2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Ecuador

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2004:2,969,088
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2004:10.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2004:12.6
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2004:7.8
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2004:
     – Agriculture71.0
     – Manufacturing4.5
     – Services22.9
     – Other1.6
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:116.8
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:96.8
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2004:91.1
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:77.3
ILO Convention 138:9/19/2000
ILO Convention 182:9/19/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Ecuador, children work in rural and urban areas, mostly in the informal sector. They work in the agricultural sector, in the harvest of bananas and flowers, and small-scale gold mining. Minors are also found working in the production of broccoli and strawberries, as well as in the production of bricks and cinder blocks. In urban areas, they work as street beggars and vendors, messengers, domestic servants, shoe shiners, garbage collectors, and recyclers. Many of them work alongside their parents in family-run businesses. Working children often use chemicals and sharp tools, and lift heavy loads.

Children are sexually exploited for commercial purposes in Ecuador. Some trafficked children are sold into prostitution, forced agricultural labor, and begging. Domestic and international trafficking in children is a problem. There are also reports of indigenous children being trafficked to other Latin American countries and Europe. Colombian girls are trafficked to Ecuador for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and some Ecuadorean children are trafficked to neighboring countries as well as Spain and Italy. There are reports of children from Ecuador working as coca pickers in Colombia.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Constitution, approved in 2008, sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years, prohibiting child labor below this age. Minimum age provisions do not apply to children involved in formative cultural or ancestral practices, as long as they are not exposed to physical or psychological harm. The law prohibits adolescents from working more than 6 hours per day or more than 5 days per week. Resolution No. 016 of 2008 prohibits children under 15 years from work in 93 economic activities, including livestock raising, fishing, extraction of salt, the textile industry, logging, and quarrying.

The Labor Inspectorate and municipalities oversee labor contracts and work permits for adolescents 15 years and older. The law prescribes sanctions for violations of child labor laws, such as monetary fines and the closing of establishments where child labor occurs.

The Constitution prohibits forced labor, human trafficking, and any form of exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation of children under 18 is punishable with 6 to 9 years of imprisonment and of children under 14 with 12 to 16 years of imprisonment. Trafficking in children is punishable by 9 to 12 years of imprisonment if the victim is younger than 18 years, and 12 to 16 years in prison if the victim is under 14 years old. The law establishes a penalty of 9 to 12 years' imprisonment for promoting child sex tourism. Child pornography is punishable with sentences from 6 to 9 years if the victim is under 18 years and 12 to 16 years if the child is under 12 years. Several state and municipal governments have established anti-trafficking ordinances and action plans. The new 2008 Constitution abolished compulsory military service and established a civic-military volunteer service. Adolescents may join the civic-military voluntary services at age 18.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment (MTE) has 27 child labor inspectors who investigate cases of child labor throughout the country. Ten child labor inspectors are exclusively taking part in the eradication of child labor in mining. In 2008, labor inspections were conducted in 3,089 workplaces and 1,539 minors were found working in violation of labor laws. The Ecuadorean National Development Plan (2007-2010) includes the elimination of child labor as one of its objectives.

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

During the reporting period, the Government of Ecuador converted the quasi-governmental organization, Institute for Children and Family (INFA), into a government agency whose principal mission is to guarantee the rights of children, including addressing child labor. INFA developed a Plan for the Elimination of Child Labor in Landfills, started an initiative to combat child labor in landfills in three municipalities, and carried out an awareness-raising campaign to address child beggars. MTE withdrew 449 children from working in landfills, who were incorporated into the school system and their families were included in the Solidarity Grant (Bono Solidario). The Government of Ecuador supported a child labor initiative to eradicate child labor in the banana and mining sectors in the Province of Oro, implemented by the University of Machala and the NGO Development and Self-Management (DyA). The Police rescued 95 children from begging on the streets and arrested 50 adults suspected of trafficking children for the purpose of begging during the holiday season, a period during which this problem is especially prevalent. In addition, INFA is currently adopting a methodology to combat child labor designed by a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 4 million project to address child labor, which is implemented by World Learning and DyA. This initiative combats child labor within indigenous communities through the provision of education services, and it targets 2,124 children for withdrawal and 4,054 children for prevention from exploitive work in the Sierra, Amazon, and Quito. It also targets 146 children to be withdrawn from trafficking for begging.

During the reporting period, the National Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor was revised with the aim of linking it with the Social Agenda for Children and Adolescents and the National Development Plan to improve coordination of efforts made by the Government and the private sector to combat child labor. The National Council for Children and Adolescents published a protocol to help national and local government agencies and organizations assist child victims of commercial sexual exploitation by providing guidelines about the different actors and stages involved in supporting these children.

The Government of Ecuador continues to assist child victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation through its Victim and Witness Protection Program. The program coordinates Government and NGO services to victims of trafficking, providing psychological and medical care, shelter, economic and employment assistance, and police protection. The Government filed 85 cases of trafficking in people and commercial sexual exploitation, including 11 for child pornography.

The Government of Ecuador participated in a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 4 million ILO-IPEC Timebound Program, which ended in 2008. It targeted 2,156 children for withdrawal and 5,250 children for prevention from exploitive labor in the banana and cut flower sectors as well as commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, it participated in a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 3 million program implemented by Catholic Relief Services to combat exploitive child labor through access to quality education; the project ended in September 2008. The project withdrew 1,192 children and prevented 6,486 children from working in the banana and cut flower industries.

In addition, Ecuador participates in a USD 3.3 million ILO-IPEC regional initiative to eradicate child labor, funded by the Government of Spain. To assist the Government of Ecuador address trafficking in persons and children, USDOS and USAID fund several programs to prevent human trafficking and assist victims of trafficking in Ecuador, implemented by organizations such as IOM and the NGO Amauta Foundation.

During the reporting period, MTE, with the support of USAID, trained 22 child labor inspectors in child labor-related issues and launched the Labor Inspections Informational System (SIUDEL), which includes an internet site, a speech recognition system, and a call center to provide information about child labor. It also designed an informational system that provided child labor statistics and training to labor inspectors on the eradication of child labor in landfills and the banana sector.

The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) continues to raise awareness of commercial sexual exploitation of children and sexual tourism. It organized workshops for the tourism industry, parents, and high school students, and published informational materials. In partnership with the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion and the Federation of Provincial Tourism Boards, the Ministry established a manual for sustainable tourism for tourist providers, aimed at preventing sexual tourism. MOT was designated as the South American regional coordinator for the Joint Group for the Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism, which conducts prevention and awareness-raising campaigns to combat the commercial exploitation of children in Latin America. It was created in 2005 and includes the Ministries of Tourism of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Municipalities in Ecuador are taking steps to address child labor while Territorial Councils for Children have assigned funding to child labor initiatives. For example, the Government of Quito prohibits child labor while the National Committee for the Progressive Elimination of Child Labor established an indigenous child labor working group to address child labor in indigenous communities. The Government of Ecuador continues working in partnership with UNICEF and the Prochildren program of Telefonica Foundation to combat child labor.


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