Last Updated: Monday, 14 July 2014, 10:44 GMT

2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Ecuador

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 April 2004
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Ecuador, 29 April 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca1237.html [accessed 14 July 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.

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

The Government of Ecuador has been a member of ILO-IPEC since 1997.[1414] In July 2003, a new legal Code for Children and Adolescents went into force.[1415] In November 2002, the National Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor published its National Plan for the Progressive Elimination of Child Labor 2003-2006.[1416] In July 2002, the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources signed an agreement with the banana industry and various national and international organizations to eradicate child labor (for children under the age of 15) from banana plantations by August 2003.[1417] In 2001, the Government of Ecuador established a Technical Secretariat for the National Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor (CONEPTI).[1418] CONEPTI was a key participant in the development of the National Plan and has coordinated and participated in tripartite meetings to define the worst forms of child labor.[1419]

In 2002, the government created the National Council on Children and Adolescents by executive decree. The Council is responsible for creating, planning and carrying out national policy on child and adolescent issues in Ecuador.[1420] The National Child and Family Institute (INNFA) implements an education program that reintegrates working children and adolescents from the ages of 8 to 15 into the school system so that they may complete the basic education cycle.[1421] INNFA also collects data for a System of Social Indicators that is used to define public policy to benefit children and adolescents.[1422]

The Ministry of Education and Cultures (MEC) developed a USD 14 million project that includes vocational training for working children ages 12 to 15 who are enrolled in the public school system.[1423] Together with the WFP and the UNDP, the MEC also implements a School Feeding Program, which supplies breakfast and lunch to approximately 1.4 million girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 14.[1424] Through its Social Protection (Frente Social) program, the Ministry of Social Welfare provides school stipends to children ages 6 to 15 to reduce poverty. The stipend, which is conditional on school attendance, is programmed to reach 400,000 children in 2003.[1425] The Central Bank of Ecuador runs the Child Worker Program (PMT), which, in part, provides working children with scholarships that pay school expenses. In turn, the children are required to participate in after school training programs.[1426]

In 2003, USDOL funded a 38-month Time Bound Program, implemented by ILO-IPEC, to complement the government's plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the country within a determined period of time.[1427] The government has also completed the collection of field data for a national child labor survey with technical assistance from ILO-IPEC's SIMPOC, and is finalizing the report.[1428] In 2000 and again in 2002, USDOL funded an ILO-IPEC regional program in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, to prevent and progressively eliminate child labor in small-scale traditional gold mining.[1429]

ILO-IPEC has conducted surveys on child labor in Ecuador, including on the commercial sexual exploitation of girls and adolescents, the cut flower industry, and garbage dumps.[1430] Programs have been established to combat child labor in the brick making industries of Quito and Cuenca, the garbage dumps of Santo Domingo de los Colorados, and in the country's cut flower industry.[1431]

In June 2003, the IDB approved a USD 200 million loan for a Social Sector Reform Program that the government will use to coordinate fragmented social spending and eliminate duplication. Under one component of this program, all child support programs will be reorganized and channeled through a Child Development Fund.[1432] A similar fund will be created for all food, nutrition and school feeding programs.[1433]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2001, Ecuador's National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) estimated that 24.9 percent of children 5 to 17 years were working in Ecuador.[1434] The majority of working children are found in rural areas of the sierra, or highlands, with the next most problematic regions being the Amazon and urban coastal areas.[1435] Many parents have emigrated abroad in search of work and have left their children behind. In addition, the migration of the rural poor to cities has increased the incidence of child labor in urban areas.[1436] In rural areas, young children are often found performing unpaid agricultural labor for their families.[1437] In urban areas, children work in manufacturing, commerce and services, such as automobile repair and domestic service.[1438] Many urban children under 12 years of age work in family-owned businesses in the informal sector, including shining shoes, collecting and recycling garbage, selling, and begging on the streets.[1439]

The commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs in Ecuador,[1440] and there were reports in 2002 that it may be on the rise.[1441] ILO-IPEC estimates that there are 5,200 girls and adolescents in situations of sexual exploitation.[1442] There have been reports of cases in which children have been forced into prostitution.[1443] Ecuador is a country of origin for the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation.[1444] There are also reports that Ecuador is a destination country for trafficked children.[1445] Sources report that indigenous children have been trafficked to Venezuela and Uruguay to sell handicrafts or to beg on the streets.[1446]

