Child Labour Impedes Development in Ecuador

2/2/2010 - The UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is gravely concerned about child welfare and the continued use of child labour in Ecuador.

Today, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, expressed her deep concern that child labour continues to be a dramatic obstacle to development in Ecuador.

Ms. Shahinian’s tour of Ecuador began last week and concluded yesterday. Throughout her stay, she conversed with key stakeholders in the field of child rights and child labour. Ms. Shahinian also spoke with children and workers themselves.  Shortly, she will submit a report of her findings to the Human Rights Council (a body within the UN system under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

Speaking in Quito, she praised the efforts of the Ecuadorean government, commending their “genuine commitment to the elimination of child labour, including its worst forms, domestic servitude, forced labour and debt bondage,” according to one UN press release.

Ecuador’s government has demonstrated a firm political dedication to the eradication of child labour. It has worked comprehensively with the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, whilst developing initiatives of its own.  In 2004, under the impetus of a critical report by Human Rights Watch, the government instituted a strategic plan to monitor a number of workplaces across the country in hopes of reducing the utilization of children in the workplace.

Unfortunately, child labour is still common. In Ecuador, areas where child labourers are most likely to be found are banana plantations, flower farms, and garbage dumps. It is particularly in the former two areas that the government has collaborated with UNICEF and the International Labour Organization to find practicable solutions, for child labourers lose out on schooling and their right to childhood. For many, this will limit their potential to earn a higher income and move their families out of the poverty cycle.

Perhaps Ecuador’s difficulty in ending this violation of child rights comes from the income inequalities between families of indigenous or Afro-Ecuadorean descent and those of European or Mestizo descent. Children who come from families of Afro or indigenous heritage are more likely to grow up in poverty and experience difficulties accessing education, reports UNICEF.

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children under 15 should not be employed nor should they work in dangerous working conditions. Ecuador’s constitution reaffirms these notions and the country's leadership continues to strive for a world free of child labour.

Child Labour Remains Pervasive in Much of the Developing World

Child labour remains a problem in many countries in the developing world—India, Pakistan, Ghana, and Haiti, to name a few. Sometimes, the conditions of their work may constitute slavery. Children can be employed in many sectors of the economy, including textiles, agriculture, domestic labour, and in some industrial sectors.

For instance, only recently have reports surfaced that concern the use of child labour in the construction of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, India. The stadium is to be the host site for the 2010 Commonwealth Games this October. The numbers of child labourers in India are the highest in the world—100 million—owing to  a combination of poverty, discrimination and the fact that child labour can be cheaper than regular, adult labour by more than four-fifths.