In that case, let me share a few more with you...
United States DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Bureau Of International Labor Affairs
In 2016, El Salvador made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government approved regulations to facilitate the enforcement of the Special Law Against Trafficking in Persons, including on the referral of criminal child labor cases between law enforcement and social service agencies. The National Council for Children
Table 1. Statistics on Children’s Work and Education
Figure 1. Working Children by Sector, Ages 5-14
El SalvadorMODERATE ADVANCEMENT
and Adolescents designed a mechanism to monitor theimplementation of the National Policy for the Protectionof Children and Adolescents. In addition, the Governmentpassed the Educated El Salvador Plan, which aims in part toincrease security in schools and improve access to educationfor vulnerable groups, including children engaged in child labor. However, children in El Salvador engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the harvesting of sugarcane and in illicit activities, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies continue to lack sufficient resources to fully enforce child labor laws, and no penalties for child labor violations were issued in 2016.I. PREVALENCE AND SECTORAL DISTRIBUTION OF CHILD LABORChildren in El Salvador engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the harvesting of sugarcane and in illicit activities, sometimes as a result of human trafficking.(1-6) Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in El Salvador.
ChildrenAgePercentWorking (% and population)Attending School (%)Combining Work and School (%)Primary Completion Rate (%)
5 to 145 to 147 to 14
Services 38.2%Industry 14.2%
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2014, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2016.(7)
Source for all other data: Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis of statistics from Encuesta de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples (EHPM), 2015.(8)
El Salvador: Child Labor on Sugar Plantations
Foreign Firms Use End Product of Children’s Hazardous Work
June 9, 2004 8:00PM EDTBusinesses purchasing sugar from El Salvador, including The Coca-Cola Company, are using the product of child labor that is both hazardous and widespread, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.Harvesting cane requires children to use machetes and other sharp knives to cut sugarcane and strip the leaves off the stalks, work they perform for up to nine hours each day in the hot sun. Nearly every child interviewed by Human Rights Watch for its 139-page report , “Turning a Blind Eye: Hazardous Child Labor in El Salvador’s Sugarcane Cultivation,” said that he or she had suffered machete gashes on the hands or legs while cutting cane. These risks led one former labor inspector to characterize sugarcane as the most dangerous of all forms of agricultural work.“Child labor is rampant on El Salvador’s sugarcane plantations,” said Michael Bochenek, counsel to the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. “Companies that buy or use Salvadoran sugar should realize that fact and take responsibility for doing something about it.” Up to one-third of the workers on El Salvador’s sugarcane plantations are children under the age of 18, many of whom began to work in the fields between the ages of eight and 13. The International Labor Organization estimates that at least 5,000 and as many as 30,000 children under age 18 work on Salvadoran sugar plantations. El Salvador sets a minimum working age of 18 for dangerous occupations and 14 for most other forms of work.Medical care is often not available on the plantations, and children must frequently pay for the cost of their medical treatment. They are not reimbursed by their employers despite a provision in the Salvadoran labor code that makes employers responsible for medical expenses resulting from on-the-job injuries.El Salvador’s sugar mills and the businesses that purchase or use Salvadoran sugar know or should know that the sugar is in part the product of child labor. For example, Coca-Cola Co. uses Salvadoran sugar in its bottled beverages for domestic consumption in El Salvador. The company’s local bottler purchases sugar refined at El Salvador’s largest mill, Central Izalco. At least four of the plantations that supply sugarcane to Central Izalco regularly use child labor, Human Rights Watch found after interviewing workers.When Human Rights Watch brought this information to the attention of Coca-Cola Co., the soft-drink manufacturer did not contradict these findings. Coca-Cola has a code of conduct for its suppliers, known as the “Guiding Principles for Suppliers to The Coca-Cola Company,” but it is narrowly drawn to cover only direct suppliers, which includes sugar mills but excludes plantations. The guiding principles provide, for example, that the Coca-Cola Co.’s direct suppliers “will not use child labor as defined by local law,” but they do not address the responsibility of direct suppliers to ensure that their own suppliers do not use hazardous child labor.“If Coca-Cola is serious about avoiding complicity in the use of hazardous child labor, the company should recognize that its responsibility to ensure that respect for human rights extends beyond its direct suppliers,” said Bochenek.In addition, children who work on sugarcane plantations often miss the first several weeks or months of school. For example, a teacher in a rural community north of the capital San Salvador estimated that about 20 percent of her class did not attend school during the harvest. Other children drop out of school altogether. Some children who want to attend school are driven into hazardous work because it is the only way their families can afford the cost of their education. El Salvador is one of five countries in Latin America to participate in an International Labor Organization Time-Bound Program, an initiative to address the worst forms of child labor. But officials in the Salvadoran Ministry of Labor told Human Rights Watch that most children who cut cane are simply their parents’ “helpers.” Human Rights Watch urged El Salvador’s sugar mills, Coca-Cola Co. and other businesses that purchase Salvadoran sugar to incorporate international standards in their contractual relationships with suppliers and require their suppliers to do the same throughout the supply chain. They should also adopt effective monitoring systems to verify that labor conditions on their suppliers’ sugarcane plantations comply with international standards.