The Constitution requires that all children attend school until they achieve a "basic level of education," which usually encompasses nine school years.[1447] The government rarely enforced this requirement due to the lack of schools and inadequate resources in many rural communities, as well as the pervasive need for children to contribute to the family income.[1448] Child malnutrition, short school days, inadequately trained teachers, sparse teaching materials and the uneven distribution of resources are the main problems within the educational system.[1449] In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 115 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 99.3 percent.[1450] In 1999, the persistence rate to grade five was 88.9 percent.[1451] Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Ecuador. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.[1452] Families often face significant additional education-related expenses such as fees and transportation costs.[1453]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Childhood and Adolescence Code sets the minimum age for all employment, including domestic service, at 15 years.[1454] The minimum age does not apply to children involved in formative cultural or ancestral practices as long as the children are not exposed to physical, psychological or cultural harm.[1455] The Ministry of Labor provides work authorization for adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 years.[1456] The Childhood and Adolescence Code prohibits adolescents from working more than 6 hours per day or 30 hours per week.[1457] The Code also prohibits adolescents from working in mines, garbage dumps, slaughterhouses, and quarries.[1458] The Labor Code, which has not been updated to reflect Ecuador's adoption of ILO Conventions 138 and 182, provides that minors under 18 years are prohibited from engaging in night work.[1459]

The 1998 Constitution specifically calls for children in Ecuador to be protected in the workplace against economic exploitation, dangerous or unhealthy labor conditions, and conditions that hinder a minor's personal development or education. Minors are also protected against trafficking, prostitution, and the use of illegal drugs and alcohol.[1460] There are no policies to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents and no government funding has been allocated for this purpose.[1461] The Penal Code explicitly defines and prohibits exposing children to pornography, and promoting and facilitating prostitution and trafficking. Adults convicted of promoting or engaging children in such activities may be sentenced from 1 to 9 years in jail.[1462] The Childhood and Adolescence Code prescribes sanctions for violations, such as monetary fines and the closing of establishments where child labor occurs.[1463] In June 2000, the Criminal Code was amended to strengthen sentences for furnishing or utilizing false documents and for smuggling of non-citizens.[1464]

No single government authority is responsible for the implementation of child labor laws and regulations prohibiting the worst forms of child labor. Public institutions charged with enforcing child labor laws include the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Social Welfare, and Minors' Tribunals. The Ministry of Labor has created a Social Service Directorate to monitor and control child labor in the formal sector; however, most child laborers are found in the informal sector, where monitoring is difficult. In some instances, the Directorate has applied sanctions, but in others, it has merely helped to provide work authorization documents to child workers.[1465] In October 2002, the government created a Child Labor Inspection and Monitoring System to enforce the child labor-related legal provisions of the Labor Code and the Labor Inspection System.[1466] In 2003, the Government of Ecuador hired and trained a small number of labor inspectors to begin child labor inspections in banana and flower plantations.[1467]

The Government of Ecuador ratified ILO Convention 138 and ILO Convention 182 on September 19, 2000.[1468]


[1414] ILO-IPEC, All About IPEC: Programme Countries, [online] [cited August 25, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/about/countries/t_country.htm.

[1415] The Code, enacted in December 2002, includes stipulations that raise the legal age of employment from 14 to 15 years, increase penalties against employers of child labor, and expand the class of dangerous work prohibited for minors. See U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 2567, July 31, 2003.

[1416] National Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor, Plan Nacional para la Erradicación Progresiva del Trabajo Infantil 2003-2006, Quito, November, 2002. The Ministry of Labor 2003 budget allocated USD 300,000 to implement the National Plan. See U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 2567.

[1417] "Menores de 15 años no trabajarán en bananeras," El Universo, November 27, 2002, [cited August 25, 2003]; available from http://www.eluniverso.com/data/modulos/noticias/print.asp?contid=CACCF6FB29A3453798AFCD53C7D4DF89.

[1418] The Secretariat is responsible for determining CONEPTI's structure, functions and financing. The original Committee, created in July 1997, was fraught with political instability, due in part to changes in government, and met infrequently. See ILO-IPEC, Program to Prevent and Progressively Eliminate Child Labor in Small-scale Traditional Gold Mining in South America, technical progress report, Project Number P.260.03.202.050, Geneva, September 12, 2001, 4.

[1419] ILO-IPEC, Program to Prevent and Progressively Eliminate Child Labor in Small-scale Traditional Gold Mining in South America, technical progress report, LAR/00/05/050, Geneva, September 2, 2002, 2.

[1420] Ibid.

[1421] The cost to reintegrate one child into the school system for a year is USD 130, which includes registration, uniform, school supplies, extracurricular activities, and lesson reinforcement. See National Child and Family Institute (INNFA), Programa de Protección y Educación del Niño Trabajador: Información, [online] 2001 [cited August 25, 2003]; available from http://www.innfa.org/programas/pnt/informacion.htm. INNFA spends USD 3.5 million per year on this program. See U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 2567.

