1. Child Labor in El Salvador
In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 14.3 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working.612 A joint study by the Salvadoran Institute for the Protection of Children (ISPM), a government agency, and UNICEF, based on nationwide data collected in 1996, found that 12.4 percent (223,200) of children between the ages of 5 and 17 work in El Salvador and that 91,500 of those children were under the age of 14. Moreover, approximately 6.6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 (118,800) worked full-time and did not attend school, while 5.8 percent (104,400) of children worked part-time.613
Children work, often alongside their parents, in commercial agriculture, particularly during the coffee and sugar harvests.614 The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Redd Barna reports that children work for 10 to 12 hours a day in seasonal agriculture, often under hazardous conditions, and that only about 30 percent receive any type of compensation.615 Children also work in charcoal and firework production, shellfish harvesting, and family fishing.616
Children, girls in particular, work as domestic servants. According to a study by FEPADE, girls as young as 11 years old migrate from rural to urban areas to work as domestics. FEPADE estimates that as many as 115,000 girls between the ages of 7 and 18 work as domestic servants.617
Orphans and children from poor families frequently work as street vendors and general laborers in small businesses.618 Many children also beg in the streets.619 According to the office of the Ombudsman for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), not only do these children lose their opportunity for an education, they also often fall victim to sexual exploitation and are forced into prostitution.620
Children, especially girls, are known to be involved in prostitution.621 A 1998 study found that children between the ages of 13 and 18 accounted for nearly 45 percent of the estimated 1,300 prostitutes in three major San Salvador red-light districts.622 There is also growing concern about the extent of voluntary and forced child prostitution in the port city of Acajulta and in San Salvador.623
El Salvador is both a point of origin and a destination for girls trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. There are reports of regional trafficking of young girls both to and from El Salvador for the purposes of prostitution. Interpol, the international police organization, has identified a trafficking network bringing young girls from neighboring Honduras and Guatemala into El Salvador to work in bars along the Salvadoran/Guatemalan border.624 Over the past three years, Interpol has reportedly rescued approximately 20 Salvadoran girls from prostitution rings.625
Initiatives by the Government of El Salvador and the private sector have reportedly eliminated underage labor in the formal industrial sector,626 including the Export Processing Zones (EPZs). A PDDH report on the maquila industry found no workers under the age of 17, and only 0.5 percent who were age 17.627
2. Children’s Participation in School
Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for El Salvador. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect a child’s participation in school.628 In 1997, the primary gross enrollment rate was 97.3 percent, and the primary net enrollment was 89.1 percent.629 According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 77 percent of primary school entrants reach the fifth grade.630 Children in particularly difficult financial circumstances often do not complete compulsory schooling, despite schooling being officially compulsory through the ninth grade.631
Although there has been progress in increasing the availability and quality of schooling throughout the country, rural areas still fall short of providing a ninth grade education to all students.632 A study conducted in 1997 by the Business Foundation for Educational Development indicated that 17 percent of urban children and 34 percent of rural youth were not attending school.633
3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement
The Salvadoran Constitution prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14. However, minors who are at least 12 years old may receive special permission from the Labor Ministry to work, but may only do so where such employment considered is absolutely necessary for the minor’s and his/her family’s survival. Additional rules dictate that children under the age of 18 may only legally work under certain conditions. For example, minors between the ages of 14 and 18 may not work more than 6 hours per day and not for more than 36 hours per week.634 The Labor Code prohibits the employment of persons under 18 years of age in occupations considered hazardous.635 Forced or compulsory labor, including forced and bonded labor by children, is prohibited by the Constitution.636 The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws.637
El Salvador’s Penal Code does not criminalize prostitution.638 Article 169 of the Penal Code, however, provides for specific penalties for the “inducement, facilitation, or promotion of prostitution.”639 The penalty increases, under Article 170 of the Penal Code, if the victim is less than 18 years old.640 The Penal Code also prohibits sexual relations with persons under 16 years of age, even with their consent, and the government considers that children under 18 must be protected from sexual exploitation, child prostitution, and child pornography.641 In June 1999, the Legislative Assembly approved a new provision to the Criminal Code that mandates a 6- to 8- year prison sentence for individuals convicted of sexual aggression against minors.642
