Florida is a small administrative division in rural Uruguay with approximately 68,000 inhabitants. The city is known for agricultural activities, with many families living off cattle and sheep ranching, dairy farming and wine growing, which are key contributors to the economy.
Despite Uruguay’s economic growth, Florida continues to suffer from high levels of poverty, especially child poverty. Many children leave school at a young age to work. In total, an estimated 60,000 children and young people in Uruguay are forced into child labour.
Since 1990, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Florida.
Children living in Uruguay are disproportionally affected by poverty. Around 25% of children in Florida are living in poverty. Further, rural families (which make up the poorest 20% of the population) tend to have the largest number of children.
The labour markets in these areas were frail prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment rates rising from 8.3% in 2018 to 8.9% in 2019. The pandemic forced these families into taking extreme measures, and more children stopped their education to help contribute to the household.
It is estimated that 60,000 children and young people are working. Increasing arrests of children involved in commercial sexual exploitation have shed light on a growing concern of commercial sexual exploitation in rural Uruguay.
It is challenging to truly understand the extent of this child rights violation in Florida as reliable data on the worst forms of child labour are difficult to collect given the illegal nature of work. From the few reports collated by NGOs and media agencies, it is known that minors have resorted to sexual exploitation to gain income to support their families.