Concerns about child labor in the sugar cane fields of El Salvador is not a new story. A Human Rights Watch report from 2004 brought th issue into sharp focus and attracted world attention to the issue. Human Rights Watch returned to El Salvador in 2006 and reported that
By 2005, in contrast, we heard of only a few children involved in the cutting and planting of sugar cane. Following the release of our report, the government and the sugar industry began to enforce El Salvador’s child labor laws. Unfortunately, they have not put in place adequate alternatives. When we visited in 2005, they had essentially fired all of the child laborers without ensuring they would be able to attend school or benefit from alternative vocational training.Still, poor families in rural areas occasionaly find that their economic circumstances drive them to have children help them in the cane fields. An activist with a video camera can still find children in the cane fields as seen in this 2007 video from Mark Thomas. (the section on El Salvador starts at 1:37 into the video). A bibliography of articles on this issue can be found in the paper Forced Child Labor in El Salvador: Contemporary Economic Servitude.
In this November 2007 letter, El Salvador's sugar cane industry defends its efforts to reduce the child labor in their fields.
The story of El Salvador's child sugar cane workers is another example showing that passing laws against child labor is not enough, if you don't also address the challenges of poverty and lack of economic and educational opportunity for the children of families who work in the fields.