Colombia flag Colombia

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Index Score Global Average Due Diligence Response
Workplace Index
To what extent does the state protect children's rights in the workplace?
4.0 4.4 Enhanced
Marketplace Index
To what extent does the state regulate marketing and advertising, and ensure children are not harmed through product use?
2.9 4.6 Basic
Community and Environment Index
To what extent does the state encourage the responsible extraction and use of natural resources, limit damage to the environment, and protect children from displacement?
3.7 4.2 Enhanced

The following provides a brief analysis of the country data and scores behind the Atlas. To fully understand impacts on children’s rights, we encourage all companies to consult relevant industry analysis, and to conduct due diligence.


Credit: © UNICEF/UN0309967/Arcos

The end of the 60-year armed conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016 has opened new opportunities for business to contribute to improving the situation of millions of children and adolescents. However, despite recent improvements, Colombia's 18 million children continue to face numerous challenges, including poverty, on-going violence, and social disparity.

In 2018, the Colombian government implemented a National Strategy for Business and Children (Estrategia Nacional de Empresa y Niñez), supporting the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Human Rights and Business (2015). The National Strategy and NAP are based on a principle of ‘co-responsibility’ (or shared responsibility) between the private sector and the government set out in the Children and Adolescents Code.

Colombia’s NAP prioritises extractives, agricultural and infrastructure sectors as they generate greater social conflict and impacts on communities and children. All businesses, but particularly businesses in these sectors, should ensure that they incorporate children’s rights into approaches to human rights due diligence.


Colombia scores as enhanced due diligence in the Workplace Index. Colombia has a relatively strong legal framework supporting the elimination of child labour and decent work for parents and caregivers; however, Colombia’s overall score in the enhanced due diligence category can be attributed to indicators reflecting limited capacity to enforce labour laws and below-average social safety net programmes to protect vulnerable children.

  • Child labour

    Colombia is making significant progress on eliminating child labour. The government has ratified both International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions on child labour (No. 138 on Minimum Age and No. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour). The minimum age for full time employment is 15 years, and adolescents aged 15-17 are protected from hazardous work. A 2018 Ministry of Labour resolution updates the list of prohibited hazardous activities for adolescents under 18 years of age.

    In 2018, the Ministry of Labour has reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating child labour by establishing the National Public Policy for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labour (2017-2027). The Colombia Network against Child Labour was launched in 2014, led by the Ministry of Labour and Global Compact Red Colombia, and has 32 member companies and 15 strategic allies with educational institutions, United Nations programmes and agencies, and other key stakeholders.

    According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), the child labour rate among 5-17 year olds fell from 13% in 2011, to 7.8% in 2016 and 7.3% in 2017. Ibagué, Bucaramanga, Sincelejo and Bogotá are the cities with the highest child labour rates.

    Although there is limited available data, there are also reports of the worst forms of child labour, including hazardous work, sexual exploitation and trafficking. In 2015, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted high levels of children involved in hazardous work in agriculture and mining; in the same year, the ILO Committee of Experts also expressed concern at the rising number of child victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

  • Decent work for parents and caregivers

    Decent working conditions are critical for working parents to provide an adequate standard of living for their children. In particular, living wages and maternity and paternity protections are vital to parents’ ability to provide an adequate standard of living to their children, supporting their health, development and well-being.

    A significant portion of parents in Colombia have difficulty earning a living wage. The country’s minimum wage is adjusted each year in January, and is COP781,242 (US$262) per month in 2018. Average hourly earnings (US$597 per month according to the ILO) are below average in large part due to high rates of informal and precarious employment. According to World Bank data, 62% of non-agricultural employment is informal. Even in the formal sector, the increasing use of precarious forms of employment (i.e., temporary contracts) also affects wage levels.

    In 2017, Colombia increased the maternity leave entitlement from 14 to 18 weeks with full pay, which reflects the standard in ILO Recommendation No. 191 on Maternity Protection; although the government has not yet ratified ILO Convention No. 183 on Maternity Protections. Women have job protection throughout the paid leave period. Fathers are also entitled to 8 days of paternity leave, although they do not benefit from job protection.

