Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December 2014, 14:40 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - El Salvador

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - El Salvador, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748eac.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     8/13/1996
Ratified Convention 182     10/12/2000
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan (Commercial Sexual Exploitation)

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 10.2 percent of children ages 5 to 14 were counted as working in El Salvador in 2003. Approximately 13.7 percent of all boys ages 5 to 14 were working compared to 6.5 percent of girls in the same age group. The majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (51.2 percent), followed by services (35.3 percent), manufacturing (12.4 percent), and other (1.1 percent).1651 Almost 70 percent of working children were found in rural areas.1652 More than 60 percent of working children work without pay in informal family farms and family businesses.1653 Children also work in fishing (small-scale family or private businesses), fireworks manufacturing, shellfish harvesting, sugar cane harvesting, and garbage scavenging.1654 Some children work long hours as domestic servants in third-party homes.1655 Children from poor families, as well as orphans, work as street vendors1656 and general laborers in small businesses, primarily in the informal sector.1657 The 2003 Multiple Purpose Household Survey revealed that 23 percent of children ages 5 to 17 years were employed in sales, hotels, and restaurants.1658 Child Labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 2000, 31.1 percent of the population in El Salvador were living on less than USD 1 a day.1659

Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, especially girls, is a problem in El Salvador.1660 El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Salvadoran girls are trafficked to Mexico, Canada, the United States, and other Central American countries. Some children are also trafficked internally from rural areas to urban areas, port cities, and border regions.1661 Children from Nicaragua, Honduras, and South America have been trafficked to bars in major Salvadoran cities, where they are then forced to engage in prostitution.1662 Girls ages 12 to 19 years, adolescents lacking formal education, adolescent mothers, single mothers, foreign girls, and persons from rural and poor areas are at special risk of becoming trafficking victims.1663

Education is free and compulsory through the ninth grade.1664 Although laws prohibit impeding children's access to school for being unable to pay school fees or wear uniforms, some schools continued to charge school fees to cover budget shortfalls.1665 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 113 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 90 percent.1666 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2003, approximately 80.4 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years attended school.1667 The 2003 Multiple Purpose Household Survey found that 8.6 percent of children ages 7 to 15 years did not attend school because of work duties.1668 In 2002, 74 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.1669 Gaps in coverage and quality of education between rural and urban areas persist.1670 UNDP data indicates that while children attend school for an average of 5.3 years at the national level, the average drops to 3.2 years in rural areas.1671 Many students in rural areas attend classes below their grade level or drop out by the sixth grade due to lack of financial resources and in order to work.1672

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code and the Constitution set the minimum age for employment at 14 years.1673 Children ages 12 to 14 can be authorized to perform light work, as long as it does not harm their health and development or interfere with their education.1674 Children under 16 years of age are prohibited from working more than 7 hours per day or more than 34 hours per week, regardless of the type of work. Children under the age of 18 are prohibited from working at night.1675 Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the Constitution, except in cases specified by the law.1676 The Constitution makes military service compulsory between the ages of 18 and 30, but voluntary service can begin at age 16.1677

In October 2004, legislation was approved prohibiting all forms of trafficking in persons.1678 The Police Anti-Trafficking Unit arrested and charged 15 traffickers and rescued 19 minors between October 2004 and February 2005. The government's child protection agency, ISNA, provides shelter, counseling, and legal assistance to rescued victims and children at risk of being trafficked.1679 Criminal penalties for trafficking range from 4 to 8 years of imprisonment, and increase by one-third if the victim is under the age of 18 years.1680 El Salvador's Penal Code does not criminalize prostitution.1681 However, the Penal Code provides for penalties of 8 to 12 years of imprisonment for the inducement, facilitation, or promotion of prostitution of a person younger than 18 years old.1682 Amendments to the Penal Code designate commercial sexual exploitation of children as a crime, and trafficking and child pornography as organized crimes, providing for harsher penalties.1683 Since 1999, the Government of El Salvador has submitted to the ILO a list or an equivalent document identifying the types of work that it has determined are harmful to the health, safety or morals of children under Convention 182 and Convention 138.1684

Enforcing child labor laws is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor.1685 According to the U.S. Department of State, labor inspectors focus on the formal sector where child labor is less frequent and few complaints of child labor are presented.1686 The State Department also reports that government agencies responsible for combating trafficking were poorly funded.1687

