Bolivian politicians have approved child workers as young as 10 years old, under a new law that lays out specific conditions for their employment.

Congress passed the measure by consensus on Wednesday, requiring employers to ensure the physical and mental health of employees, and prevent exploitation.

"The age limit, as defined formally by the Code for Children and Adolescents, is 14 years old," senator Adolfo Mendoza said after the enactment of the bill, which he co-sponsored.

But the new code allows exceptions, when specific legal criteria have been met, so that children may begin "working for others from age 12, which is allowed by international conventions, and self-employment from age 10."

The senator stressed that required factors included a voluntary decision from the child to work, consent from the parent or guardian and permission from the public ombudsman.

Extreme poverty

The previous code, which allowed no exceptions to the 14-year-old minimum, had prompted protests from critics who said that, in Bolivia, children must work from an early age out of necessity.

The bill's co-sponsor, Javier Zavaleta, said it would help eradicate extreme poverty from the South American country by 2025.

The measure also establishes policies for adopting children, care and education of children with physical disabilities, and a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail for violent infanticides.

It was sent to the president, Evo Morales, to be signed into law.

Source: AFP