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To what extent does the state protect children's rights in the workplace?
To what extent does the state regulate marketing and advertising, and ensure children are not harmed through product use?
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?
The following narrative provides a brief analysis of the data behind the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas and is meant to be a general guide for businesses in integrating child rights considerations into human rights due diligence. To fully understand impacts on children’s rights, we encourage all companies to consult relevant industry guidance, and to take steps to align policies, procedures and practices to the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) and Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBPs).
Credit: © UNICEF/UNI177021/Richter
There are 39.2 million children in Mexico. Factors such as high rates of poverty and violence contribute to large disparities in the realisation of children’s rights in the country.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Workplace Index, companies operating in, or sourcing from, Mexico should exercise moderate due diligence. Mexico scores 4.7 out of 10 in the Index, due primarily to working conditions of parents and caregivers and child labour.To respect and support children’s rights in the workplace, businesses should:
Contribute to the elimination of child labour
The government of Mexico has ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age Protections and No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Mexican laws establish 15 as the minimum age for employment, and prohibit hazardous work by those under 18 years of age. In recent years, the Mexican government has reaffirmed its commitment to eliminating child labour by creating the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labour and Protection of Adolescent Workers of Legal Working Age in Mexico (CTI). In 2017, the Labour Ministry also signed a collaboration agreement with the National System for the Integral Development of the Family to increase the activities of both agencies in the eradication of child labour.
According to government data, 12.4% of children in Mexico aged 5-17 years are engaged in child labour. Of all the child workers in the country, most (69%) are adolescents aged 14-17. However, 31% are 5-13 years old, which means they have not reached the legal working age. In general, child labour is much more prevalent in rural areas (21% of children aged 5-17) than urban areas (9%). Farming is the most common sector for child labour, with 29% of all workers aged 5-17 engage in activities related to farming and agriculture (including livestock). The second most common industry for child workers is in commerce (25%), followed by services (23%), manufacturing (14%) and construction (6%).
Child labour is driven largely by poverty, limited access to education and migration. According to UNESCO data, 7% of children of lower secondary school age and 32% of upper secondary school age are out of school. Out of school children are particularly vulnerable to child labour, as are migrant and indigenous children. Child labour is linked to migration, and many working children in Mexico are internal or international migrants. Children typically migrate for economic reasons, to support their families and themselves, and to finance their journey in the case of international migrants. Child migrants are most likely to work in the informal sector, receiving low salaries, without benefiting from social security, and facing high risk of labour and sexual exploitation.
Provide decent work for parents and caregivers
Working conditions of parents and caregivers can impact on the development, health and survival of children. Mexico has ratified ILO Convention No. 95 on the Protection of Wages, No. 131 on Minimum Wage Fixing and No. 14 on Weekly Rest. However, the normal work week is 48 hours, and workers benefit from just six days of paid annual leave each year, which is below the ILO standard of four paid weeks per year (ILO Recommendation No. 179). Long working hours and limited paid annual leave impacts the ability of parents and caregivers to spend sufficient time with their children.
Although there is a legally mandated minimum wage, it is not sufficient to allow a family to meet the basic needs of children, since it is lower than the well-being line defined by the government. Income inequalities between women and men are still a critical concern, and men earn on average 34% more than women. Mexico has yet to ratify ILO Convention No. 156 on Workers with Family Responsibilities.
Women are entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave at 100% of earnings covered by social security benefits, and fathers are entitled to five days of paid paternity leave. ILO Convention No. 183 on Maternity Protections stipulates a minimum period of 14 weeks of maternity leave; however, Mexico has not yet ratified this convention. With an adequate period of paid maternity leave, mothers are more likely to return to work after leave, and to be better supported in exclusively breastfeeding for six months as recommended for child health by UNICEF and WHO guidelines.
Despite national laws that mandate that companies support breastfeeding in the workplace by installing nursing and lactation rooms, exclusive breastfeeding rates are very low in Mexico (14.8%) and even lower for working mothers (10.8%). To address this challenge, companies can consider offering additional paid parental leave, and should implement the recommendations of the law by providing nursing women paid nursing breaks and nursing rooms in workplaces. To provide full support for breastfeeding in the workplace, they can use also the guidelines of the Mexican Social Security Institute and UNICEF.
Regarding the provision of other social protection benefits, Mexico has a very fragmented set of child care programmes that do not reach all working parents with young children, especially the poorest ones. Taking this into account, companies operating in Mexico should consider the vulnerabilities of working parents and support them, when possible, with the provision of adequate child care benefits.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Marketplace Index, companies operating in, or sourcing from Mexico should exercise moderate due diligence. Mexico scores 2.9 out of 10 in the Index, due in large parts to ongoing concerns surrounding the sexual exploitation of children, and rising rates of obesity in children linked with marketing and advertising of food and beverage products. To respect and support children’s rights in the marketplace, businesses should:
Ensure that products and services are safe
Although reliable data on online child sexual exploitation is difficult to find, reports suggest that Mexico is one of the top source countries for the production and distribution of child pornography.
