Bolivia Legalizes Work by Children as Young as 10

A 2008 study done by the ILO and Bolivian government found that 850,000 children ages 5 to 17 were working in Bolivia, roughly half in the countryside and half in the cities. Nearly nine in 10 were in the worst kinds of jobs, including sugar cane harvesting and underground mining, a proven life-shortener.

More recent statistics are lacking, but it's estimated that 1 million Bolivian children work regularly, accounting for 15 percent of the workforce. They toil in textiles, on farms and as street vendors, coca leaf pickers and porters at markets.

One in three don't attend school, studies show.

For Alicia, a childhood of play and leisure is not an option, especially since her father died two years ago. She says some days she is so tired from standing constantly that studying is difficult.

"There are days when I want to go out and have fun like those children I see go to the movie theater, but I see the effort my mother makes and I forget about all that," she said. "How can I rest when she doesn't?"

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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.

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