Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 14:25 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Ecuador

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 18 April 2003
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Ecuador, 18 April 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d7488cc.html [accessed 27 August 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 1997.1194 In 2002, with technical assistance from ILO-IPEC and funding from USDOL, Ecuador began preparatory activities for a Time-Bound Program to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the country within a determined period of time.1195 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.1196 In 2000, a USDOL-funded ILO-IPEC regional program was established in Ecuador, along with Bolivia and Peru, to prevent and progressively eliminate child labor in small-scale traditional gold mining.1197 A two-year, second phase of this project was funded in September 2002.1198

With assistance from ILO-IPEC, the government has also instituted several sector-specific programs to study and combat child labor. 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.1199 The Government of the Netherlands is funding a research project that investigates the factors and conditions that lead to the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.1200

In July 2002, the Ministry of Labor 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 2003.1201 In 2001, the Government of Ecuador established a Technical Secretariat for the National Committee for the Progressive Eradication of Child Labor (CONEPTI).1202 CONEPTI was a key participant in the ongoing development of the second National Plan to Eliminate Child Labor (2003-2006), and has coordinated and participated in tripartite meetings to define the worst forms of child labor.1203

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.1204 The National Child and Family Institute (INNFA) implements an education program that reintegrates working children and adolescents who are between the ages of 8 and 15 into the school system so that they may complete the basic education cycle.1205 INNFA is also developing a System of Social Indicators that will be used to define public policy to benefit children and adolescents.1206 The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Recreation has developed a USD 14 million project that includes training in sustainable production for working children between the ages of 12 and 15 who are enrolled in the public school system.1207

In conjunction with the World Food Program, the Ministry also provides nutritional supplements to students of low-income families at public primary schools throughout the country.1208 In 1998, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a loan of USD 45 million to the Government of Ecuador for a project to grant autonomy to approximately 20 percent of rural schools to improve management of resources and teaching conditions in rural basic education.1209

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, the ILO estimated that 4.3 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years in Ecuador were working.1210 The majority of working children are found in rural areas of the sierra, with the next most problematic regions being the Amazon and urban coastal areas.1211 Many parents have emigrated abroad in search of work and have left their children behind, which has led to an increase in child labor. Similarly, the migration of the rural poor to cities has increased the incidence of child labor in urban areas.1212 In rural areas, young children are often found performing unpaid agricultural labor for their families.1213 In urban areas, children work in manufacturing, commerce and services, such as automobile repair and domestic service.1214 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.1215

The commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs in Ecuador,1216 and there were reports in 2002 that it may be on the rise.1217 There have been reports of cases in which children have been forced into prostitution.1218 Ecuador is a country of origin for the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation.1219 Information gathered in 1999 reveals that a trafficking ring exists that offers young indigenous people and their families USD 6,000 to work as domestic servants or Spanish teachers in Japan. Children are transported by cruise ship to Japan and are then forced into the sex industry. Other sources report that indigenous children have been trafficked to Venezuela and Uruguay to sell handicrafts or to beg on the streets.1220

The Constitution requires that all children attend school until they achieve a "basic level of education," which usually encompasses nine school years.1221 The government does not enforce 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.1222 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 113.1 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 96.7 percent.1223 A 1999 study indicated that one child out of every three does not complete grade six.1224 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.1225 The Constitution dictates that 30 percent of the public budget must be reserved for education expenses, yet only half of that percentage is actually spent on education.1226 In 2001, government spending on education continued to decline, both as a proportion of GDP and in real terms.1227 Families often face significant additional education-related expenses such as fees and transportation costs.1228

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Childhood and Adolescence Code, modified in January 2003, sets the minimum age for all employment, including domestic service, at 15 years.1229 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.1230 The Childhood and Adolescence Code prohibits adolescents from working more than six hours per day or 30 hours per week.1231 The Code also prohibits adolescents from working in mines, garbage dumps, slaughterhouses, and quarries.1232 According to the Labor Code, which has not been updated to reflect Ecuador's adoption of ILO Conventions 138 and 182, minors under 18 years are prohibited from engaging in night work, and children under 15 may not work aboard fishing vessels, except with special permission from the court, during school vacation, and as long as the work is not likely to harm their health and moral development.1233

The 1998 Constitution specifically calls for children in Ecuador to be protected in the work place 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.1234 The Penal Code explicitly defines and prohibits exposing children to pornography, promoting and facilitating prostitution, and trafficking. Adults convicted of promoting or engaging children in such activities may be sentenced from one to nine years in jail.1235 The Childhood and Adolescence Code prescribes sanctions against violators of the code, such as monetary fines and the closing of establishments where child labor occurs.1236 In June 2000, the Criminal Code was amended to strengthen sentences for furnishing or utilizing false documents and for smuggling of non-citizens.1237

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.1238

The Government of Ecuador ratified ILO Convention 138 and ILO Convention 182 on September 19, 2000.1239


1194 ILO-IPEC, All About IPEC: Programme Countries, [online] [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/about/countries/t_country.htm.

