US Department of Labour’s efforts to combat child, forced labour in Mexico
The US Department of Labour (DOL) has awarded up to $12.4 million in grant funding for three organisations – Verite, Pan American Development Foundation and International Labour Organisation – to combat child and forced labour in Mexico and support migrant labourers.
The move marks a significant development in combating concerning forms of child labour. The DOL’s Bureau of International Labour Affairs (ILAB) had previously suggested more than 17,000 children are involved in apparel, footwear and leather production in Mexico.
In 2022, the country made moderate advancements in efforts to eliminate child labour. But children in Mexico are involved in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and illicit activities such as production and trafficking of drugs.
State of child and forced labour in Mexico
Children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture. 55.2% of all employment in Mexico occurs in the informal sector. But federal and some state-level labour inspectors perform inspections in that sector only after receiving formal complaints.
Moreover, the Secretariat of Labour and Social Welfare doesn’t appear to have an internal system to track cases of child labour violations, and the hundreds of federal labour inspectors in Mexico are likely insufficient to cover the country’s millions of labourers.
The 2022 research by DOL’s Bureau of International Labour Affairs also suggested that criminal law enforcement agencies tend to lack human and financial resources, and social programmes to prevent and eliminate child labour in the country are insufficient.
Funding considers US obligations in US-Mexico-Canada agreement
In regards to the recent move from the US Department of Labour, the funding includes $4.4 million to Verite, in order to increase locally-led actions that address child labour and forced labour in the municipalities of Chiapas and San Luis Potosí.
The department has also awarded $5 million to the Pan American Development Foundation to address different forms of labour violations in Mexico and promote the rights of workers in the domestic work sector in Mexico City and Queretaro.
The project is set to offer a series of services to promote labour rights for domestic workers, including skills training and access to legal and social services. In addition, the DOL has also awarded $3 million to the ILO to advance protections for migrants’ labour rights.