Many of those who have seen the film, found difficult not break into tears.
Coco, premiered in 2017, is an animated film of a 12-year-old Mexican boy (Miguel) who dreams of being a musician. Now, the reason for this entry it's not intended to talk about everything that happens in this beautiful film, but a small piece of this story can help us to introduce the issue of child labor and its implications for migrant children.
The movie shows how Miguel has learned from the family business: footwear. He collaborates with his family and, although not much detail is shown about this part of his life, at first glance, it does not seem that his help, making shoes, qualifies as child labor. However, it is quite common to define "child labor" as depriving children of their (1) potential, (2) their dignity and (3) their childhood, which affects their physical and psychological development. Here is the key! Miguel did not want to dedicate himself to the family business, nor did he enjoy it, he wanted to invest his time in becoming a musician! Clearly, the work done in this case represented an obstacle to his potential as a musician, a lack of dignity as a human being with preferences, and an attack to his childhood, when his family forbade him to even have a guitar.
Outside of "Coco", in the real world, and for many children, reality can be much more difficult than the obstacle to music that Miguel suffered, particularly when we talk about migrant children. Just like for adults, migration can be a positive experience for children, if it is carried out in a regular, safe and orderly manner; it may even represent an improvement in their quality of life. Likewise, migrating is a solution for many of them when they must escape from contexts of violence, crisis, natural disasters or the threat of forced marriage. However, when children migrate irregularly and unaccompanied, highly vulnerable conditions can be generated for this population.
On the other hand, child labor does not allow the proper integral development of children, since fundamental rights such as education, recreation, and even the right to play, are limited. When child migration occurs with work purposes and irregularly, the risks are even higher. Many of them do not travel with the right documentation, or even with a false one, which forces them to accept job offers in deplorable conditions. During their journey, it's possible they might receive offers in which the agreed conditions are changed upon arrival to the country of destination (facing working more hours, low payments, health risks, etc.)
According to estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2016 there were 152 million children in child labor worldwide, of which 73 million were in the condition of "hazardous labor". 70.9% were dedicated to agriculture, and as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of the most dangerous occupations for children of our economy. Many of these children are irregular migrants who may have access to basic services because of their immigration status.
The case of Guatemala.
In order of a better understanding of the consequences of child labor in migrant children, it’s interesting to observe a case of a country in our region: Guatemala, where part of Guatemalan children migrate unaccompanied to Mexico and the United States. A study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Guatemala investigated the relationship of migrant children with child labor. The study indicates that among the main reasons for migration of this population is seeking for job opportunities.
Another finding determined that "more than 90% of the unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents returned to Guatemala do not meet the required schooling. This percentage increases in the group that performed some type of work, which suggests that the time dedicated to productive activities limits the possibilities of integral development of this population ".
The 2030 Agenda.
We cannot doubt that as human beings, we must ensure the complete eradication of child labor, as established in goal 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals: "... ensure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and, by 2025, put an end to child labor in all its forms". It is also reinforced in goal 16.2: "Put an end to mistreatment, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children."
If you haven’t done so, watch Coco and discover how Miguel found his way to music. Let’s work together to avoid depriving children of their potential, their dignity and their childhood.
About the author
Jean Pierre Mora Casasola is a Communications Specialist at IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. He has served as a consultant in different social organizations and in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). He holds a Degree in Advertising from the University “Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología” (ULACIT), and he is currently getting a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at the same university. Twitter: @jeanpierremora