Child sexual exploitation is identified as a strong concern for businesses operating in Mexico’s travel and tourism industry. Hotels may inadvertently be linked to the sexual exploitation of children by perpetrators who make use of their premises to harm children. Mexico’s government has identified Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez as destinations where international and domestic tourists are involved in the sexual exploitation of children. Many hotels across Mexico have signed and implemented the government’s National Code for the Protection of Children and Adolescents in Travel and Tourism, which outlines six guidelines for companies to tackle the challenges of child sexual and labour exploitation.
Businesses operating in Mexico’s travel and tourism industry should strengthen their due diligence procedures by signing the National Code for the Protection of Children and Adolescents in the Travel and Tourism Sector. Companies should also ensure that safeguards are in place to protect children from sexual exploitation in businesses activities and at facilities. They can also promote the extension of this initiative at the industry level, both in the formal and informal economies.
Ensure marketing and advertising respect and support children’s rights
Child obesity rates in Mexico have increased by as much as 40% in the past 20 years. Obesity contributes to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer, as well as reduced mobility and breathing problems. In November 2017, Diabetes and obesity were declared national epidemiological emergencies by the Secretary of Health. In recent years, the government has implemented some initiatives to address the situation. For example, in 2014 a successful sugar tax on soft drinks was introduced to reduce obesity rates, particularly among children and young people. The government also implemented nutrition labelling, although there are still challenges to overcome. The government has also promoted the reduction of television advertising for high calorie food and soft drinks, but it has not yet translated into effective results.
Food and beverage companies should ensure that marketing practices are in line with national legislation and do not have harmful impacts on children’s health and development. Companies may wish to go beyond Mexico’s self-regulatory marketing and advertising code for food and non-alcoholic beverages, as many of the provisions are not in line with WHO recommendations, and make sure that the content of sugar, fat and salt is very clear for the Mexican consumer. They should also make sure that the nutritional profiles of their products are not harmful for children, and do not contribute to obesity.
Community and Environment
According to the Children’s Rights in the Community and Environment Index, companies operating in, or sourcing from, Mexico should exercise moderate due diligence. Mexico scores 3.8 out of 10 in the Index. Children in the country are significantly affected by violence, natural disasters and environmental challenges such as air pollution. To respect and support children’s rights in the community and environment, businesses should:
Help protect children affected by emergencies
High rates of violence and conflict are some of the top challenges facing children in Mexico. A 2017 UNICEF report highlighted that 9 out of every 100,000 adolescents aged 10-19 are killed due to homicide, and nearly 40% of children aged 5-14 years experience violent discipline. Mexico scores 9.0/10 in the Index for Risk Management (INFORM) for human conflict risk, a risk index for humanitarian crises and disasters.
Children in Mexico are also affected by a variety of natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. In 2017, two consecutive earthquakes destroyed or damaged schools and disrupted children’s access to education, affecting more than 4 million children and seriously damaging more than 16,000 schools. Mexico scores 7/10 in INFORM for natural disaster risk, and 8.5/10 for earthquake risk in particular.
Natural disasters and conflict 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 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mexico, including children. In 2016, 12,000 people (including children) were newly displaced by natural disasters and a further 23,000 by conflict.
Companies in Mexico should therefore consider the vulnerabilities of children in their context of operation, and support and promote advocacy toward the public sector to reduce the vulnerabilities of children at risk of conflict and natural disasters.
Ensure children’s rights are respected 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. Companies seeking to have zero impact on the environment and natural resources must ensure that their activities do not have a particular impact on children.
Air pollution is one of the most serious environmental issues in Mexico City. Each year, over 30,000 deaths in Mexico are attributable to air pollution, and according to WHO data, 2 of every 100,000 deaths is in children under five. In urban areas, concentrations of particulate matter can reach 31 (Pm2.5), and air pollution can be particularly problematic in Mexico City.
Water pollution is also a serious challenge in Mexico. According to the National Committee of Water, nearly 70% of Mexican rivers present some type of contamination. The extractives, agricultural and transformative industries can generate severe water pollution and should identify the risk towards children of their emissions.
Respect and support indigenous children’s rights in relation to land acquisition and use
While the Mexican government has ratified ILO Convention No. 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, there is no clear legal framework in place for protecting the land rights of indigenous communities. There are ongoing reports of land acquisition without adequate community free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and consultation, particularly in indigenous areas. Children can be negatively impacted by acquisition in a number of ways, including being less able to access education and healthcare when parents lose their livelihoods as a result of resettlement.
Companies operating in energy, infrastructure and extractives industries should carry out enhanced due diligence to ensure that their operations respect the land rights of indigenous peoples, including children, in Mexico
UNICEF, 2017, State of the World’s Children, available at: https://data.unicef.org/
UNICEF Mexico, 2017, country website, available at: https://www.unicef.org/mexico/spanish/
UNICEF Mexico, 2016, Baseline on children rights & business in Mexico: https://www.business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/DLA_Piper%20_Linea_Base.pdf
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