The Salvadoran Institute for the Protection of Children (ISPM), a government entity, is responsible for protecting and promoting children’s rights.643 In recent years, police, local prosecutors, and the ISPM have responded to several long-running advocacy and media programs focusing on child prostitution and pornography by increasing efforts to enforce the law and rescue children from houses of prostitution.644
El Salvador ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on January 23, 1996, and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor on October 12, 2000.645
4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling
a. Child Labor Initiatives
The Minister of Labor has pushed for an integrated approach among the government, donor institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and regional labor ministries to combat child labor.646 The Government of El Salvador is in the process of creating a National Committee to Fight Child Labor to help the government formulate a coherent child labor policy and coordinate public and private programs to combat child labor, address the causes pressuring children to work, and develop alternatives and options for children and their families.647
The government has collaborated with the ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) on four projects, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, aimed at combating child labor in specific sectors. These projects are designed to remove children from exploitative work, promote schooling and recreational opportunities for them, and help develop new economic options for their families in order to reduce reliance in the labor of their children. In August 1999, representatives from government, ILO-IPEC, and the ISPM inaugurated a project in the southeastern shore area to remove children involved in harvesting mangrove clams. In September of the same year, the government (including the ISPM), local NGOs, the Coffee Growers Association, and ILO-IPEC joined resources to start a project in the coffee sector to help remove children from the fields and enroll them in school.648 Also in September 1999, a joint effort by the government, ILO-IPEC, and an NGO led to the implementation of a project focusing on removing children from the cottage production of fireworks.649 Another ILO-IPEC program currently under way in El Salvador seeks to gather statistical information on children engaged in economic activities as part of an ILO-IPEC statistical project in eight Central American countries.650
In June 2001, Minister for Labor and Social Welfare, Nieto Menéndez, announced that El Salvador would become one of the first countries to initiate a comprehensive, national program to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in a set time frame.651 The Time-Bound Program” in El Salvador, which is expected to begin in late 2001, will seek to eliminate exploitative child labor associated with fishing, sugar cane production, the commercial sex industry, and scavenging around garbage dumps. The program aims to withdraw children from hazardous work and promote access to quality basic education through a national program.652
b. Educational Alternatives
Education is officially compulsory through the ninth grade, according to Salvadoran law.653 The Ministry of Education is carrying out programs designed to improve the quality of public schooling and increase the availability of primary education for urban and rural families.654 One of these program, a $34 million Basic Education Modernization Project, is designed to improve access to and the quality of basic education, and to promote gender equality in education through the EDUCO community-based education program. Another program, a $58 million Secondary Education Project, seeks to enhance access to secondary education, especially in rural areas, improve the relevance and content of curriculum, target the needs of female students, enhance the role of the private sector in education, and help prepare students to enter the labor market.655 In 1996, the government dedicated 14.1 percent of its spending on education.656 In that same year, public spending on education as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) was 2.35 percent.657 Public spending on primary education as a percentage of GNP was 1.33 percent in 1995.658
5. Selected Data on Government Expenditures
The following bar chart presents selected government expenditures expressed as a percentage of GNP. The chart considers government expenditures on education, the military, health care, and debt service. Where figures are available, the portion of government spending on education that is specifically dedicated to primary education is also shown.659
While it is difficult to draw conclusions or discern clear correlations between areas of government expenditure as a percentage of GNP and the incidence of child labor in a country, this chart and the related tables presented in Appendix B (Tables 14 through 19) offer the reader a basis for considering the relative emphasis placed on each spending area by the governments in each of the 33 countries profiled in the report.
