On June 17, 2014, Mexico amended Article 123 of its Federal Constitution, to increase the minimum age for employment from 14 to 15 years old.  The amendment, which became effective on June 18, 2014, seeks to protect the human rights of children, a principle in line with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Minimum Age Convention (No. 138).  Convention No. 138, adopted by the ILO in 1973, recommends that countries place severe restrictions on the employment and work of children, to allow them to finish compulsory schooling, which generally occurs at the age of 15, and protect them from hazardous work.  

Mexico’s constitutional amendment seeks to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, which ILO Convention No. 182 defines as any economic activity performed by children under 15 years old, which robs them of their childhood, limits their potential, affects their dignity and is deemed harmful to their physical and psychological development and well-being.  

Additionally, one of the objectives of this constitutional reform is to prevent child exploitation in Mexico and reduce the dropout rates at the junior and high school levels, particularly in rural areas.  Studies show that children who have dropped out of school in many cases end up being subjected to child slavery.  With this in mind and 41 years after the ILO adopted Convention No. 138, Mexico amended its Constitution to increase the minimum age for employment. 

Recommendations:

Given this constitutional amendment, employers should review and revise their corporate policies, including codes of conduct, employee handbooks, collective bargaining agreements, and internal work rules (“RITs,” or “reglamentos interiores de trabajo”).  As the law requires that RITs be filed with government agencies, employers should seek legal counsel to take immediate steps to come into compliance with this constitutional amendment.  

Companies should also be mindful of the trend within Mexico’s legislature to align Mexico’s labor laws to international labor standards enunciated by the ILO and similar international organizations.  As time progresses, this trend will likely require companies to implement corporate social responsibility programs to ensure the protection of workers’ human rights.