Child labour in the urban informal economy of a Latin American border region



Ключевые слова:

child labour, Triple Frontier, informal economy, exploitation, children’s rights


The article describes the phenomenon of child labour in the informal urban economy of a region known as the Triple Frontier located between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where some of the worst forms of child labour with distinctive regional features are present. At the Triple Frontier, tensions between global and local dimensions shape an interconnected and diverse space marked by inequality and asymmetries. For children and adolescents in vulnerable situations, border cities offer an opportunity to establish an income for themselves or their families through economic activities in the urban informal sector. However, the convergence of three national states, along with the sheer length and porousness of borders in the region, also allows the persistence of the worst forms of child labour, including trafficking for sexual or labour exploitation.

Even though the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by almost every country in the world, the extent of their compliance varies greatly. Historically there have been (at least) two types of childhood: that with a guarantee of inclusion in traditional socialisation mechanisms and excluded childhood, where the rights of children are not guaranteed. In the latter case, children will have a different recognition of their rights depending on their socioeconomic background. In the Triple Frontier region, poverty is criminalised, and children from vulnerable backgrounds would be subject to criminal law enforcement to the detriment of the rights established in the Convention.

The article focuses on how working children inhabit and appropriate urban space in order to maximise economic opportunity while at the same time minimising considerable risks. The voices of working children are also included, as they are fundamental for understanding child labour as a strategy to deal with social precariousness.

Библиографические ссылки

Castel, R. (2015) Las trampas de la exclusión: Trabajo y utilidad social [The traps of exclusion: Work and social utility]. Buenos Aires: Topía Editorial Publ., 87 p. (Colección Fichas para el Siglo XXI). (In Spanish)

Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. [Online]. Available at: (accessed 01.08.2021). (In English)

Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020: Technology and the future of jobs (2020). [Online]. Available at: https:// (accessed 01.08.2021). (In English)

Pahl, R. E. (1984) Divisions of labour. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publ., 362 p. (In English)