Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, Ecuador made moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Ministry of Interior created the National Directorate for the Investigation of Crimes Against Women, Family, Children, Adolescents, Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling, which oversees law enforcement units responsible for investigating labor and sex trafficking cases that involve children. Further, the Ministry of Tourism approved a new Code of Conduct for tourism industry workers that includes actions meant to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors in tourist establishments. In addition, the government’s new social program, Inclusive Cities, brought protection services and temporary housing to 9,000 participants in 17 cities. However, children in Ecuador are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Children also perform dangerous tasks in mining. The Ministry of Labor has reported that the resources allocated to the labor inspectorate—including the number of inspectors, transportation, and equipment—is insufficient to conduct inspections in the informal sector. The Government of Ecuador has also not undertaken a nationwide child labor survey since 2012; the lack of current information on the prevalence of child labor hampers efforts to address the problem.
Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in Ecuador.
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||7.0 (260,567)|
|Working children by sector||5 to 14|
|Attending School (%)||5 to 14||95.5|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||7.5|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||97.5|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2021, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2023. (1)
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization’s Analysis of Statistics from Encuesta Nacional de Empleo, Desempleo y Subempleo (ENEMDU), 2021. (2)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Production of bananas, rice, coffee, cocoa, palm oil, sugarcane, vegetables, citrus, and flowers (primarily for domestic consumption), including with use of chemical products† and machetes† (3-10)|
|Hazardous work in the carving† and threading† of abacá fiber (11,12)|
|Industry||Gold mining† and small-scale mining† (7,10,11)|
|Production of bricks† (7,10,11)|
|Construction† and brickwork (3,4,10,11)|
|Services||Work in auto shops, including hazardous work involved in used heavy machinery (10)|
|Garbage scavenging (10)|
|Food services, including working as waiters and kitchen staff (10)|
|Domestic work† (8,10,11)|
|Street work, including begging and vending (8,10,11,13)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (10,11,14,15)|
|Use in illicit activities, including drug trafficking and robbery, sometimes as result of human trafficking (8,10,11,16)|
|Recruitment of children by Colombian non-state armed groups for use in armed conflict, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (8,17)|
|Use in the production of pornography (10,11,14)|
|Forced labor in small scale banana, hemp, and palm plantations, cacao, coffee, floriculture, mining; and in domestic work, street vending, and begging (8-11,15)|
† Determined by national law or regulation as hazardous and, as such, relevant to Article 3(d) of ILO C. 182.
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.
Civil society and government sources reported incidences of Peruvian adolescents being recruited under false promises of employment into forced labor in illegal mines in Ecuador, in which child prostitution can also occur. (11,18-20) Migrant and refugee children from Colombia and Venezuela are vulnerable to street work, including forced begging. They are also vulnerable to exploitative labor practices in some parts of the fishing sector in the coastal region and in artisanal mining in southern Ecuador and in the northern province of Imbabura. (3,4,10,11,18,21) Some Indigenous children between the ages of 6 and 10 from the highlands are victims of human trafficking for forced begging in Guayaquil and Quito, initially under false promises of employment. (6,11,22) Some migrant and refugee children from other Latin American countries, as well as Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian girls, are used in child prostitution. (3,4,8,11,15,23) Sex trafficking networks also recruit children from schools and, increasingly, through social media platforms. (14,21) Traffickers force children into criminality, recruiting them to engage in drug trafficking and robbery. (8,11)
Despite education being free in Ecuador, children face barriers to accessing education including lack of space and teachers, economic difficulty in buying uniforms and school supplies, inadequate school infrastructure, teen pregnancy, and lack of transportation for children who must attend schools far from their homes. (3,4,10,18) In addition, some NGOs have reported students being assigned to schools that are far from their homes. (10) Reports indicate that approximately 57,000 children abandoned their studies during the reporting period due to involvement in informal employment or begging networks that prevented them from attending school. (24) Reporting also indicates that as many as 65 percent of school-age Venezuelan refugee and migrant children are not enrolled in Ecuador's educational system due to non-institutional barriers like a lack of resources and local discrimination. (11) Undocumented students face difficulties graduating from secondary school as national authorities are unable to grant diplomas without identity documents. (10) Lastly, the government has not conducted a comprehensive nationwide child labor survey since 2012, which hampers efforts to eradicate child labor. (11-16)
Ecuador has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).
|ILO C. 138, Minimum Age||✓|
|ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor||✓|
|UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict||✓|
|UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography||✓|
|Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons||✓|
The government's laws and regulations are in line with relevant international standards (Table 4).