1195 ILO-IPEC, "IPEC en Acción: IPEC intensifica acciones en América del Sur," Boletín Electrónico Encuentros no. 2, [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/spanish/260ameri/oitreg/activid/proyectos/ipec/boletin/ numero2/Boletindos/ipecenacciondos.html.

1196 ILO-IPEC official, electronic communication to USDOL official, August 28, 2002.

1197 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.

1198 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.

1199 Ecuadorian Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, fact sheet, November 15, 2001.

1200 ECPAT International, Ecuador, in ECPAT International, [online] [cited August 30, 2002], "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.

1201 "Menores de 15 años no trabajarán en bananeras," El Universo, November 27, 2002, [cited December 27, 2002]; available from http://www.eluniverso.com/data/modulos/noticias/ print.asp?contid=CACCF6FB29A3453798AFCD53C7D4DF89.

1202 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, LAR/00/05/050, Geneva, September 12, 2001, 4.

1203 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.

1204 Ibid.

1205 The cost to reinsert one child into the school system for a year is USD 130, which includes registration, uniform, school supplies, extracurricular activities, and lesson reinforcement. National Child and Family Institute. National Child and Family Institute (INNFA), Programa de Protección y Educación del Niño Trabajador: Información, [online] 2001 [cited September 3, 2002]; available from http://www.innfa.org/programas/pnt/informacion.htm.

1206 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.

1207 Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Recreation, Proyecto Educativo Productivo en Conocimientos Básicos Generales y Microempresas Educativas Formativas Productivas Sostenibles en Contexto de Desarrollo Local, Promoción Socioeconómica y Generación de Empleo: Plan Nacional, [online] [cited September 3, 2002], Plan 50; available from http://www.mec.gov.ec/final/plan50/p2.htm.

1208 Ministry of Social Welfare, Informe Nacional Sobre el Seguimiento de la Cumbre Mundial en Favor de la Infancia, National Institute of the Child and Family, June 2001, 10 [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.unicef.org/ specialsession/how_country/edr_ecuador_sp.PDF.

1209 Inter-American Development Bank, Rural Autonomous School Network Program: Executive Summary, EC-0125, November 1998, [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.iadb.org/exr/doc98/apr/ec1142e.pdf.

1210 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002. A child labor survey was implemented by the National Institute of Statistics and Census in 2001-2002 in conjunction with the Ministry of Labor and the National Child and Family Institute (INNFA). The preliminary results of the survey reveal that in rural areas, 38.6 percent of children ages 5 to 17 are working. In urban areas, the percentage drops to 13.8 percent. See ILO-IPEC, "INDEC, Mintrabajo e INNFA presentan resultados preliminaries 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), [cited January 22, 2002]; available from http://www.oit.org.pe/spanish/260ameri/oitreg/activid/proyectos/ipec/boletin/numero2/ Boletindos/notipeca.html.

1211 ILO-IPEC, "Mintrabajo e INNFA presentan resultados preliminaries de Encuesta Nacional."

1212 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Ecuador, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 2794-96, Section 6d [cited August 22, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/wha/ 8356.htm.

1213 Mauricio Garcia, El trabajo y la educación de los niños y de los adolescentes en el Ecuador, UNICEF, 1996, 38.

1214 Ibid.

1215 U.S. Department of State- Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265, September 25, 2001.1216 See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Ecuador, 2791-93, Section 5.

1217 ECPAT International, Ecuador, "CSEC Overview".

1218 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Ecuador, 2791-93, Section 5.

1219 Ibid., 2794-96, Section 6f. 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. There are also reports that Ecuador is a destination country for trafficked children. See Protection Project, "Ecuador," in Human Rights Report on Trafficking of Persons, Especially Women and Children, March 2002, [cited August 21, 2002]; available from http://209.190.246.239/ver2/cr/Ecuador.pdf.

1220 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, Addendum: Mission to Ecuador, 16.

1221 U.S. Department of State- Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265.

1222 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Ecuador, 2791-93, Section 5.

1223 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002.

1224 U.S. Department of State- Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Ecuador, 2791-93, Section 5.

1225 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

1226 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Ecuador, 2791-93, Section 5.

1227 Ibid.

1228 U.S. Department of State- Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265.

1229 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.

1230 Ibid., Article 86.

1231 Ibid., Article 84.

1232 Ibid., Article 87.

1233 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 and 47, 24.

1234 U.S. Department of State- Quito, unclassified telegram no. 3265.

1235 Derecho Penal: Código Penal Ecuatoriano, [cited October 7, 2002]; available from http://www.unifr.ch/ derechopenal/ljecuador/cpecu30.html.

1236 Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia, Chapter IV, Article 95.

1237 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Ecuador, 2794-96, Section 6f.

1238 U.S. Department of State- 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. Human Rights Watch, Comments Regarding Efforts by Ecuador to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 5. Law enforcement authorities are reportedly complicit in the commercial sexual exploitation of children, which has added to perpetuating this problem. See ECPAT International, Ecuador.

1239 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited September 3, 2002]; available from http://ilolex.ilo.ch:1567/english/newratframeE.htm.

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