Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - El Salvador

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - El Salvador, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
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 Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2003:1,598,487
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2003:10.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2003:13.7
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2003:6.5
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2003:
     – Agriculture51.2
     – Manufacturing12.4
     – Services35.3
     – Other1.1
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:117.8
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:92
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003:80.4
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:73.7
ILO Convention 138:1/23/1996
ILO Convention 182:10/12/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In El Salvador, children work more often in rural areas than in urban areas. They work in sugarcane and coffee harvesting, fishing, and mollusk extraction. They also work in the production of fireworks, garments, and garbage scavenging. Girls work as domestic servants in third-party homes and as street vendors. Some working children assist with family-operated businesses. Boys are more likely to be paid for their work than girls.

Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, especially of girls, is a problem. El Salvador is reported to be a transit point for girls trafficked internationally. Some children are trafficked internally from poor areas to urban areas for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. At-risk groups include girls, children, and adolescents without formal education from poor areas.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years. Children who have reached 12 years may be allowed to perform light work if it does not hinder school attendance, health, or personal development. There are also exceptions for artistic performances. Children under 16 years are prohibited from working more than 6 hours per day, 34 hours per week, or 2 hours overtime in one day. Children under 18 years are prohibited from working at night and are required to have a physical exam to determine whether they are capable of performing a particular job. Employers who hire children must maintain a child labor registry. Hazardous or unhealthy work is prohibited for all minors under age 18, including such activities as cutting or sawing; work underground; work with explosives or toxic materials; in construction, mines, or quarries; at sea; or in bars, pool halls, and similar establishments.

Forced labor is prohibited, except in cases of public emergency and in particular cases established by law. The minimum age for compulsory military service is 18 years. With parental consent, children between 16 and 18 years may volunteer for military service. The law prohibits trafficking in persons. Criminal penalties for trafficking range from 4 to 8 years of imprisonment, and might increase by 1 to 3 years if the victim is under 18 years. The law provides for penalties of 3 to 8 years of imprisonment for the inducement, facilitation, or promotion of sexual acts with a person under age 18. Forced prostitution of a minor incurs penalties of 8 to 12 years in prison. Production and distribution of child pornography carries penalties of 6 to 12 years of imprisonment.

Enforcement of child labor laws is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MTPS). The Ministry has a monitoring unit for the eradication of child labor that verifies whether children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor and provides information to the labor inspections unit, which investigates child labor cases. It has 159 labor inspectors, but none exclusively cover child labor cases. In 2008, MTPS reported conducting 608 labor inspections in coffee and sugar plantations, in fireworks factories, and in the fishing and mollusks industry. However, the Ministry did not report on the number of children found. The National Committee against Trafficking in Persons comprises 12 government agencies that are responsible for combating trafficking, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chairs it. Ten national government agencies, along with the Government of San Salvador, the Community Development Board of the municipalities of Morazan and San Miguel, the National Coordinating Committee of Women in El Salvador (CONAMUS), and the Intervida Foundation are part of the National Roundtable to Combat the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, which coordinates efforts to address this issue.

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

During the reporting period, the Salvadoran Government continued to implement its National Plan for the Eradication of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2006-2009). In collaboration with NGOs, the Government carried out several initiatives to combat child labor, including an initiative with the Spanish NGO Intervida aimed at withdrawing 500 children from working in agriculture in the departments of San Vicente, La Paz, and Usulutan. The Government launched the National Policy to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the National Strategic Plan to Combat Trafficking in People (2008-2012). The National Policy aims to eradicate trafficking in people by establishing strategic areas of intervention such as prevention and combating of trafficking in persons, assistance and protection to victims of trafficking, reviewing and updating legislation to combat trafficking in persons, and monitoring and evaluation of government agencies' performance to combat trafficking in people. The National Strategic Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons seeks to develop a framework for government agencies to combat trafficking and coordinate efforts under the strategic areas of intervention set up by the National Policy. The Government of El Salvador, along with the Government of San Salvador, the Community Development Board of Morazan and San Miguel, CONAMUS, and Intervida Foundation, agreed to maintain the National Round-Table to Combat the Sexual Exploitation of Children through 2012.

The Ministry of Education set up an online database that provides information about working children, broken down and mapped by school. It published educational materials that include information about child labor, and it conducted awareness-raising activities. Under its initiative to provide health services to poor families in rural areas, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance gathers information on child labor through the family health cards that those families receive.

During the reporting period, MTPS consolidated its child labor efforts at the local and regional levels by designating an official to coordinate child labor activities. In partnership with ILO-IPEC, the Ministry conducted the workshop "Developing a Road Map to Make Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic a Child-Labor Free Zone." Government officials and representatives from trade unions, employers, and NGOs participated in this event. Red Solidaria, the Government of El Salvador conditional cash transfer program, conducted child labor awareness-raising among program beneficiaries, using materials designed by ILO-IPEC and published by UNICEF. The Attorney General's Office published a guide on how to prosecute cases of human trafficking, including trafficking of children. Beginning in 2008, the National Household Survey includes questions about child labor. The Government of El Salvador supported the Huellas Foundation in assisting child victims of trafficking during the reporting period.

The Government of El Salvador continues to collaborate in an 8-year, USD 7.4 million project that supports El Salvador's National Timebound Program to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in fishing, sugarcane harvesting, commercial sexual exploitation, and garbage-dump scavenging, funded by USDOL and implemented by ILO-IPEC. The project entered its second phase in 2006, aimed at withdrawing 3,210 and preventing 8,808 children from exploitive child labor.

The Government also participated in regional projects funded by USDOL, including a 7-year USD 8.8 million regional project implemented by ILO-IPEC, which concluded in April 2009 and sought to combat commercial sexual exploitation through a variety of activities, including capacity building and legal reform. The project targeted 713 children for withdrawal and 657 children for prevention from commercial sexual exploitation in Central America. In addition, the Government participated in a USD 5.7 million 4-year child labor education project implemented by CARE that worked to strengthen the Government and civil society's capacity to combat child labor through education. The project ended in March 2009 and withdrew and prevented 4,105 children from exploitive child labor in the region. The activities in El Salvador for both of these projects, however, focus on strengthening legislation, policies, and institutions, and promoting regional cooperation.

The Government of El Salvador also participates in a USD 3.3 million regional project to eradicate child labor in Latin America, funded by the Government of Spain and implemented by ILO-IPEC. In addition, IDB, Save the Children, UNODC, USAID, USDOS, and UNICEF support the Salvadoran Government's efforts in addressing child labor, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in children.

Search Refworld