LA PAZ (TIP): Bolivian lawmakers have approved child workers as young as 10 years old, under a new law that lays out specific conditions for employing children. Congress passed the measure by consensus on July 2, requiring employers to follow certain criteria to ensure the physical and mental health of employed children, and to prevent child exploitation.

“The age limit, as defined formally by the Code for Children and Adolescents, is 14 years old,” Senator Adolfo Mendoza said after the enactment of the bill, which he co-sponsored. But the new code allows exceptions, when specific legal criteria have been met, so that children may begin “working for others from age 12, which is allowed by international conventions, and self-employment from age 10.”

The senator stressed that required factors include a voluntary decision from the child to work, consent from the parent or guardian and permission from the public ombudsman. “The request is then filed with the Labor Ministry,” Mendoza said. The previous code, which allowed no exceptions to the 14-year-old minimum, had prompted protests from critics who stressed that, in Bolivia, children must work from an early age out of necessity.