Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 07:38 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748eb15.html [accessed 16 September 2014]
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.

Selected Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     2/22/2000
Ratified Convention 182 
ILO-IPEC Member 
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under age 15 in Eritrea are unavailable.1730 A significant number of children work on the street, in the agricultural sector, and as domestic servants.1731 In rural areas, children who do not attend school often work on family farms and in subsistence farming, engaging in such activities as fetching firewood and water and herding livestock.1732 Children are expected to work from about the age of 5 by looking after livestock and working in the fields.1733 In urban areas, some children work as street vendors of cigarettes, newspapers, or chewing gum.1734 There are also underage apprentices in shops and workshops such as garages or metal workshops.1735

There have been unconfirmed reports that forced labor by children occurred in the past,1736 but there was no information available on the practice in 2005. There is a lack of data on the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Eritrea.1737

Education is free and compulsory through grade seven.1738 However, families are responsible for uniforms, supplies, and transportation, which can be prohibitively expensive; such costs discourage many parents from sending their children to school.1739 In addition, schools are not physically accessible to all Eritreans, particularly in rural areas.1740 Education above grade seven is not compulsory, and students must pay a nominal fee.1741

In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 63 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 45 percent.1742 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Primary school attendance statistics are not available for Eritrea.1743 As of 2001, 86 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.1744

There is a significant disparity in educational access between urban and rural-dwelling children, primarily because development has been concentrated in urban areas.1745 According to the most recent figures available, which were drawn from surveys conducted between 1990 and 1999, 79 percent of urban children attended school compared with 24 percent of rural children.1746 There is also a disparity between the number of boys and girls in school.1747 It is common for girls attending rural schools to leave before the school day ends in order to work at home on domestic tasks.1748

In 2003, the government added an additional grade to secondary school and required that all students throughout the country attend their final year at a location adjacent to the Sawa military training facility in the western region of the country; students who do not attend this final year of secondary school do not graduate and cannot sit for examinations to be eligible for advanced education.1749 The remote location of the school, concerns about security, and societal attitudes restricting the free movement of girls resulted in few female students enrolling in their last year of high school.1750 There is also concern that this school is under the authority of the military, and at least one official was reported as saying that he considers the students to be members of the armed forces.1751 According to the U.S. Department of State, students attend the Sawa military training camp and undergo military training during their last year of school.1752

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Article 68/1 of Labor Proclamation No. 118/2001 sets the minimum age of employment at 14 years.1753 Young persons between the ages of 14 and 18 may not work between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and they may not work more seven hours per day.1754 Young persons are not permitted to work in jobs that involve heavy lifting, contact with toxic chemicals, underground work, the transport industry, dangerous machines, exposure to electrical hazards, or the commercial sex trade.1755 Section 3(9) of Labor Proclamation No. 118/2001 states that apprentices may be hired at the age of 14.1756 The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Eritrea. Article 16 of the Constitution prohibits slavery and forced labor except when authorized by law.1757 Proclamation 11/199 prohibits the recruitment of children under 18 years of age into the armed forces.1758 Eritrean law criminalizes child prostitution, pornography, and sexual exploitation. Article 605 of the Criminal Code prohibits the procurement, seduction, and trafficking of children for prostitution.1759

Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare (MLHW) are responsible for enforcing child labor laws.1760 Legal remedies available to the labor ministry include criminal penalties, fines, and court orders.1761 According to the U.S. Department of State, inspections are rare because of the level of available resources and the small number of inspectors.1762 There is no information on the level of resources at the labor ministry devoted to investigating child labor abuses.1763 There is no information on the number of inspections carried out in the past year,1764 and, as of 2004, no labor inspection reports had referred to cases of child labor.1765

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

The Government of Eritrea is implementing a National Program of Action on Children, coordinated by its National Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is scheduled to end in 2006.1766 The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, however, is concerned that the National Committee on the Rights of the Child does not have sufficient resources to implement its mandate.1767 There is a plan of action on child labor that primarily focuses on strongly integrating or reintegrating children with families, communities, and schools as a means of preventing or rehabilitating children engaged in child labor.1768

The MLHW works with at-risk children by providing a small subsidy to their families to help with food and clothing, as well as counseling services to help children reintegrate into their nuclear or extended families.1769 At-risk children are also enrolled or re-enrolled at local schools, and the MLHW tracks their development through local committees or ministry employees.1770 The government has a program to identify children involved in commercial sex work and reintegrate them with their families and society.1771 The government is also making efforts to assist street children; they received allowances to purchase uniforms and books so that they could attend school, while those older than school age were sent to private training centers designed to help them learn a vocation and reintegrate into the community.1772 According to the U.S. Department of State, these types of prevention and reinsertion activities are one of the ministry's primary activities to address child labor issues.1773

The government has conducted awareness campaigns through the state media for the general public and has conducted training for officials charged with enforcing child labor laws.1774 Through state media, the government routinely provides information on its strategy and its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.1775

The Government of Eritrea is implementing the Eritrea Education Sector Investment Project with support from the World Bank. The project is designed to increase enrollment and completion rates in basic education, especially for disadvantaged children, and to improve the quality of basic education by building classrooms, establishing a Teacher Training and Development Unit within the Ministry of Education, and implementing the Ministry of Education's curricula and pedagogical reform program.1776

The AFDB is supporting two projects to improve access to basic and secondary education and reduce inefficiencies in the management of the education system. These two projects will construct over 800 new classrooms at both primary and secondary schools, including for special needs education; equip schools; and build capacity within the Ministry of Education.1777

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Eritrea in elaborating its Education Sectoral Development Plan (ESDP), which provides an operational framework for developments in education; the government and other stakeholders discussed and adopted the ESDP in April 2005.1778 UNICEF is supporting the construction of seven schools in order to help increase net school enrollment.1779 UNESCO funded a Ministry of Education project to provide basic school supplies and writing materials to 40,000 students in rural schools within the drought-affected sub-zones of Anseba, North Red Sea, and South Red Sea Regions.1780


1730 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report for information about sources used. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section.

