Back in July this year Bolivia controversially announced that it had lowered it’s legal working age from 14 (the international lower limit) to 10.
With one million children aged five to 17 making up to 15% of the workforce, the rationale for the change in law has been positioned by the bills sponsors as a positive step towards:
1. Better protecting some of the children already working illegally
Instead of ‘persecuting’ them the bill would allow their employment so long as they have enrolled in school, have the permission of their parents and that those of 10-12 years are self-employed.
2. Allowing families to supplement their income with another wage
Alleviating the financial burdens of the vast numbers of Bolivians living in poverty.
A positive step to reduce poverty or a shameful glimpse at Bolivia’s society?
The legislation met with mixed views and reactions in the western world. Where all agreed that encouraging child labour as a principle is unacceptable, there were mixed views on whether the bill would aid or worsen Bolivians’ child labour and poverty dilemmas.
Using SB Tribe’s social influencing tools we took a look behind the headlines to see what sentiment was being perpetrated across social channels.
A negative bias from those influencing the debate on social channels…
Approximately 45% of comments supported a negative response, with the majority supporting The Guardian in their view that “Bolivia’s child labour law shames us all”
Looking even deeper at forum debate and conversation, negative sentiment provided views that the bill:
Will only make poverty worse
As it is likely to have an adverse effect on the quality of the children’s education, restricting their options to low-skilled cheaper work in the future.
As child labour is cheaper, removing opportunities for higher paid adults
(And, to paraphrase)
Is illegal, contravenes human rights and is tantamount to slavery
Conversely, 14% supported Forbes more paradoxical outcome that “Bolivia legalises child labour and child labour might decline in Bolivia” The thinking being that parents only send their children to work if absolutely needed. Therefore if illegal labour = cheaper labour = more children needed to work, then theoretically it is plausible that legal labour = better pay = less children needed to work.
The remainder shared and re-tweeted their interest in the debate by simply reporting the fact.
Whatever the view, it’s got our attention, spurring a reaction from 1.3m of us in a single day!
Beyond sentiment it is undeniable that the announcement of the bill struck a sizeable chord as social chatter and sharing spurred 1600 mentions during 15-22 July. A ‘smallish’ group of influencers that was responsible for propagating a social punch of 676k average daily impressions, with a period high of 1.3m impressions on 20 July.
Impressively, those outside the usual media circles largely drove the debate. Data suggests that the issue broke beyond those with professional interest and was actually ignited by social influencers from broader professions. Taking the issue from niche conversation into mass awareness.
Who has the final word?
From the size of the debate and the complexity of the issue it seems that there is no quick or clear resolution to this challenge.
It has been argued that the bill has succeeded more in raising awareness of Bolivia’s underlying issues with poverty and reinvigorating support against child labour than it has to provide a logical solution to a more complex economic and social challenge.