Analysis of Labor Reform During COVID-19: The Case of Ecuador

Analysis of Labor Reform During COVID-19: The Case of Ecuador

Arturo Luque González, Rosa Elizabeth Soledispa Ibarra, Cristina Raluca Gh. Popescu
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5113-7.ch001
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The COVID-19 pandemic declared at the beginning of 2020 affected all citizens to a greater or lesser extent. In addition to the health crisis, fundamental labor rights were also impacted by the same order of magnitude. In the case of Ecuador, the crisis was severe, and part of its labor system was subverted in favor of a new order based on economic precepts and investment guarantees. This study examined the depth and scope of relative historical changes in an attempt to establish the relationships between the various governments before, during, and after the COVID-19 crisis, matching their actions, on the one hand, and the consequences for society, on the other. The research analyzed how legislation, such as the organic law on the creation of opportunities, economic development, and social sustainability, altered labor rights that the Constitution of Ecuador is supposed to guarantee. There is clear evidence of a lack of a solid welfare state and a preponderance of economic rights precisely at a time when there was a need for protections for the most vulnerable sectors of the population.
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From a critical, propositional and historical point of view, the values and implicit principles of developed societies assume that both national and supranational labor law endogenously aim for the highest standards of protection and regulation, even if these aims often fall short in practice. The configuration of developed countries promotes changes in all relevant structures in order to guarantee employment of a sufficiently high level of quality and safety to generate certainty throughout the labor supply chain (International Labour Organization, 2020). Labor law is historically a process within society in general and develops in parallel with all forms of employment. It is part of the social right to protect the labor of citizens, who are positioned as the active subjects and economic protagonists within the social fabric. Article 23(1) of the Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of work, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection from unemployment” (Commission on Human Rights, 1948). Currently, citizens across the globe are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of which have affected not only human health but permeate every social and economic sphere. At the 109th International Labour Conference, ILO stakeholders—governments, workers and employers—adopted a universal call for a people-centered response to the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient (International Labour Organization, 2021).

In Ecuador, the economy has suffered a significant impact from the pandemic. Agriculture, the engine of the national economy, has been especially affected, leading to a steep increase in the prices of basic necessities (Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries, 2020; Álvarez et al., 2020). There is no doubt that the COVID-19 Pandemic has changed socio-economic relations in the long-term closure of schools, the weakening of public health services and a wholesale the violation of citizens’ rights (UNICEF, 2020). According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, (2021), among those who have held on to their employment during the pandemic, a significant deterioration in working conditions has been observed while the number of self-employed workers has increased in comparison to those under contract. Similarly, informality within the labor force has grown, as has the proportion of workers unable to find stable employment (despite a willingness to work longer hours) (Luque, 2022). This has compounded a situation that was already evident: it is possible to have a job and be in a state of precariousness as well as poverty (Kalleberg, 2009; Standing, 2014).

From a classic political point of view, labor law is undoubtedly a tool of intentional implementation. Its ultimate goal is to adjust employment relations to improve the quality of life of all stakeholders. However, although regulations are instituted to promote and protect the integrity of the workforce, many stumbling blocks appear during the process of legal reform that prove that labor law is not enough to guarantee comprehensive stability and security. Indeed, various exogenous elements can compromise employment standards, such as the commitment and good faith of entrepreneurs (employers), the development of globalization processes, the growth of speculative behaviors, or the failure to incorporate collective bargaining processes into social dialogue, all of which may favor the interference of vested interests (Rosales, Garcia & Duran, 2019). According to Chiriboga, Jiménez & Toscanini, (2018, p. 231):

Key Terms in this Chapter

Labor Union or Trade Union: Is an organized group of workers who unite to make decisions about conditions affecting their work.

Economic Globalization: This is a phenomenon in expansion that causes profound changes on the world stage. It revolves around trade, the flow of investment, financial capital, division of labor and specialization. The concept is not limited only to economic variables since its effects extend to individuals, society to the state. Developing countries are experiencing stagnation in the face of their inability to cope with globalization, which is compounded by poor management of their financial markets, leading to an increase in the income inequality gap. Economic globalization brings with it the mobilization of goods and capital, reduces distance between borders and energizes international trade with some alterations to sovereignty.

Public Policy: This refers to decisions and actions that a government takes when addressing public or collective issues.

Resilience: Transformations within a complex system related to the capacity for self-organization while maintaining internal structure, together with the ability to create adaptive responses, generate knowledge, experience, and learning. Resilience and sustainability are directly related to changes within societies, economies, and the human system as a whole. The transformation of systems is inevitable since it allows systems to strengthen.

Legalized Corruption: Dishonest processes that, both by act and omission, contribute to the demoralization of the individual and of all kinds of public and private organizations by benefitting these through regulatory protection based on the abuse of authority, conventions, legal vacuums, impunity, etc.

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