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||Yes||15||Article 46 of the Constitution; Article 82 of the Childhood and Adolescence Code (25,26)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||18||Article 87 of the Childhood and Adolescence Code (26)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||Yes||Articles 5, 6, and 8 of Resolution No. 016 of 2008; Article 5 of Ministerial Accord MDT-2015-0131 (27,28)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Articles 82, 91, 105, and 213 of the Integral Penal Code (29)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Articles 47, 91, and 92 of the Integral Penal Code; Article 117 of the Organic Law on Human Mobility (29,30)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||Yes||Articles 91 and 100–104 of the Integral Penal Code (29)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Articles 47, 219, and 220 of the Integral Penal Code (29)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||18||Article 57 of the Childhood and Adolescence Code; Article 161 of the Constitution (25,26)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||N/A*|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||Yes||Article 127 of the Integral Penal Code; Article 57 of the Childhood and Adolescence Code; Article 161 of the Constitution (25,26,29)|
|Compulsory Education Age||Yes||15||Articles 38, 42, and 43 of the Organic Intercultural Education Law (31)|
|Free Public Education||Yes||Article 4 of the Organic Intercultural Education Law; Chapter 5, Article 28 of the Constitution (25,31)|
*Country has no conscription (25)
The government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor (Table 5). However, gaps exist within enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including insufficient human resource allocation.
|Organization/Agency||Role & Activities|
|Ministry of Labor (MOL)||Enforces child labor laws in the formal sector through the Directorate for the Attention to Priority Groups, which has partially resumed the responsibilities of the now-defunct "Project to Eradicate Child Labor" (PETI). (10) Monitors and identifies cases of child labor, assesses penalties, promotes public awareness campaigns to prevent child labor, provides technical assistance to local governments on child labor, and identifies victims of child labor for the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) to provide special services. (4,11) Separate from MOL, MIES conducts routine inspections in the informal sector for child labor and provides remediation services to child laborers and their families. (3,4,18) Using the Unified System of Registration of Child Labor, MOL collects information on child laborers and refers children to appropriate government services. (4,11)|
|Attorney General’s Office (AGO)||Enforces criminal laws against child labor and hazardous child labor, including the prosecution of cases. (10,11,18) The AGO's Specialized Victim Witness Protection Program provides immediate support and shelter to survivors and witnesses willing to press charges and testify against their abusers, and coordinates referrals for further assistance with other government agencies. (18)|
|Ministry of Interior (MOI)||Enforces child labor laws. In 2022, through the National Police, MOI established the National Directorate for the Investigation of Crimes Against Women, Family, Children, Adolescents, Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling* with four specialized units: (1) the National Investigation Unit for the Protection of Children and Adolescents (UNIPEN); (2) the National Investigation Unit for Gender Violence, Women or Members of the Family Nucleus; (3) the National Investigation Unit for Sexual Integrity; (4) and the National Investigation Unit for Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling. All of these units are tasked with investigating crimes against children, including child labor. (10) UNIPEN is the primary anti-trafficking law enforcement unit responsible for investigating labor and sex trafficking cases involving children and is also responsible for investigating all crimes against children. (10)|
* Agency responsible for child labor enforcement was created during the reporting period.
