Youth Employment and Migration - Country Brief: Ecuador

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Ecuador’s population is young and rapidly growing. It has almost doubled since 1980, reaching almost 15 million in 2010 . An approximate 60 per cent of Ecuadorians are under 29 years old and almost one out of three is between the ages of 15 and 29. More than half of the young people aged 15-29 are poor: around 30 per cent live in conditions of poverty and another 24 per cent in extreme poverty. Youth labour market indicators and working conditions are poor and worse than for adults. In 2009, the employment rate for young women and men aged 15-24 was 42.9 per cent, as compared to 67.9 per cent for adults. The unemployment rate stood at 4.4 per cent among adults and at 14.1 per cent for youth. The integration of young women into the labour market is even more difficult. The share of young women that neither work nor study is high in comparison to men: 32 per cent of the 19-24 age group and 37.1 per cent of the 25-29 age group, as compared to 11 per cent and 7.4 per cent of young men in these two age groups respectively. The issue for young Ecuadorians is not only access to employment but also access to decent work. The jobs they occupy are often low skilled and their employment conditions temporary and precarious. In 2010, the unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 29 was 9.8 per cent, but their under-employment rate reached 54.9 per cent. Youth are being employed, underemployed and even exploited performing jobs that do not require much preparation and training. In 57.1 per cent of cases, wage-workers between 15 and 24 have temporary contracts, while up to 14 per cent work without contract, and their average wage level is less than half that of adults. A third of young Ecuadorians work more than 48 hours a week. Most of them are not covered by any type of social security: in 2009 only 19 per cent of those in employment paid social security contributions. This is an increase of 6.5 points from 2005 but remains very low, including in comparison to the share of social security contributing workers in the overall population (30.2 per cent). Higher education does not guarantee a quicker and easier integration into the labour market, but it does help to get better salaries and working conditions once the job is secured. Ecuador has recently achieved universalization of basic education. The number of children in secondary education has increased three times in the past ten years, and those enrolled in superior education has doubled. However, the average level of education remains low. An Ecuadorian without a degree earns an average of less than 200 USD per month, while a professional who has completed a degree has an income of around 1,500 USD per month. Figures show, additionally, that workers with a professional degree often have more and better access to benefits such as training, holidays, social security, etc. than those that have not completed an education (77 per cent against 35 per cent respectively). In spite of the good economic indicators of the past years in Ecuador, the structural weakness of the labour market, the high levels of underemployment and the great share of informality in the economy limits opportunities to improve living conditions in the eyes of many young Ecuadorians who turn to emigration as a way out.

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