612 World Development Indicators 2000 .
613 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2000), Section 6d [hereinafter Country Reports 1999—El Salvador ]. In 1998, the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FEPADE), estimated that there were as many as 400,000 child laborers in El Salvador. Tania Urías, “La Hipoteca del Futuro,” El Diario de Hoy , El Salvador, September 19, 1999 [hereinafter “La Hipoteca del Futuro”].
614 U.S. Embassy-El Salvador, unclassified telegram no. 005508, February 1998 [hereinafter unclassified telegram, 005508]; see also U.S. Embassy-El Salvador, unclassified telegram no. 002066, June 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 002066].
615 “La Hipoteca del Futuro”; see also IPEC , Combating Child Labor in the Coffee Sector of El Salvador, project document (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, 1999) [hereinafter Combating Child Labor in the Coffee Sector of El Salvador ].
616 Unclassified telegram 005508; see also unclassified telegram 002066.
617 “La Hipoteca del Futuro.”
618 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at 6d.
619 Jesús Corvera, “12.4% of Children in El Salvador Work,” El Pais , as cited in UN Wire [translation], October 27, 2000 [document on file].
620 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 5.
621 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6c.
622 According to a 1998 study on child prostitution conducted by the Commission on the Family, the Woman, and the Child by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, among the major factors contributing to children engaging in prostitution are poverty, a lack of a strong nuclear family, discrimination against women, and organized crime; see Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 5.
623 Unclassified telegram 005508; see also unclassified telegram 002066.
624 “ Casa Alianza News Briefs” (www.casa-alianza.org/EN/newsbrief/1999/september1999.shtml), September 9, 1999.
625 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6f.
626 Unclassified telegram, 6/00.
627 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6d.
628 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, See Chapter 1, Introduction.
629 World Development Indicators 2000 .
630 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “The Right to Education: Towards Education for All throughout Life,” World Education Report 2000, June 27, 2000, 145; see www.unesco.org/education/highlights/wer/wholewer.pdf [hereinafter World Education Report 2000 ].
631 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6d; see also Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador, 1982, Section 3, Chapter II, Education, Science, and Culture [hereinafter Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador].
632 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 5.
634 Articles 114-17 of the El Salvador Labor Code, 1995, 43-45; see also Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6d.
635 “La Hipoteca del Futuro.”
636 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6c.
637 Ibid. at Section 6d.
638 U.S. Embassy-El Salvador, unclassified telegram no. 002731, August 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 002731].
642 Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 5.
644 Unclassified telegram 002066.
645 For a list of which countries profiled in Chapter 3 have ratified ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, see Appendix C.
646 Unclassified telegram 002066.
648 Combating Child Labor in the Coffee Sector of El Salvador .
649 IPEC, Combating Child Labor in Fireworks Industry of El Salvador, project document (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, 1999); see also Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 6d.
650 IPEC, SIMPOC: Child Labor Survey and Development of Database on Child Labor in El Salvador (Geneva: ILO-IPEC).
651 Mr. Nieto Menéndez, Minister for Labour and Social Welfare, El Salvador, speech at the Special High-Level Session on the Launch of the Time-Bound Programme on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in the Republic of El Salvador, the Kingdom of Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania, International Labour Conference, 89th Session, June 12, 2001, Geneva. For the full text of Mr. Nieto’s speech, see www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ relm/ilc/ilc89/a-menendez.htm.
652 Combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in El Salvador: Supporting the Time-Bound Program for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in El Salvador (Geneva: ILO-IPEC).
653 Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador, 1982, Chapter 2, “Education, Science, and Culture,” Section 3; see also Country Reports 1999—El Salvador at Section 5.
654 Unclassified telegram 002066.
655 The World Bank Group, Country Report for 1998: El Salvador, Washington, D.C.
656 World Education Report 2000.
657 World Development Indicators 2000 .
658 UNESCO, Institute for Statistics [CD-ROM], Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment—A Decade of Education , Country Report, El Salvador (Paris, 2000).
659 See Chapter 1, Section C, 5, for a fuller discussion of the information presented in the box. See also Appendix B for further discussion, and Tables 14 through 19 for figures on government expenditure over a range of years.