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in Ecuador took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the operations of the Ministry of Labor that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including insufficient human resource allocation.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||$2,187,168 (11)||$4,000,000 (10)|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||117 (11)||149 (10)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||Yes (32)||Yes (32)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||12,335 (11)||7,782 (10)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||5 (11)||6 (10)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||19 (11)||4 (10)|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||19 (11)||4 (10)|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (32)||Yes (32)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
The number of labor inspectors is likely insufficient for the size of Ecuador’s labor force, which includes approximately 8.3 million workers. (10,11,33,34) MOL also reported that the labor inspectorate lacked the necessary resources, such as transportation and equipment, to fulfill its mandate. (3,10) Furthermore, inspectors do not have sufficient knowledge of child labor laws and lack training on identifying victims of human trafficking. (19,21) While Ecuador's labor inspectors do carry out inspections in the informal sector, they focus primarily on formal sector employment. (11) Although Ecuadorian laws and regulations governing child labor are comprehensive, those regarding hazardous work are not enforced equally in rural areas and family-run businesses. (11) The government does not publish information from the Unified System of Registration of Child Labor, which collects data on the number of child laborers and allows labor enforcement to refer children to the appropriate government services, and research indicates the government continues to struggle with ensuring that some children rescued from working in the informal sector receive adequate social services. (19,35)
Criminal Law Enforcement
In 2022, criminal law enforcement agencies in Ecuador took actions to address child labor (Table 7). However, gaps exist within the operations of the criminal enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate criminal law enforcement, including a lack of specialized shelters for boys who are survivors of sex or labor trafficking.
|Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Training for Criminal Investigators Provided||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Number of Investigations||479 (11)||414 (10)|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||Unknown||39 (10)|
|Number of Convictions||Unknown||2 (10)|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (11)||Yes (10)|
A reciprocal referral mechanism exists between law enforcement and social services for victims of human trafficking; however, civil society organizations report that the mechanism is, at times, ad hoc. (11) Shelters serve only girls who are survivors of sex trafficking. There are no shelters for boys who are survivors of sex trafficking, or for survivors of labor trafficking. (14) Although the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) will generally assign child victims to shelters depending on space availability, officials cite a lack of shelters in many provinces as a primary constraint in victim assistance. (3,18,21,36,37) Shelters have reported not receiving promised government funds in a timely manner and largely relied on NGOs and international funding to maintain their services. (15) Penalties were imposed for convictions related to child labor; however, the Judicial Council did not provide specific information on the penalties themselves. (10)
The government has established mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8).
|Coordinating Body||Role & Activities|
|Directorate for the Attention to Priority Groups||MOL, through the Directorate for the Attention to Priority Groups, is the primary coordinating mechanism for the elimination of child labor. The Directorate partially assumed the roles and responsibilities of the now-defunct PETI program. (10) Aims to promote employment for parents and prevent child labor through labor inspections. (10) The Directorate was active during the reporting period, offering support for child labor eradication efforts, assessing penalties, and providing technical assistance to local governments on child labor eradication. (24)|
The government has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including the lack of an active and permanent policy to address child labor.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|Prevent and Eradicate Child Labor (2021–2025)†||Promotes employment for parents and prevention of child labor through inspections. (10) Developed in March through the National Council for Intergenerational Equity's National Agenda for Intergenerational Equity, which was created as a technical planning instrument for the formulation of public policies at the national and local levels. Despite the end of the PETI program in 2021, MOL reported it continued to support child labor eradication efforts through the Directorate for the Attention to Priority Groups. (10) Reports indicate that, although this policy has been officially adopted, it has not yet been implemented. (10)|
|National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2019–2030)||Aims to prevent, investigate, and impose legal sanctions against human trafficking with a focus on human rights, mobility, and gender, as the majority of victims in Ecuador are women. The Action Plan includes U.S.-funded support through the IOM and is the government's first multisectoral plan on human trafficking that establishes goals for every public sector institution to address human trafficking. (38-40) The government continued to implement the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons during the reporting period. (15)|
|National Development Plan (Plan de Creación de Oportunidades) (2021–2025)||Creates employment opportunities for Ecuadorians and aims to establish a plan for future policy areas. These include economic, social, integral security, ecological transition, and institutional policy areas.(41) In the social axis listed in the plan, the Ecuadorian government lays out its objective to protect families, guarantee their rights and services, eradicate poverty, and promote social inclusion. (10) In order to meet this objective, Ecuador has set a goal of decreasing the percentage of children between the ages of 5 and 14 that engage in child labor. This plan aims to reach the goal of decreasing child labor from 6.1 percent to 4.4 percent by 2025. (9,10,41)|
† Policy was approved during the reporting period.