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of El Salvador continues to participate in a national Timebound Program, funded by USDOL and implemented by ILO-IPEC, to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and provide education and other services to vulnerable children. The Timebound Program focuses on eliminating exploitative child labor in fireworks production, fishing, sugar cane harvesting, commercial sexual exploitation, and garbage dumps scavenging.1688 As part of the Timebound Program's efforts, a labor inspector manual has been developed and several child labor-specific training sessions were carried out during 2005. In addition, questions on child labor were included in the Ministry of Education's 2004 Matriculation Census.1689 The Ministry of Labor is working with the Association of Sugar Producers to monitor the situation of child labor in the sugar cane industry.1690 The Government of El Salvador launched a 2005-2009 anti-poverty plan, which seeks to improve education indicators in the country's poorest municipalities, and incorporates a child labor component.1691 During the year, the National Civilian Police launched an Institutional Plan to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation, including of children.1692 In late 2004, Government's National Steering Committee for the Progressive Elimination of Child Labor launched efforts to build a National Plan for Eradicating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in El Salvador.1693 Progress has been reported in 2005, with numerous consultations taking place among government agencies, employers, workers, and NGO representatives in the drafting of the Plan. The draft is pending finalization.1694

The government is also participating in a USDOL-funded Central America regional Child Labor Education Initiative project to strengthen government and civil society's capacity to address the educational needs of working children.1695 With support from the Government of Italy, ILO-IPEC is carrying out a regional project to reduce children scavenging at garbage dumps.1696

In addition to participating in the ILO-IPEC Timebound Program, the Ministry of Education supports a number of programs to increase the quality and coverage of education. These programs include, among others: Healthy School Program,1697 The Open-School Program,1698 APREMAT,1699 EDUCO,1700 Accelerated School Program,1701 Multi-Grade School Program,1702 Distance-Learning Program,1703 and a scholarship program.1704 The Ministry also operates a hotline for the public to report school administrators who illegally charge students school fees.1705 The Ministry of Education has developed a National Education Plan extending to 2021, which incorporates a child labor component.1706

The Ministry of Education continues to implement a World Bank-funded 8-year Education Reform Project to improve and expand coverage, quality, and efficiency of pre-school and basic education, with a particular emphasis on rural and marginalized urban areas.1707 The IDB's 4 ½-year Social Peace Program Support Project, which targets 200,000 children and adolescents, continues to operate in municipalities with the highest rate of crime affecting young people – both as victims and offenders. The project includes provision of services to child victims of violence, efforts to prevent violence among adolescents, and efforts to rehabilitate young offenders through job training scholarships and enhancement of the educational system.1708 USAID's Earthquake Reconstruction Program is supporting the government's restoration of social infrastructure, including reconstructing and equipping schools and child care centers.1709


1651 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, October 7, 2005. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

1652 This figure is based on the number of working children ages 5 to 17. See ILO-IPEC, Entendiendo el Trabajo Infantil en El Salvador, Geneva, 2003, 16, 22; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/spanish/standards/ipec/simpoc/elsalvador/report/sv2001.pdf.

1653 This figure is based on the number of working children ages 5 to 17. See Ibid., 29.

1654 Ibid., 56-59. See also ILO-IPEC, Combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in El Salvador – Supporting the Time-Bound Program for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in El Salvador, project document, Geneva, July – September 2001.

1655 ILO-IPEC, Trabajo Infantil doméstico en América Central y Republica Dominicana, San Jose, December 2002, 11, 60. See also Human Rights Watch, Abuses Against Child Domestic Workers in El Salvador, Vol. 16, No. 1 (B), January 2004, 13; available from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/elsalvador0104/elsalvador0104.pdf.

1656 According to a USAID/FUNPADEM study, children younger than 11 years of age can be found working along the streets of San Salvador, for more than 8 hours a day. See FUNPADEM, Situación Actual de Niños, Niñas, y Adolescentes Trabajadores en las Calles de San Salvador, San José, Costa Rica, 2001.

1657 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: El Salvador, Washington, DC, February 28, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41760.htm.

1658 General Directorate of Statistics and Censuses, Multiple Purpose Household Survey, 2003, ILO-IPEC, Entendiendo el Trabajo Infantil.

1659 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

1660 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5. See also ILO-IPEC, Time-Bound Program in El Salvador, project document, 4.

1661 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, DC, June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46612.htm. Evidence of child trafficking existed in the cities of Acajutla and San Miguel. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – San Salvador, reporting, August 23, 2004.

1662 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1663 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1664 Government of El Salvador, 1983 Constitution, Articles 53-57. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1665 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1666 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrollment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005). For an explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

1667 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

1668 General Directorate of Statistics and Censuses, 2003 Multiple Purpose Household Survey.

1669 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

1670 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Concluding Observations El Salvador, June 4, 2004, 10.

1671 ILO-IPEC, Time-Bound Program in El Salvador, project document, 10.

1672 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5. See also Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, Invirtamos en educación para desafiar el crecimiento económico y la pobreza, Informe de desarollo económico y social 2002, San Salvador, May 2002, 29.

1673 Government of El Salvador, Código de Trabajo, Article 114. See also 1983 Constitution, Article 38, Part 10.

1674 Código de Trabajo, 114-15.

1675 Ibid., 116.

1676 1983 Constitution, Article 9. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 6c.

