Country information: Ecuador
AT A GLANCE
283.560 square kilometres, including the Galapagos Islands
14,57 million (July 2009)
Quito (1,4 million inhabitants 2006)
Spanish; Quechua and further Indio languages (12 ethnic groups)
GDP per capita (PPP)
US-$ 7 500 (2008)
1,5 % per annum (2009)
75,3 years (men: 72,4 years, women: 78,4 years) (2009)
20,9 per 1000 live births (2009)
Rate of illiteracy
9 % (2003)
Tourism represents the most promising source of currency earnings for the future and it is already the third most important sector of the Ecuadorian economy. Since the 1960s there has been a rapid growth in visitors to the country but this growth has stagnated in the last few years. According to UNWTO in the year 2004 approximately 819 000 guests came into the country and paid 372 million Euro.
Of the 95% individual tourists and 15% blanked-tourists, 75% came from North and South America, 20% from Europe and 5% from other continents. These consisted of cultural tourists (33%), business travellers (26%), people visiting their family (16%) or sports events (8%) and language students (6%). There was no marked difference between genders. Particular attractions are the Galapagos Islands and Atacames. There is considerable growth potential in the environmental tourism sector. For this reason, the Galapagos Islands and the highlands and tropical rain forests were developed for tourism. However, tourism also impacts on the environment, as well as on the social and cultural life of the Ecuadorians, among other things due to the rising cost of living.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism
As in other Latin American countries, there are numerous street children in Ecuador, who as a consequence of their poverty can slide into prostitution. In addition, there is also evidence of trafficking in children in Ecuador, in parallel with the increase in sex tourism.
Investigations show that in 1999 every second child came from a family that was not able to pay for food, housing, education, and medical care. As a consequence, these children do not go to school, and 20.5% are forced to start work at ages between 5 and 9 years and 53% between 10 and 14 years. In a country that is struggling against underemployment and employment, often the only opportunity to offer itself is prostitution. They then become victims of exploitation by traffickers and sex tourists.
Corruption and the loose interpretation of existing laws favour a rapid growth of demand and supply in the field of commercial sex. No official notice is yet taken of this problem, so that no reliable statistics are available.
Ecuador ratified the die UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 26th January 1990 and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
According to estimates from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007 approximately 26.000 people in Ecuador were infected with HIV, including 7.100 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. In the same year 1.200 Ecuadorians died following infection with HIV.
CIVILIZATION AND CULTURE
State and society
According to its constitution of 1979, Ecuador is a republic (República del Ecuador) with a presidential system following the US model. The President is head of state and head of the armed forces, with priority over the legislature - the House of Representatives. This is a single-chamber parliament with 77 directly elected members. Elections take place every four years, and everybody aged 18 and older is obliged to vote, although this is optional for the illiterate.
The population of Ecuador consists of Mestizos (50 %), Indios (30 %), Afro-Ecuadorians (10 %) and Whites (10 %). Of these, about 85% are Roman Catholic, with smaller numbers of protestants, Jews and followers of natural religions. Freedom of belief is included in the constitution.
Schooling is provided in Ecuador from the ages of 6 to 14 years, and both public and private educational systems are subject to state control. There is a town-country gradient in educational standards, as well as between social strata. The educational levels in private schools are considerably higher than in the state schools.
Ecuador's economy relies on the oil industry and agriculture. Falling oil prices, the Asia crisis, and the effects of the El Nino climate phenomena, which cause considerable damage to the infrastructure and harvests, have led to inflation rates of 91% (2000) and an increasing decline in living standards for much of the population. In 1999, according to the criteria of the World Bank, 69% of the population live below the poverty line, of these 34% in absolute poverty. This situation is to be redressed by the main policies of the government, such as restructuring the banks and the financial sector, the consolidation of the state finances, the reduction of inflation, and the revival of the national industry and agriculture. Since 2000, the US-Dollar has been the lead currency. The major trade partner for imports and exports is the USA. Exports include crude oil, bananas, tuna fish, seafood, cocoa, coffee, sugar, and cut flowers. Imports are mainly road vehicles, machines and chemical products.