Last Updated: Tuesday, 01 December 2015, 13:36 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 7 June 2002
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea, 7 June 2002, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare (MOLHW) is working in cooperation with UNICEF to implement community sensitization activities on children's rights.[916] UNICEF is also promoting access to education in war-affected areas by providing learning materials to displaced children, establishing makeshift classrooms, and training teachers.[917] The government is in the process of evaluating the quality of primary education, although the country's weak national economy and lack of institutions and expertise limit reform efforts.[918] From 1993 to 1997, government expenditure on education as a percentage of the gross national product increased from 2.1 percent to 4 percent.[919]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, the ILO estimated that 38.6 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Eritrea were working.[920] Children work as street vendors, in domestic services, in small-scale manufacturing, and on family farms.[921]

Children as young as 12 years of age are reportedly involved in prostitution on the streets of Massawa and Asmara, as well as in hotels and bars.[922] A 1999 MOLHW survey on commercial sex workers revealed that 5 percent of prostitutes surveyed in Eritrea were between the ages of 14 and 17 years.[923] In addition, children fight as soldiers with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front. Insufficient birth registrations make it difficult to verify the ages of recruited soldiers.[924]

Education is free and compulsory from the ages of 7 to 13, or through grade seven.[925] In 1996, the gross primary enrollment rate was 53.4 percent, with 58.7 percent of boys enrolled, compared to 48.1 percent of girls. The net primary enrollment rate was 30.4 percent.[926] The Ministry of Education estimates that only 37 to 38 percent of children attend school.[927] In rural areas, girls often leave school early to work at home.[928]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Transitional Labor Law No. 8/91 sets the minimum age for employment at 18 years, but allows for the employment of apprentices starting at the age of 14 years.[929] The 1996 Constitution prohibits forced labor, but the National Service Proclamation obligates that all citizens complete compulsory service in the national armed forces.[930] The National Service Proclamation sets the minimum age for military service at 18 years and requires 18 months of duty.[931] The Penal Code prohibits the procurement, seduction, or trafficking of children under the age of 18, and also bans sexual relations with children under 18 years old.[932]

Labor inspectors in the MOLHW enforce child labor laws, but inspections are infrequent due to the small number of inspectors.[933] Eritrea ratified ILO Convention 138 on February 22, 2000, and has not ratified ILO Convention 182.[934]

[916] "Prevention," ECPAT International Database: Eritrea, at on 11/28/01.

[917] UNICEF, Donor Update: Eritrea, September 5, 2001 [hereinafter Donor Update].

[918] UNESCO, The Education for All (EFA) Assessment: Country Reports – Eritrea [hereinafter EFA 2000 Assessment].

[919] Ibid.

[920] World Development Indicators 2001 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2001) [hereinafter World Development Indicators 2001].

[921] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Eritrea (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001) [hereinafter Country Reports 2000], Section 6d, at

[922] "Eritrea: Sex case with military prosecutor's office," IRIN, at, on 11/28/01

[923] "Child Prostitution," ECPAT International Database: Eritrea, at on 11/28/01.

[924] Children as young as age 14 were reportedly used as Eritrean troop reinforcements to counter a May 2000 attack by Ethiopia. At the 1999 African Conference to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, the Ethiopian Government also circulated a list of Eritrean prisoners of war between ages 15 and 18. Prior to the border conflict in recent years, hundreds of children were used as soldiers ("Red Flags") during the 30-year war for independence. See Coalition to End the Use of Child Soldiers, Global Report 2001: Eritrea [hereinafter Global Report 2001]. See also "Ethiopia-Eritrea: End to Use of Child Soldiers Urged," UN OCHA Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa, July 11, 2000.

[925] Country Reports 2000 at Section 5. See also Youth at the United Nations, Country Profiles on the Situation of Youth: Eritrea, at on 11/28/01, and EFA 2000 Assessment.

[926] The net primary enrollment rate was 28.8 percent for girls and 32 percent for boys. See World Development Indicators 2001.

[927] Country Reports 2000 at Section 5.

[928] ILOLEX database: Eritrea at on 11/27/01.

[929] Transitional Labour Law No. 8/91, Articles 2, 27, 30, 32, as cited in Veronica Rentmeesters, Information Officer, Embassy of Eritrea, letter to ICLP official, August 23, 1996.

[930] Constitution of Eritrea, 1996, Articles 16(3), 25, at on 11/27/01.

[931] National Service Proclamation No. 82/95, October 23, 1995, Articles 8, 9, as cited in Global Report 2001.

[932] Committing indecent acts with a child under age 15 is a criminal offense punishable by 5 years of imprisonment. Sexual acts with children between ages 15 and 18 are also prohibited, although the penalty is less severe. See "Protection," ECPAT International Database: Eritrea [hereinafter "Protection," ECPAT Database], at on 11/28/01.

[933] Laws on commercial sexual exploitation are also reported to be poorly enforced and inadequate. See Country Reports 2000 at Section 6d and "Protection," ECPAT Database.

[934] ILOLEX database: Eritrea at on 11/27/01.

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