Cablegate: Ecuador Child Labor Update
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 QUITO 002448
DOL/ILAB FOR TINA FAULKNER, DRL/IL FOR MARINDA HARPOLE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EIND ELAB ETRD PHUM SOCI EC
SUBJECT: ECUADOR CHILD LABOR UPDATE
REF: A. SECSTATE 163453
B. 03 QUITO 02567
1. (U) Summary. Child labor remains a major problem in
Ecuador. However, the GoE, NGOs and other institutions are
taking steps to combat worst forms of child labor in Ecuador.
More clearly needs to be done, particularly in the
enforcement of child labor laws and the rehabilitation of
child laborers. This cable provides an update on child labor
information in Ecuador, as required for Trade and Development
Act reporting requirements (Ref A), and updates our previous
report (Ref B). End Summary.
2. (U) According to a study released by UNICEF in March
2004, 755,753 children work full-time in Ecuador.
Thirty-nine percent of these children do not attend school.
Of these, UNICEF estimates that 44% of these children began
working between ages 10 and 14 and 70% do not reach secondary
school. At least 71% live in rural areas, and work in
agriculture. Sixty-six percent of children in Ecuador live
in poverty. Geographically, 65% live in the Sierra, 25% on
the coast and 10% in the Amazon region. Minister of Labor
Izurieta told a visiting US labor delegation on September 1
that his Ministry's estimate for child labor is much lower,
around 300,000. Union representatives, meanwhile, put the
number at 1.2 million.
New Child Labor Division Created
3. (U) In July 2004, the Ministry of Labor created a
Division for Child Labor comprised of three officers,
augmenting the previous single position for Child Labor,
which was also responsible for International Affairs. The
Division meets at least monthly with the MOL and the
inter-agency National Committee for the Progressive
Eradication of Child Labor.
4. (U) On May 25, 2004, the MOL hired eighteen new child
labor inspectors, bringing the total nation-wide to 19. Each
inspector is assigned to a different province. The MOL told
a visiting U.S. delegation on September 1 that three
inspectors would soon be hired to meet the GoE's legal
requirement for at least one child labor inspector in each of
Ecuador's 22 provinces. The monthly salary of a child
inspector is approximately $460.
5. (U) According to ILO/IPEC, the inspectors have found 500
child laborers in the field. According to the MOL, a member
of civil society always accompanies each inspector as a check
against corruption. Currently, inspections are directed
mostly at the larger banana plantations of over 30 hectares.
Some employers reportedly fire child workers when they hear
that inspectors are coming.
6. (U) On August 18, 2004, the MOL held a one-day workshop
for child labor inspectors. Sixteen inspectors attended;
some reportedly paid their own transportation expenses to
attend. A ninety-page inspection manual developed by UNICEF
and the government-supported Institute for the Child and
Family (INNFA) was distributed and reviewed with the
inspectors. The manual targets inspections in the banana
sector, and also has a section on issues specific to the
growing cut-flower sector.
7. (U) Inspectors lack adequate budgetary support for
offices, computers and transportation. Currently, INNFA is
loaning the MOL some offices and cars for use by the
inspectors. Banana plantation owners also occasionally
provide transportation. While inspections are not announced,
employers can suspend the use of their vehicles at will, and
did so in June. Therefore, most child labor inspections are
carried out in urban areas, where public transportation is
available. The MOL claims more money will be allocated for
inspections in the 2005 budget proposal.
8. (U) Nation-wide the budget for child labor is $465,000.
Of this amount, $300,000 went to the Ministry of Social
Welfare and still has not been spent, $25,000 to the MOL, and
$140,000 is for the inspectors' salaries. According to the
MOL, it has received only $16,000 of the $25,000 allotment.
9. (U) Meanwhile, INNFA receives $3.5 million to work with
25,000 children. Part of INNFA's work has been to address
the problem of child labor in the flower sector. In the
cut-flower sector, there has been an intensification of the
information and awareness campaigns. INNFA has provided
information on child labor to all the major flower producers
(about 400), and believes the incidence of child labor in
this sector is decreasing.
New ILO/IPEC Program Launched
10. (U) The ILO/IPEC program began a child labor Time-Bound
Program (TBP) in October 2003. They have conducted guideline
studies of the banana, flower, construction, commercial sex
exploitation of minors, trash and mining sectors. The ILO
provides $2 million dollars in funds for the 3-4 year TBP;
this amount is matched by the Ecuadorian government. Action
plans for each sector aim to get children out of work and
back in school. IPEC will work with the MOL, NGOs and the
inspectors to meet this goal. The ILO's mining program ended
in March 2004 so mining will not be included in the TBP.
11. (U) USDOL Bureau of International Labor Affairs has
awarded a $3 million project to Catholic Relief Services to
improve access to quality education in Ecuador as a means to
combat child labor. The program will target children and
adolescents ages 5-15, giving special attention to at-risk
groups including girls and indigenous children.
Child Worker Program
12. (U) The Child Worker Program funded by the Central Bank
of Ecuador, has developed a workshop program called "Panita"
which meets three times a week to promote civic values and to
work with families and schools on the issue of child labor.
There are Panita centers in Quito, Guayaquil, Ambato, Lago
Agrio and Porto Viejo. In addition, the Child Worker Program
is also planning a community ombudsman program to hire a
community group to receive and act on reports of child labor.
A similar program has been successful for domestic child
abuse in 300 communities. The Central Bank provides $200,000
annually for the Child Worker Program in Quito and ten other
13. (U) The Ministry of Social Welfare received $300,000
from the national budget in 2004 for scholarships,
professional development, and community workshops to combat
child labor. However, the Ministry has yet to spend this
money. Meanwhile, Bell South provides scholarships to 500
children a year through its School Insertion Plan, to help
defray fees that discourage school attendance.
14. (U) The labor code needs to be harmonized with the Code
for Children and Adolescents (passed by Congress in December
2002), which sets higher standards. The Child and
Adolescents Code raised the fine for child labor violations
to $200 to $1000; the Labor Code fine remains 50 sucres. The
minimum work age is 12 for work as domestics or artisans, and
14 for all others, while in the Child Code it is fifteen for
all. In September, the National Committee for the
Progressive Eradication of Child Labor will be making this
Labor Code reform proposal to Andres Paez, head of the Labor
Commission in Congress and will follow up with lobbying.
15. (SBU) While disparities exist on the extent of the child
labor problem, the GoE took some positive steps to combat
child labor this year. Still, more needs to be done. While
some laws have been improved, enforcement is still lacking.
Ministry of Labor inspectors clearly need more resources and
training to carry out their duties. Also, more needs to be
to done to rehabilitate former child workers, particularly by
the Social Welfare Ministry, which has not spent funds it has
for this purpose. Finally, labor code reform is necessary to
bring the code into agreement with the Code on Children and
Adolescents. We will report SepTel on prospects for labor
code reform and progress in child labor inspections in the
banana sector, as reported to the recent U.S. FTA labor