[1422] National Child and Family Institute (INNFA), Red de Información sobre Infancia, Adolescencia y Familia: Información, [online] 2001 [cited September 3, 2002]; available from http://www.innfa.org/programas/riinfa/informacion.htm.

[1423] Ministry of Education Culture Sports and Recreation, Plan 50, [online] [cited August 25, 2003], Plan 50; available from http://www.mec.gov.ec/final/plan50/p2.htm. The name of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Recreation has changed to the Ministry of Education and Cultures. See Ministry of Education and Cultures, Ministerio de Educación y Culturas del Ecuador, Ministerio de Educación y Culturas del Ecuador, [online] [cited July 2, 2002]; available from http://www.mec.gov.ec.

[1424] Ministry of Education and Cultures, Programa de Alimentación Escolar (PAE) Regresa a Esta Cartera de Estado, Ministerio de Educación y Culturas, [online] 2003 [cited July 02, 2003]; available from http://www.mec.gov.ec/noticias/abr/p9.htm.

[1425] The Inter-American Development Bank, Ecuador Social Sector Reform Program: Loan Proposal, 1466/OC-EC (EC-0216), June 25, 2003, 4; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/ec1466e.pdf. See also Ministry of Social Welfare, Bono Solidario y Beca Escolar: Perfiles de las Familias Beneficiarias. Superar la Pobreza, Objetivo Nacional, Ministério de Bienestar Social, Quito, December, 2002, 1,3; available from http://www.pps.gov.ec/boletines.doc/PPS%20boletin%20perfiles%20be%20y%20bs.doc. The Ecuadorian Government's "Frente Social" program is an example of the country's political will to institutionally strengthen the development of social policy. It is presided over by the Ministry of Social Well-Being and is made up of the Ministries of Education and Cultures; Public Health,; Labor and Human Resources; Social and Well-Being; and Urban Development and Housing. See Sistema Integrado de Indicadores Sociales del Ecuador, Marco Institucional del SIISE: El Frente Social del Ecuador, [online] 2002 [cited September 16, 2003]; available from http://www.siise.gov.ec/fichas/siis4sz7.htm.

[1426] In addition, the PMT funds alternative educational programs for youth and promotes children's rights. See U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 2567.

[1427] ILO/IPEC, Supporting the Time-Bound Program for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Ecuador, Project Document, ECU/03/P50/USA, Geneva, August, 2003.

[1428] Frank Hagemann, ILO-IPEC official, electronic communication to USDOL official, August 28, 2002.

[1429] The program consists of awareness-raising campaigns, baseline studies of child labor in traditional mining, training programs for governmental and nongovernmental workers and employer service providers, promulgation of national policies on child labor in traditional mining activities, development of national networks focused on child labor in mining, and local action plans to withdraw children from hazardous mining tasks. See ILO-IPEC, Program to Prevent and Progressively Eliminate Child Labor in Small-scale Traditional Gold Mining in South America, project document, LAR/00/05/050, Geneva, May 2000, 10-11. See also ILO-IPEC, Prevention and Progressive Elimination of Child Labor in Small-scale Traditional Gold Mining in South America (Phase II), project document, Geneva, September 30, 2002.

[1430] Fundación Salud Ambiente y Desarrollo, Baseline for the Prevention and Gradual Elimination of Child Labour in the Flower Industry in the Districts of Cayambe and Pedro Moncayo, Ecuador, International Labor Organization, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, Quito, October, 2002. See also Mariana Sandoval Laverde, Magnitude, Characteristics and Environment of Sexual Exploitation of Girls and Adolescents in Ecuador, ILO-IPEC, Quito, October, 2002. See also ILO-IPEC, Base Line: Child Labour in Garbage Dumps in Ecuador, Lima, March 2003.

[1431] Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, Condiciones actuales sobre el trabajo, fact sheet, November 15, 2001.

[1432] The Inter-American Development Bank, Ecuador Social Sector Reform, 7,18.

[1433] Ibid., 17.

[1434] This represents 775,753 children out of an estimated population of 3,166,276 children ages 5 to 17. See ILO/IPEC, Ecuador Time-Bound Program, 4.

