Protests Grow in Peru Over Youth Labor Law

Sides clash over divisive legislation to formalize youth employment, while hackers bring down government websites

Published by Anadolu Agency Jan 16

Violent clashes between demonstrators and police erupted as thousands marched for the fourth time in a month in the capital to protest a youth labor law.

Lima’s historic center became a scene of chaos as police fired volleys of tear gas at protestors as the peaceful rally turned fraught Thursday nıght.

Police made 20 arrests with 16 officers injured, as some protestors attacked officers with sticks according to news reports. Marches in 11 other cities were nonviolent.

Young people hold a banner which reads "Dignified work" before the peaceful march turned violent Thursday night (photo: Anadolu Agency)
Young people hold a banner which reads “Dignified work, Repeal the labor law” before the peaceful march turned violent Thursday night (photo: Anadolu Agency)

Congress passed controversial legislation in December to tackle widespread unemployment and informal employment of young people. Almost nine in 10 youths work informally, according to official statistics, without contracts or access to social security.

Part of a series of stimulus packages to kick start investment in 2014 as growth sagged, the new law puts 18-to 24-year-olds on payroll, gives 15 days annual leave and includes state-paid work insurance.

But employees are denied social benefits such as bonuses, a share in company profits and service compensation fund, while halving holiday time from 30 days.

“We don’t want to be cheap, exploited labor,” one female protestor said.

More than 60 percent of Peruvians are against the law, a survey by pollster Datum said Friday. The poll interviewed 1,200 people and had a 2.8 percent margin of error.

The opposition said the law was hastily passed and has triggered a Jan. 28 congressional debate on the law’s modification or repeal, after gathering enough signatures this week.

A protestor pushes a blazing trash can in downtown Lima. Police made 20 arrests (photo: Anadolu Agency)
A protestor pushes a blazing trash can in downtown Lima. Police made 20 arrests (photo: Anadolu Agency)

Reform of Peru’s sclerotic labor market is overdue say analysts.

Peru’s private industry confederation, Confiep, estimates the law could see 2 million employees enter the workforce.

Carlos Adrianzen, an economist at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences described the labor market as “hell” in a Dec. 31 column in Lima daily El Comercio.

“It puts together growing stocks of fuel (an unqualified labor force of low productivity and employability) with a fragile detonator (labor legislation that’s naïve and disincentivises job creation),” Adrianzen wrote.

While an estimated 5,000 of youths and trade unions marched, hackers Anonymous Peru brought down 12 government websıtes, including those of Congress, Lima City Hall and the Interior Ministry.

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