Bolivia is a landlocked country in central South America, it has a population of 12 million and a varied geography, from the rugged Andes Mountains in the west to the lowland plains of the Amazon Basin.
Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982 after a series of coups and countercoups, but the Bolivians continue to face poverty, social unrest, illegal drug production – and the aftermaths of natural disasters, like the El Niño floodings in 2008. Despite recent economic growth and socioeconomic progress, Bolivia remains one of the poorest countries in South America. As a result, 7 to 16 percent of the population leaves the country to seek jobs abroad.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Bolivia since 1968.
In a country where agriculture and mining are some of the main economic activities, child labour remains a key issue that threatens the individual and collective future of children and young people.
14 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 are forced into child labour. They are often subjected to its worst forms, including commercial sexual exploitation, mining, or conducting dangerous tasks in agriculture. The Bolivian law does require that apprentices attend school – but it does not set a minimum age for participation in apprenticeships.
In Bolivia, 10% of young people aged between 15 and 24 years are unemployed and out of the education system. In urban areas, 23% of young people of upper secondary school age is not in school.
Only 45% of those aged 18 to 22 attend higher education. As a result, they don’t develop the skills to improve their economic situation. Their income often falls below the poverty line and they are at risk of becoming socially excluded.
In 2020, 6,300 Bolivian children died before reaching their fifth birthday. This number is a key indicator for child health and well-being – and for social and economic development, too.
The births of 8 % of these children were never registered, meaning they are denied that first step towards the protection of their individual rights. Children without official identification documents can be denied health care or education and in many cases they can more easily be forced to marry or work before the legal age.