Much of the 2008 Constitution was devoted to defining
civil and social rights and to designing economic and social
reforms. In 2016, a reform was also adopted aimed at
strengthening the role of workers in the labor market.
Although progress in the implementation of economic,
social and cultural rights has been undergone in recent
times, widespread poverty and large income gaps still exist.
The most affected are the indigenous peoples,
Afro-Ecuadorians and rural residents.
In recent years, health, education, pensions, healthcare
and infrastructure reforms have had broad popular support
and were one of the reasons why Rafael Correa in 2009 became
the first president to be re-elected in Ecuador.
Unemployment in the country has dropped dramatically
since the 1990s. In 2016, the official unemployment rate was
5 percent of the unemployed population. Most people work in
agriculture or fisheries (23.5 percent), which can be
explained by Ecuador's extensive export of bananas, coffee,
cocoa and shrimp. This can be compared to 1969, when 63
percent of the population worked in the same sector. The
industry, to a large extent based on exports, also
represents a large labor market. About 18 percent of the
country's employable population works in the mining and oil
industry. The labor force consists of both women and men.
Although many women still (2017) lack their own income,
the proportion of working women continues to increase. These
currently make up 40 percent of the workforce. However,
women's position in the labor market is weak, while they
work an average of 17 hours more per week than men. Salary
differences between men and women are significant. For the
same work, a woman earns two-thirds as much as a man.
In Ecuador, there is a conservative gender distribution.
Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of ECU and acronym for Ecuador. Women are mainly responsible for family and households. A
change is gradually taking place mainly in cities where both
men and women work to a greater extent. The number of women
in positions of power is still relatively small.
The minimum age for employment is 15 years, but child
labor in Ecuador is widespread compared to other South
American countries. Both guardians and employers can be
fined for cases of child labor. Companies that are faced
with the use of child laborers may be forced to discontinue
their operations. It is not uncommon for children to
contribute to family support and work in the informal
sector. In cities, it is common for children to beg, while
children in rural areas work on farms, in small-scale mining
and banana plantations. It also happens that children fall
victim to human trafficking and are sold to prostitution or
forced to work in criminal activities.
A small part of the workforce is affiliated with trade
unions, which can partly be explained by the fact that many
work in the informal sector. Despite the fact that workers
have the right to join trade unions, workers have been
dismissed or otherwise punished for their union involvement.
Private sector workers have the right to strike. The 2015
constitution, on the other hand, limits collective
bargaining in the public sector. The strike right is also
limited to public employees in certain sectors. Striking in
these areas risks prosecution with penalties of between two
and five years in prison.
By law, a work week must not exceed 40 hours. In
practice, however, it may look different and reports from
especially the palm oil industry tell of long working days,
low or no wages and inhumane living conditions for a
workforce that is mainly made up of migrants.
In 2016, the minimum wage in Ecuador was US $ 366 per
month. As a result of an economy heavily dependent on
exports and high oil prices, unemployment insurance was
extended in 2016.
Welfare and poverty, health care and social insurance
Poverty has decreased drastically since the beginning of
the 2000s when almost 65 percent of the population lived in
poverty. In 2016, the corresponding figure was 22.9 percent.
The country's growing middle class is primarily urban and
consists of businessmen, bureaucrats, middle managers,
middle-class military, doctors, teachers, lawyers and other
highly educated. The middle class consists mainly of
mastics. The groups that generally have the lowest income
are mainly indigenous people and Afro-Ecuadorians. In the
countryside, these are usually farmers or landless farm
workers, while in the cities they often work in factories,
as street vendors or craftsmen.
The social insurance system guarantees old-age and
sickness pensions, child benefits and free healthcare
regardless of income. Large investments have been made in
the healthcare covered by the social insurance system. In
2008-13, investments in health care quadrupled, which was
financed by the country's increased oil revenues. Thanks to
these, the social insurance system could also be extended to
people who had or had been employed. The changes have partly
meant that employees who previously sought private care have
instead joined the public health insurance system. At the
same time, care is lacking. There are large variations in
access and quality between the city and the countryside.
The care should cover everyone, including refugees, but
there are reports that both people with disabilities and
LGBTQ persons have been denied care.
The large number of people working in the informal sector
means that many lack a social protection network. Some
social support is given to those who do not have social
insurance, for example, a monthly contribution to single
mothers and to the country's poorest has been introduced.
With the high levels of teenage pregnancies, work on
sexual information and information about contraception has
intensified. Part of the work also includes a change in the
prevailing macho culture.
Abortion is prohibited in Ecuador, except when the
woman's life and health is seriously threatened or in the
case of rape against a woman with intellectual disability.
The strict abortion law makes unsafe and illegal abortions a
health problem for women. Only 200 of the nearly 100,000
abortions that are estimated to be performed each year are
In Ecuador, the mother receives 12 weeks of paid parental
leave, two of which are taken out before birth. Parental
leave for fathers covers 10 days, with room for some
extension in case of complications at birth. However, since
2016, both women and men have the right to up to nine months
of unpaid parental leave.
Child support is given to poor families with the
requirement that children go to school and do regular health
checks and that parents are educated in the early
development of children.
Same-sex couples have the right to register their
relationships and enjoy the same rights as in marriage
between man and woman. Same-sex couples, on the other hand,
are prohibited from adopting children.