1677 1983 Constitution, Article 215. See also U.S. Embassy – San Salvador, reporting, August 23, 2004.

1678 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1679 See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1680 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1681 U.S. Embassy – San Salvador, reporting, August 17, 2000.

1682 Decreto No. 210, (November 25, 2003). This directive amended the earlier Code that provided for penalties of 2 to 4 years of imprisonment for the same violations. See Government of El Salvador, Código Penal de El Salvador.

1683 ILO-IPEC, Timebound Program and Education Initiative Technical Progress Report, Geneva, March 3, 2004, 4. See Decreto No. 210. See also Decreto No. 457, (October 7, 2004). Decreto No. 458, (October 7, 2004). See U.S. Embassy – San Salvador, reporting, August 23, 2004.

1684 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, e-mail communication to USDOL official, November 14, 2005.

1685 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 6d.

1686 Ibid.

1687 Ibid., Section 5.

1688 ILO-IPEC, Time-Bound Program in El Salvador, project document, 4-8. See also ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Labor Through Education in the Time-Bound Program of El Salvador, project document, Geneva, January, 2003, 1.

1689 ILO-IPEC, Timebound Program and Education Initiative, Technical Progress Report, Geneva, March 2005, 9.

1690 Ibid., 14.

1691 Ibid., 10.

1692 ILO-IPEC, Timebound Program and Education Initiative, Technical Progress Report, September 2005, 4.

1693 ILO-IPEC, Timebound Program and Education Initiative, Technical Progress Report, March 2005.

1694 ILO-IPEC, Timebound Program and Education Initiative, Technical Progress Report, September 2005.

1695 USDOL, "News Release: United States Provides over $110 Million in Grants to Fight Exploitive Child Labor Around the World," October 1, 2004; available from http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ilab/ILAB20041715.htm. See also CARE, Project Information: Combating Child Labor through Education in Central America & Dominican Republic, [online] 2004 [cited June 22, 2005]; available from http://www.careusa.org/careswork/projects/SLV041.asp?sitewrapper=print.

1696 ILO-IPEC Sub-regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ficha Pais: El Salvador, May 2005; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/ipec/documentos/fichapais_sv.pdf.

1697 This is an inter-agency program coordinated by the National Bureau of the Family in conjunction with the Education and Health Ministries. It provides school meals as well as preventive and primary health care. See ILO-IPEC, Time-Bound Program in El Salvador, project document.

1698 This program permits schools to remain open all day and provides after-school informal and technical courses built around the interest of children and adolescents. See Ibid., 13.

1699 Stands for "Apoyo al Proceso de Reforma de la Educación Media en el Area Técnica." APREMAT is a project financed by the European Union to strengthen technical training by creating vocational centers for adolescents in secondary schools and improving technical education opportunities for adults. See Ibid., 12.

1700 Stands for "Educación con Participación de la Comunidad". EDUCO is a long-standing program supported by the Salvadoran Ministry of Education (MINED). EDUCO incorporates community participation in the provision of pre-school and primary education in rural areas, especially in the most impoverished ones. Under this program, MINED enters into a contract with parent-run boards for administration and financial management of educational services. The parents run the school, are directly involved in hiring teachers and other administrative matters while the State provides the resources. This program has allowed rapid expansion of primary education to rural areas and in 2001 was seen to be serving 200,000 children in primary schools and 27,000 in pre-school. Evaluations have indicated that educational outcomes do not suffer and that the program is more successful at retaining students than traditional schools. See Ibid.

1701 This is a pilot project that provides special personalized curriculum and tutoring to enable children, who more than 2 years behind grade-level in primary school, to catch up and be mainstreamed into the grade corresponding to their age group. See Ibid.

1702 This program offers school facilities to under-serviced areas. See Ibid.

1703 Aimed at secondary school students, this program provides education through radio, satellite, television and other technologies. See Ibid.

1704 Ibid., 12-13. See also Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, Invirtamos en educación para desafiar el crecimiento económico y la pobreza, Informe de desarollo económico y social 2002, 35-39.

1705 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: El Salvador, Section 5.

1706 ILO-IPEC, Timebound Program and Education Initiative, Technical Progress Report, March 2005, 3-4.

1707 This project was funded in 1998. See World Bank, Education Reform Project, [online] June 20, 2005 [cited June 20, 2005]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projecti d=P050612.

1708 This project began in February 2002. See IDB, Social Peace Program Support Project, [online] 2002 [cited June 20, 2005]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/es1389e.pdf.

1709 USAID, USAID El Salvador: Earthquake Reconstruction, [online] [cited June 20, 2005]; available from http://www.usaid.gov/sv/er/erir1.htm.

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