[1435] ILO-IPEC, "INDEC, Mintrabajo e INNFA presentan resultados preliminares de Encuesta Nacional: 38.6% de niños y niñas entre 5 y 17 años trabajan en el area rural de Ecuador," Encuentros no. 2 (December 2001 – February 2002); available from http://www.oit.org.pe/spanish/260ameri/oitreg/activid/proyectos/ipec/boletin/numero2/Boletindos/notipeca.html. The provinces with the greatest number of working children are Bolivar, Chimborazo and Cotopaxi. See National Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor, Plan Nacional, 11.

[1436] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Ecuador, U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18330.htm.

[1437] Mauricio Garcia, El trabajo y la educación de los niños y de los adolescentes en el Ecuador, UNICEF, 1996, 38.

[1438] Ibid.

[1439] U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265, September 25, 2001.

[1440] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Ecuador, Sections 5 and 6f.

[1441] ECPAT International, Ecuador, in ECPAT International, [online] [cited September 16, 2003], "CSEC Overview"; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/countries.asp? arrCountryID=51&CountryProfile=facts,affiliation,humanrights&CSEC=Overview,Prostitution,Pronography,trafficking&Implement=Coordination_cooperation,Prevention,Protection,Recovery,ChildParticipation&Nationalplans=National_plans_of_action&orgWorkCSEC=orgWorkCSEC&DisplayBy=optDisplayCountry.

[1442] Sandoval Laverde, Magnitude, Characteristics and Environment, 3.

[1443] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Ecuador, Section 6f.

[1444] Ibid. See also Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Ecuador, CRC/C/15/Add.93, Geneva, October 26, 1998, [cited Decebmer 27, 2002]; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/b1a4ab3e2073a876802566c9003c7a8e?Opendocument.

[1445] The Protection Project, "Ecuador," in Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children: A Country-by-Country Report on a Contemporary Form of Slavery, March 2002; available from http://209.190.246.239/ver2/cr/Ecuador.pdf. See also United Nations Economic and Social Council, Specific Groups and Individuals: Migrant Workers, E/CN.4/2002/94/Add.1, prepared by Ms. Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro: Special Rapporteur, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 2001/52, February 18, 2002, 16.

[1446] United Nations Economic and Social Council, Specific Groups and Individuals: Migrant Workers, Addendum: Mission to Ecuador, 16.

[1447] U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265.

[1448] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Ecuador, Section 5.

[1449] The Inter-American Development Bank, Ecuador Social Sector Reform, 8.

[1450] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[1451] Ibid.

[1452] For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

[1453] U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265.

[1454] Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia, N 2002-100, (January 3, 2003), Title V, Chapter I, Article 82; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/spanish/260ameri/oitreg/activid/proyectos/ipec/boletin/documentos/cna.doc.

[1455] Ibid., Article 86.

[1456] U.S. Embassy Official Ecuador, electronic communication to USDOL Official, August 5, 2003.

[1457] Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia, Article 84.

[1458] Ibid., Article 87.

[1459] ILO-IPEC, Ecuador, Sistema Regional de Información sobre Trabajo Infantil, Instituto Nacional del Niño y la Familia [INNFA], and Cooperación Espanola, 1995, Articles 137-38, 47. The Childhood and Adolescence Code, which has been adapted to reflect Ecuador's adoption of ILO Conventions 138 and 182, supercedes provisions in the Labor Code that allowed children under 15 to work aboard fishing vessels with special permission from the court, during school vacation, and as long as the work was not likely to harm their health and moral development. See U.S. Embassy Official Ecuador, electronic communication, August 5, 2003. See also ILO-IPEC, Ecuador.

[1460] U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265.

[1461] Sandoval Laverde, Magnitude, Characteristics and Environment, 3.

[1462] Derecho Penal: Código Penal Ecuatoriano, [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.unifr.ch/derechopenal/ljecuador/cpecu30.html.

[1463] Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia, Chapter IV, Article 95.

[1464] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Ecuador, Section 6f.

[1465] U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265. It is reported that in the banana regions, the regional Labor Inspectorate (responsible for ensuring that employers comply with labor laws) relies heavily on complaints of child labor law violations because its resources do not allow for meaningful preventative inspections. There are only 13 labor inspectors in the entire banana producing region. See Human Rights Watch, Comments Regarding Efforts by Ecuador to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 5.

[1466] National Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor, Plan Nacional, 37-38.

[1467] If, on the first visit, the inspectors find employees under the age of 15 at banana plantations, children will be referred to the social programs run by the government and the employers will be informed of what they must do to comply with the law. Fines or penalties will be levied on subsequent visits if violations are observed. Fines could range between USD 200 to 1000 and penalties include the closure of the employing business of repeat offenders. U.S. Embassy-Quito, unclassified telegram no. 2567.

[1468] ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited September 3, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

Search Refworld

Countries