Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Merike Blofield

Second Committee Member

Michael Touchton

Third Committee Member

Douglas O. Fuller


On August 4 2014, the Law N. 548 Boy, Girl and Adolescent Code (Ley No. 548 Código de Niña, Niño y Adolescente) went into force in the Plurinartional State of Bolivia (Liebel, 2014: 1). According to the legislative provisions, Bolivia officially legalizes the socioeconomic existence of child labor and reduces the minimum age of entry into labor market to 10 years old, rendering it the lowest in the entire globe (Greenwood, 2014). Bucking the interntional trend of restrictive child labor regulation, the law leaves the country at odds with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations (UN), who advocate combating and ultimately eliminating child employment. The new code also marks a stark departure from the nation’s preceding legislative course, where the Bolivian government had demonstrated compliance with the abolitionist principle at all levels of its normative framework. Against the backdrop of unprecedented policymaking, my thesis seeks to uncover the political formulation of the Law N. 548 and rationalize the causal forces that have made it imaginable. Through outcome-explaining process tracing, this research reveals three contributing factors for a highly controversial public matter to be legalized: 1). the prevailing, problematic and persistent presence of the issue; 2). a resourceful and proactive civil society movement rooting for the institutional recognition; 3). a nationalistic state who finds the proteccionista cause culturally relatable and politically accountable.


Bolivia; child labor; reform; minimum age; legalization