadas por la recesión. El director de una mediana empresa de textiles en Bangladesh admite sin titubeos que el 70% de sus empleados tienen entre 13 y 17 años. "Ofrecen la misma productividad que los adultos", dice, "pero a una fracción del costo".

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