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 legal.
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.