Children as young as 10 years old are being asked to go to work in Bolivia. According to legislation passed by Bolivia\'s congress, as long as work doesn't interfere with education and it's done independently so that the child helps the family make ends meet, then it should be fully sanctioned. 

The new legislation that suggests dropping the working age from 14 to 10 was passed in early July, making Bolivia the first nation to attempt to legalize 10-year-olds' participation in the nation's work force, according to the regional official with the U.N. International Labor Organization, Carmen Moreno. Moreno called the legislation "worrisome," mentioning that Bolivia was a signatory on a U.N. convention that set the minimum age for child labor at 14.

Bolivian lawmakers laid out specific conditions for employing children, requiring that employers follow certain criteria to ensure the physical and mental health of employed children, and to prevent child exploitation. Children may work for others from age 12, and may be self-employed from age 10.

Senator Adolfo Mendoza, co-sponsor of the bill, stressed that obligatory factors include a voluntary decision from the child to work, consent from a parent or guardian, and permission from the pubic ombudsman.

The controversial legislation was initiated to expand the Code for Children and Adolescents, which had no exceptions to the 14-year-old minimum. Many believe that the new legislation will help to alleviate the nation's extreme poverty and believe that children must work from an early age out of necessity. The bill's co-sponsor, Javier Zavaleta, even claimed that the legislation would help eradicate extreme poverty from the South American country by 2025. If signed into a law by the president, Evo Morales, the country would become the only nation in the world that allows legal employment at such a young age.

Despite supporters' belief that child labor will resolve poverty, many believe that child labor perpetuates it. Youth who work are more likely to miss school and will become cemented into a lifetime of low-wage work. Studies show that the education of school-aged children suffers when they have a job. They are often too tired to complete homework, maintain regular attendance, and they are much more likely to drop out of school. The opposition also pointed out that "voluntary" consent from a child means very little considering that children are likely unable to resist family pressures to go to work.

Economic hardship, in the short-term and the long-term, is unlikely to be resolved by child labor. It actually turns uneducated children into low-earning adults. As adults, they're also likely to send their own children to work, perpetuating the cycle of poverty throughout generations, creating a legacy of deficiency.

Human Rights Watch contributor Jo Becker stated that Bolivia's move was "out of step with the rest of the world," as other nations have decided to address child labor by installing more educational opportunities, providing poor families with cash transfers that alleviate the need for child labor, and enforcing child labor laws.

"Poor families may understandably be tempted to send their children to work in order to put food on the table. If the law says it's okay, they will be even more likely to do so," said Becker. "Instead of facilitating child labor, the Bolivian government should be investing in real solutions to lift children and their families out of poverty. President Morales should not sign this misguided bill into law."