Letter: Child labour in Portugal

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The Independent Online
From Mr Rui Knopfli

Sir: I am writing with reference to your article on child labour in Portugal ("Portugal's children reap bitter harvest", 17 October). Of course, there is no denying the existence of child labour in Portugal. However, your article fails to convey a few important facts that could help to clarify the picture.

First, this kind of work is not a widespread phenomenon but occurs only in very specific areas of northern Portugal. And second,you do not refer to any measures already taken to combat the problem.

These includes legislative measures, such as the "Time to Grow" campaign, the strengthening of labour inspection and increasing the years of compulsory schooling from six to nine, so that no one can work before the age of 16 without proof of having attended school. As a result of these and other measures, child labour has decreased substantially in last two years.

The efforts of the Portuguese government to combat the problem were recognised by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 7 June 1995 when it noted "with satisfaction the campaigns conducted against ... child labour".

Yours faithfully,

Rui Knopfli

Press Counsellor

Portuguese Embassy

London, SW1