    In practice, according to ILO data, less than two-thirds of women are entitled to maternity leave or benefit from income protection during maternity – also due to high rates of informal and precarious employment. Without a sufficient period of paid maternity leave, working mothers may be less able to provide an adequate standard of living for their families, and may be compelled to return to work before they and their infants are ready.


Colombia scores in the basic due diligence category in the Marketplace Index. Colombia has a strong legal framework on product safety and marketing and advertising. Nevertheless, high exposure of children to hazards online mean that businesses, particularly in the ICT industry, should increase due diligence efforts to ensure children’s protection.

  • Children’s online safety

    Colombia has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The country is also a member of the We Protect Global Alliance, an international movement dedicated to national and global action to end the sexual exploitation of children online. National laws prohibit the production, sale and consumption of child pornography, including online child sexual abuse material, and require Internet service providers to report instances.

    Nevertheless, online sexual exploitation and cyberbullying are growing concerns in Colombia. The Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the high number of organisations that are involved in sexual exploitation networks, in particular child pornography. Children are also particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying; according to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Children, Colombia is considered a high risk country for bullying.

  • Marketing and advertising to children

    Colombia has ratified key conventions on marketing to children, such as the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. National laws limit children’s exposure to harmful marketing by prohibiting the advertising of tobacco and alcohol products and restricting the marketing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods to children and adolescents. There is also a self-regulatory advertising code, which addresses marketing to children.

    Nevertheless, there are rising levels of obesity in Colombia linked to the marketing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods to children and parents. According to the latest WHO data, 24.3% of children and adolescents aged 5-19 years are overweight. These rates have increased despite government efforts to reduce marketing of HFSS foods to children. Food and beverage companies should ensure that due diligence efforts incorporate marketing practices which limit marketing of HFSS foods to children, adolescents and parents.

Community and Environment

Colombia scores as enhanced due diligence in the Community and Environment Index. Colombia’s score in this category can be attributed to the large number of children and families affected by violence, natural disasters and environmental challenges.

  • Help protect children affected by emergencies

    High rates of violence and conflict are some of the most serious challenges facing children in Colombia. The poorest regions in Colombia – where most rural, indigenous and Afro-descendant communities live – continue to face violence by non-state armed groups and illegal activities, including sexual exploitation, trafficking and use of children and adolescents in the illegal drug trade. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern over the ongoing recruitment of children into new paramilitary groups. Business should therefore ensure they carry out stringent due diligence in relation to the use of security forces to ensure respect for children’s rights.

    Children in Colombia are also affected by a variety of natural disasters including earthquakes and floods. In 2017, a series of floods and landslides displaced tens of thousands of people. Colombia scores 5.4/10 in INFORM for natural disaster risk, and 6.9/10 for flood risk in particular.

    Conflict and natural disasters increase the vulnerability of affected children to health risks, school disruption, displacement and separation. These situations often force people to move out of their house or communities on either short or long-term basis, which directly affects their livelihood. The Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID) estimates that there are over 6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia due to conflict and violence. In 2017, 139,000 people were newly displaced by conflict and violence, and a further 25,000 by natural disasters.

  • Children’s rights in relation to the environment

    Because they are still developing, children are particularly vulnerable to environmental impacts, such as air and water pollution, which can affect physical and cognitive development.

    Air and water pollution is one of the most serious environmental issues in Colombia. According to WHO data, 1 of every 100,000 deaths in children under five is attributable to ambient air pollution, and 0.8 of every 100,000 to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. In particular, the extractives (HYPERLINK) and agricultural industries can generate severe water pollution and should identify the risk towards children of their emissions.

Further reading

UNICEF Colombia, Business Self-Assessment Toolkit

UNICEF Colombia and Deloitte Colombia, What are companies doing for children in Colombia?, 2017

UNICEF Colombia

UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2017

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Index Colombia
Workplace Index 4.0
Marketplace Index 2.9
Community and Environment Index 3.7



Community and Environment

  • Basic: 0 - 3.33
  • Enhanced: 3.33 - 6.67
  • Heightened: 6.67 - 10

Due diligence response: Score