“There’s exploitation behind every piece of clothing made in El Salvador”
Iñaki Makazaga 7 MAR 2017 - 16:18 CET
Montserrat Arévalo, from Mujeres Transformando (El Salvador), during her recent visit to Bilbao. I. M.El Salvador has more than 200 textile factories located in 17 free zones, and which employ more than 70,000 people. Out of all the workers, 80% are women. Montserrat Arévalo, who heads the association Mujeres Transformando (Women Transforming), has spent nearly two decades denouncing inhumane working conditions, training union leaders, building ties with international organizations and documenting pressure campaigns against brands “that sell a lifestyle that respects the environment, yet exploit their own workers.” Arévalo is in Spain to develop new awareness campaigns about responsible consumption in Europe, in partnership with a group called Paz con Dignidad (Peace with Dignity). “Behind every article of clothing made in El Salvador, there is a story of exploitation,” she claims.Question: What does the average woman who works in El Salvador’s textile industry look like?Answer: At the factories, you have women aged 18 through 35. The extenuating workdays of over 16 hours and the high production targets mean that after the age of 35, these workers are no longer profitable for the industry. So most of them are young, uneducated women and homemakers. Their low education level and precarious situation forces them to work in this sector, as there are no formal job alternatives in the country. Behind every article of clothing, there is a story of exploitation in my country. We need to tell this story in Europe, in order to encourage greater awareness and more responsible consumption that will help change these inhumane production conditions.Does the vulnerability of these women play against them?
After the age of 35, these workers are no longer profitable for the industryIt is no coincidence that the factories are in El Salvador, nor that it is mostly women who work in this sector. There is a perverse breeding ground there: the state is very weak and very permissive when it comes to violations of its people’s rights. It is the state itself that encourages the creation of these companies through economic incentives such as tax exemptions, and that is why they easily look the other way while rights are systematically violated. This complicity between businesses and the state is very difficult for these women to break.Without your presence, would these women be completely alone?We should give things some thought, in order to end state-sponsored competitiveness programs based on precarious jobs for the population. We are now in a favorable period, with a leftist government in power, but we are just now emerging from a culture of complete lack of respect for people, with companies setting up and operating any way they like. We urgently need to implement strong changes to our legislation. The way things stand today, there is a complete culture of zero respect for people’s rights. These factories bring companies millions in revenue, while women work 12 hours to make 1,500 items a day, yet it does not lift them out of poverty.What are your main goals in this process?
The factories bring companies millions in revenue, while women are not lifted out of povertyOur main goal has always been to organize workers. After 14 years, we have 16 organized workers’ committees in the country. We want them to be increasingly strong, to know their rights and to be able to demand respect for them. We work with them through training and empowerment, and conduct campaigns with a political impact through research and documentation. We have taken reforms to Congress, and now we are contributing new proposals to reform national labor policies.At the same time, you are behind international awareness campaigns.A very important initiative, and one that has a lot of political value, is documenting the track record of transnational brands in our country. Through organized workers, we find out what is happening inside the free zones where women work surrounded by walls, barbed wire, security guards and rifles. We have managed to get women to document which brands are being produced in places where rights are being trampled. The same brands that carefully tend to their public image are inhumanely exploiting their own workers. And documenting this reality means attacking their weakest flank, the brand image. International pressure is more effective than national justice. In modern-day El Salvador, being a poor woman means that justice will be neither swift nor well served.What brands have you documented in breach of workers’ rights?
The complicity between businesses and the state is very difficult to breakThere are Puma, Adidas, Old Navy, GAP, Reebok, Columbia, The North Face, Patagonia, Tommy Hilfiger and Lacoste, besides much of the equipment made for the American NFL. In 2011 we complained about the inhumane production conditions to make NFL shirts on the same day of the Super Bowl, and in just a few hours over 1,500 people had written to one of the teams to demand changes.What were those inhumane conditions?We collected evidence that the drinking water for the workers was contaminated with up to four different types of bacteria, including fecal coliform bacteria; we showed that they were working in rooms with no ventilation or emergency exits, at average temperatures of 36ºC. We also gathered evidence that their contracts forced them to work extra hours, accept wage discounts, and meet abusive production targets of 1,500 shirts a day. They were being paid eight cents of a dollar for every shirt, which sells at retail prices of $25. We showed how all this was happening with the shirts being produced for the Dallas Cowboys, and also with shirts made for Puma, Adidas... This forced them to sit down with us and make improvements to the water, the ventilation, the contracts...And middle management was trained to treat workers humanely, without using physical force. This was the only conflict that was resolved without any loss of jobs, thanks to pressure and international interest and the work carried out by employees.What is it like to be a human rights activist in a country with 14 homicides a day and an impunity rate of 85%?For my female colleagues, it means persecution and layoffs. For those of us who defend human rights, it means periodical death threats and constantly watching out for our own safety and mental health. The country’s backdrop of violence means that the powers that we are fighting hide behind the gangs. All the threats are signed as though they came from gangs, but we know it comes from them. But we cannot stop, the fight must continue. If we stop, change will never happen.You need Europe to join the fight through more demanding, responsible consumer habits...Responsible consumption is the key to change, and international pressure is our own life insurance: the more international attention we attract, the fewer threats we will receive. Everyone should find out what conditions their clothes have been manufactured in, and demand detailed information. That way, brands will not only care about their environmental image, they will truly respect the lives of the people who make their clothes.English version by Susana Urra.