During the reporting period, the Ministry of Tourism approved a new Code of Conduct for tourism industry workers. The Code outlines actions meant to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors in tourist establishments. (15)
In 2022, the government funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including inadequate efforts to address the worst forms of child labor in all relevant sectors.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|Inclusive Cities*†||MIES program that helps guarantee the rights of children, adolescents, people with disabilities, and the elderly population through social protection programs. Provides temporary housing for children and adolescents. (42) During the reporting period, the Inclusive Cities program reached 9,000 participants across 17 cities with populations vulnerable to child labor. (10)|
|National Program to Combat Street Begging and Child Labor†||MIES program that raises awareness about child begging and aims to facilitate social services for children begging in the streets. (11) Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement the National Program to Combat Street Begging and Child Labor during the reporting period.|
For information about USDOL’s projects to address child labor around the world, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/ilab-project-page-search
* Program was launched during the reporting period.
† Program is funded by the Government of Ecuador.
‡ The government had other social programs that may have included the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor. (18,43)
Although civil society stakeholders commended the government's social programs, they reiterated that these programs only make limited interventions in sectors in which child labor is most prevalent, specifically the informal and agricultural sectors. (18) Research found that a social registry that contains information on low-income families has not been updated since 2015, which hampers its ability to sufficiently fund social assistance programs. Civil society notes that an update to the social registry should prioritize the most vulnerable populations at risk of child labor. (4,11)
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Ecuador (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Enforcement||Strengthen social services referral mechanisms for survivors of child labor, especially for those found in the informal sector.||2015 – 2022|
|Increase the number of labor inspectors from 149 to 556 to provide adequate coverage of the labor force of approximately 8.3 million people.||2009 – 2022|
|Ensure that the labor inspectorate is properly funded so that inspectors receive sufficient resources, including transportation and equipment, to carry out their duties adequately.||2014 – 2022|
|Ensure that inspections sufficiently cover sectors in which child labor has been reported, including the informal sector.||2014 – 2022|
|Ensure that laws and regulations governing child labor, especially hazardous labor, are enforced consistently throughout the country, including in rural areas and family-run businesses.||2016 – 2022|
|Ensure that labor inspectors have sufficient knowledge of existing laws and receive adequate training in victim identification to conduct inspections and refer victims to social services.||2015 – 2022|
|Ensure that criminal investigators receive sufficient resources, such as additional investigators, to investigate cases of suspected child labor crimes and refer victims to social services consistently.||2016 – 2022|
|Provide specialized shelters for boys and girls that have been victimized by labor trafficking. Ensure that funds are distributed to shelters in a timely manner.||2018 – 2022|
|Publish child labor data collected through the Unified System of Registering Child Labor.||2018 – 2022|
|Government Policies||Fully implement the National Council for Intergenerational Equity policy plan, "Prevent and Eradicate Child Labor.".||2022|
|Social Programs||Conduct a comprehensive child labor survey to ensure sufficient and current data to inform government actions to eliminate child labor.||2018 – 2022|
|Ensure students without identity documents are able to graduate.||2022|
|Develop and administer social programs to address the vulnerability of migrant and refugee children to exploitative labor practices in the fishing sector and in artisanal mining.||2018 – 2022|
|Eliminate barriers to and make education accessible for all children, including Indigenous and refugee children and children from rural areas, by increasing classroom space and teachers, addressing teen pregnancy issues, providing adequate transportation, and easing the economic burden of buying school supplies.||2014 – 2022|
|Ensure that all social programs that address child labor, including the National Campaign to Combat Street Begging and Child Labor, remain active and publish information on activities undertaken on an annual basis.||2019 – 2022|
|Ensure that social programs make interventions in sectors in which child labor is most prevalent, specifically in the informal and agricultural sectors.||2018 – 2022|
|Update the social registry—which contains information on low-income families and informs the provision of social assistance—to include families most vulnerable to child labor.||2020 – 2022|
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed March 15, 2023. For more information, please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- ILO. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original data from Encuesta Nacional de Empleo, Desempleo y Subempleo (ENEMDU), 2021. Analysis received March 2023. Please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. February 4, 2020.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. February 24, 2021.