1731 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Concluding Observations: Eritrea, CRC/C/15/Add.204, United Nations, Geneva, July 2, 2003, para. 55; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CRC.C.15.Add.204.En?OpenDocument. See also ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Eritrea (ratification:2000), [online] 2004 [cited September 28, 2005]; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/index.cfm?lang=EN.

1732 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Eritrea, Washington, DC, February 28, 2005, Section 6; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/index.htm. See also U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting, September 8, 2005.

1733 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention.

1734 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 6.

1735 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention.

1736 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 6.

1737 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports under Article 44 – Concluding Observations, para. 57.

1738 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 5.

1739 Ibid.

1740 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1741 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 5.

1742 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005).

1743 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section for information about sources used.

1744 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

1745 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary Record of the 866th Meeting (Thirty-third session) – Consideration of Reports of States Parties (continued), Initial report of Eritrea (continued), CRC/C/SR.866, United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, New York, June 2, 2003, para. 82.

1746 See UNICEF, City to Countryside: A long way to go in schooling, The Progress of Nations 2000 – Lost Children, [online] n.d. 2000 [cited June 7, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/pon00/ctc.htm.

1747 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports under Article 44 – Concluding Observations, para. 51.

1748 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 5.

1749 Ibid. Amnesty International, Eritrea: 'You have no right to ask' – Government resists scrutiny on human rights, AFR 64/003/2004, Amnesty International, London, May 2004, 25. Human Rights Watch, Essential Background: Overview of human rights issues in Eritrea, Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C., January 2004; available from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/01/21/eritre6987.htm.

1750 Women may, however, earn an alternative secondary school certificate by attending night school after completing their compulsory term of national service. U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 5.

1751 Amnesty International, You have no right to ask, 25. Human Rights Watch, Background – Eritrea.

1752 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1753 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Addendum: Eritrea, CRC/C/41/Add.12, United Nations, Geneva, December 23, 2002, para. 68, 422; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/898586b1dc7b4043c1256a450044f331/8a52da90a06e49e7c1256ce000307fc9/$FILE/G0246422. pdf.

1754 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Addendum: Eritrea, para. 68.

1755 Ibid. U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 6. U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1756 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention. U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1757 The Constitution of Eritrea, (May 23, 1997), Chapter III Article 16.

1758 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Addendum: Eritrea, para. 88.

1759 The Protection Project, 2005 Humans Rights Report.

1760 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention, Initial reports of States parties due in 1996: Addendum, Eritrea, CRC/C/41/Add.12, United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, New York, December 23, 2002, para. 422.

1761 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1762 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 6. U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1763 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1764 Ibid.

1765 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention.

1766 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports under Article 44 – Concluding Observations, para. 8.

1767 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention (Thirty-third session), CDC/C/15/Add.204, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, New York, July 2, 2003, para. 8.

1768 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1769 Ibid.

1770 Ibid.

1771 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Eritrea, Section 5. U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1772 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary Record – Consideration of Reports, para. 77. U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1773 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, reporting.

1774 Ibid.

1775 Ibid.

1776 The program started in June 2003 and is slated to run through February 2009. The World Bank Group, Eritrea – Education Sector Improvement Project (Project Information Document), AB43, The World Bank Group, Washington, DC, April 17, 2003; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=64283627&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Proje ctid=P070272.

1777 Both projects began in 2005. African Development Bank Group, Appraisal Report Education Sector Development Programme: Eritrea, African Development Fund, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, June 2004; available from http://www.afdb.org/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/ADB_ADMIN_PG/DOCUMENTS/OPERATIONSINFORMATION/ADF_BD_ WP_2004_130_E.PDF. African Development Bank Group, ADF contributes to Education Sector Development in Eritrea, African Development Bank Group, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, March 2, 2005; available from http://www.afdb.org/pls/portal/PORTAL.wwv_media.show?p_id=154810&p_settingssetid=19&p_settingssiteid=0&p_siteid=2 73&p_type=basetext&p_textid=155053.

1778 UNICEF, UNICEF Humanitarian Action: Eritrea Donor Update, United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), New York, May 27, 2005; available from www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/HMYT-6CSL4D?OpenDocument.

1779 Ibid. UN OCHA, Eritrea: Humanitarian Update, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), New York, June 30, 2005; available from www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EVOD-6E8ASP?OpenDocument.

1780 The project duration is January 2003 – January 2005. UNESCO, Emergency Educational Assistance for drought-affected and displaced school-age children in Eritrea (on going), UNESCO, [online] n.d. [cited August 3, 2005]; available from http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=14109&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html.

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