Child labor, in North America and Western Europe, is largely a thing of the past.
But it is alive and flourishing in many other places around the world.
Here in Brazil there is legislation against it.
Kids aren't supposed to enter the labor force until they’re eighteen years old.
But, according to the most recent statistics, more than one million of them between the ages of ten and fourteen already have.
In recent years, the federal government has been doing its level best to crack down. But it’s difficult to get the laws to “stick” in the more poverty-stricken regions of Brazil’s north and northeast.
In the semi-arid regions of Bahia, for example, more than 800,000 kids, some under the age of five, are to be found working on small landholdings.
The presence of federal agents, in such regions, is thin on the ground.
Schools are few and far-between.
Transportation is lacking.
But the problem is also a cultural one: child labor is encouraged by parents, and supported by the community.
Complaints to the authorities are rare. And, when they come, the people who made them are often ostracized by their neighbors.
More monitoring is needed, more subsidies to the poor, more education directed toward the caregivers of the exploited children.
Things are changing. But all too slowly.
Thereby condemning at least another generation of kids to a life in which their lack-of-education is bound to result in the perpetuation of grinding poverty.
Visiting some of these regions, seeing some of these kids, is enough to make a grown man cry.
And I have.
Leighton - Monday