- Government of Ecuador. PETI—Proyecto de Erradicación del Trabajo Infantil 2018–2021. 2018. Source on file.
- IOM. Diagnostico Situacional Sobre la Trata de Personas en la Provincia de Pichincha. 2017. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy - Quito. Reporting. January 26, 2022.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2021: Ecuador. Washington, D.C., July 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 11, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. January 27, 2023.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. January 31, 2022.
- Defensoria del Pueblo Ecuador. Informe de verificacion de derechos humanos: La indigna situacion de familias que viven dentro de las haciendas de abaca de la empresa japonesa Furukawa Plantaciones C.A. Ecuador. February 18, 2019.
https://www.dpe.gob.ec/wp-content/dpecomunicacion/Informe final furukawa.pdf
- El Universo. Un 8% de poblacion infantil trabaja en las zonas urbanas de Ecuador. June 10, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. February 9, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. February 2, 2023.
- UNICEF official. Interview with USDOL official. September 3, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 10, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. February 8, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. January 16, 2018.
- U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 27, 2018.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. March 11, 2019.
- IOM. Diagnostico Situacional Sobre la Trata de Personas en la Provincia de Guayas. 2017. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. February 19, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito. Reporting. E-mail communication to USDOL official. June 14, 2023.
- Government of Ecuador. Constitución del Ecuador. Enacted: 2008.
- Government of Ecuador. Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia with modifications until 2009. Enacted: 2003. Source on file.
- Government of Ecuador. Resolución No. 16 CNNA. Enacted: 2008. Source on file.
- Government of Ecuador. Listado de Actividades Peligrosas en el Trabajo de Adolescentes. Official Register, 2015. Source on file.
- Government of Ecuador. Código Orgánico Integral Penal. Enacted: 2014.
- Government of Ecuador. Ley Orgánica de Movilidad Humana. Enacted: January 31, 2017. Source on file.
- Government of Ecuador. Ley Orgánica de Educación Intercultural. Enacted: 2011. Source on file.
- Government of Ecuador. Código de Trabajo. May 2013.
- UN. World Economic Situation and Prospects 2019 Statistical Annex. New York. 2019. Please see "Labor Law Enforcement Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- ILOSTAT. ILO Labor Force Statistics (LFS) - Population and Labour Force. Accessed (January 31, 2023). Labor force data is government-reported data collected by the ILO. Please see "Labor Law Enforcement: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. June 25, 2020.
- Government of Ecuador – Unit for Crimes Against Children and Adolescents official. Interview with USDOL official. September 4, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Quito official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. July 12, 2019.
- Government of Ecuador. Plan de accion contra la trata de personas 2019 - 2030. November 2019.
- El Debate. Ecuador estrena política integral contra la trata de personas. December 18, 2019.
- Government of Ecuador. Gobierno realizó el lanzamiento del Plan De Acción Contra la Trata de Personas 2019–2030. December 18, 2019.
- Government of Ecuador. National Plan for Creating Opportunities, Objective 5, Sub-Objective 5.1.2 (2021–2025). 2022. Source on file.
- Government of Ecuador. MIES Presenta el Proyecto Emblematico "Ciudad Inclusiva." April 25, 2022.
- Agencia EFE. La Vicepresidenta de Ecuador presenta la misión "Menos pobreza, más desarrollo". January 9, 2018.