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2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Kenya

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 18 April 2003
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Kenya, 18 April 2003, available at: [accessed 27 November 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

In 1992, the Government of Kenya became one of the first six members of ILO-IPEC.1959 In order to improve institutional capacity to eliminate child labor, the government is working with ILOIPEC and other development partners to build the capacity of the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, the Department of Children's Services in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Heritage and Sports, and the Ministry of Education to enforce child labor legislation.1960 ILO-IPEC has also worked with the Central Organization of Trade Unions, the Federation of Kenya Employers and various NGOs to strengthen institutional capacity to address child labor issues.1961 By 2001, 67 ILO-IPEC programs on child labor had been launched targeting the commercial agriculture, construction, cross-border trade, domestic service, fishing, hotel and tourism, and quarrying and mining sectors.1962 Kenya is also participating in an ILO-IPEC regional program funded by USDOL to prevent children from entering, and withdraw and rehabilitate children engaged in, hazardous work in the commercial agriculture sector in East Africa.1963 In September 2001, the Government of Kenya and ILO-IPEC released the results of an ILO-IPEC SIMPOC survey that collected national data on the incidence of child labor in Kenya from 1998 to 1999.1964

The Government of Kenya has also received support from UNICEF, which is working to help formulate policy on issues affecting children and monitoring and evaluating efforts in the public sector and civil society to address child labor issues. Since 1999, UNICEF and the Government of Kenya have implemented projects for children in need of special protection. These programs have focused on street children, AIDS orphans and AIDS prevention, and on building the capacity to implement a broad based child welfare agenda.1965 In 2001, USAID allocated money for a "Displaced Children and Orphans Fund" to support programs that would allow children from HIV/ AIDS-affected families (including orphans) to benefit from home-based care and other programs.1966

In 1989, Kenya replaced its free system of education with a "cost sharing" system in which students pay both tuition and other associated schooling costs, totaling up to 65 percent of the recurrent costs of schools.1967 This policy has reduced access to education for many poor children, and has led to a steady increase in the number of dropouts in Kenya.1968 Furthermore, a teachers' strike from September to October 2002 and continued problems in the education sector have led to disruptions in the provision of schooling.1969

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Between 1998 and 1999, the Kenyan Central Bureau of Statistics estimated that 17.4 percent of all children ages 5 to 17 years were working in Kenya.1970 According to the survey, children made up 14.4 percent of the total workforce in Kenya.1971 More children living in rural areas (19.7 percent) worked compared to children living in urban areas (9.0 percent).1972 The commercial or subsistence agriculture and fishing sectors employ the largest number of working children (57.6 percent), followed by the domestic service sector (17.9 percent).1973 Children also work in construction, wholesale and retail trade, mining, and manufacturing.1974 Children employed in the hotel industry are often drawn into commercial sex work.1975 Street children are often engaged in odd jobs in the informal sector, prostitution, or various illegal activities often under the control of organized criminal groups.1976 Cases of forced labor, in which children are loaned out to creditors to pay off family debt, have also been documented, primarily in rural areas.1977

Education is compulsory for eight years, from the ages of 6 to 14.1978 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 92.1 percent.1979 Attendance rates are not available for Kenya. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.1980 Of students enrolled in primary school in 1991, 47.2 percent completed the eighth grade in 1998. Of children who completed primary school, 44 percent transitioned to secondary school.1981 Progress is being made in improving school completion rates for girls; however, there is still a gender bias in access to education.1982

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Children's Act of 2001 prohibits all forms of child labor that would prevent children under 16 from going to school or that is exploitative and hazardous. The Children's Act also prohibits child sexual exploitation.1983 The Constitution prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labor.1984 The enforcement of child labor regulations involves multiple government agencies and institutions. At the ministerial level, the Ministry of Labor and Human Resource Development enforces child labor legislation.1985 The Department of Children's Services (Office of the Vice President and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Heritage and Sports) is responsible for the administration of all laws regarding children (particularly awareness raising regarding children's rights and the management of rehabilitation institutions). There are more than 80 Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety Services inspectors and 140 Ministry of Labor officers who have been trained in the detection and reporting of child labor.1986 However, the number of inspectors is reported to be insufficient, and fines are not high enough to effectively deter employers from utilizing children under the minimum age.1987

The Government of Kenya ratified ILO Convention 138 on April 9, 1979 and ILO Convention 182 on May 7, 2001.1988

1959 ILO-IPEC, Kenya Country Program 1992-2001: Brief Profile of Activities, Nairobi, May 2001, 1. See also ILOIPEC, All About IPEC: Programme Countries, [online] August 13, 2002 [cited November 15, 2002]; available from

1960 Central Bureau of Statistics- Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report, ILO, September 2001, 7-9 [cited August 13, 2002]; available from report/ken98.pdf.

1961 Ibid., 7-9.

1962 ILO-IPEC, Brief Profile of Activities, 1.

1963 ILO-IPEC, Regional Program on the Prevention, Withdrawal and Rehabilitation of Children Engaged in Hazardous Work in the Commercial Agriculture Sector in Africa, project document, RAF/00/P51/USA, Geneva, September 2000.

1964 See generally Central Bureau of Statistics- Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report.

1965 UNICEF, Country Project Proposals, 1999-2003, Nairobi, October 1998, 33.

1966 Such children often are at risk for entering work. USAID, USAID Congressional Budget Justification, 2002: Kenya, [online] May 29, 2002 [cited September 10, 2002]; available from

1967 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Kenya, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 378-82, Section 5 [cited December 24, 2002]; available from 8386.htm. See also Kenya CRC Coalition, Supplementary Report to Kenya's First Country Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nairobi, March 2001, 5.

1968 Integrated Regional Information Network, Kenya: Focus on Challenges in the Education Sector,, [online] July 22, 2002 [cited September 17, 2002]; available from 6686f45896f15dbc852567ae00530132/c12980402b76b23085256bfe005d27e7?OpenDocument.

1969 Integrated Regional Information Network, "Kenya: Feature – Compromise Deal Ends Teachers' Strike",, October 23, 2002, [cited November 16, 2002]; available from report.asp?ReportID=30563&SelectRegion=East_Africa&SelectCountry=KENYA. In 1997, the Government increased teachers' salaries by 200 percent, however, after the first phase of salary awards it asserted that it did not have the funds to complete the rest of the awards. 240,000 teachers were threatening to strike over this issue. See Integrated Regional Information Network, Kenya: Focus on Challenges in the Education Sector.

1970 Child labor was defined as work undertaken by children 5 to 17 which hampers school attendance, is exploitative, and is hazardous or inappropriate for children. This definition includes the worst forms of child labor. See Central Bureau of Statistics- Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report, 33.

1971 Of the children surveyed for the SIMPOC survey, 78.7 percent worked as unpaid family workers in family farms or businesses and 18.5 percent worked for pay, and 1.6 percent were running their own businesses. See Ibid., 33 and 36.

1972 Ibid., 34.

1973 Ibid., 37.

1974 Ministry of Education, Action Program on Child Labor: Capacity Building for the Ministry of Education to Address the Problem of Child Labor Related Drop Out in Primary Schools in Kenya, final report, ILO-IPEC, Nairobi, 1997, 60-70.

1975 Ibid., 69.

1976 Ibid., 70.

1977 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Kenya, 382-85, Section 6d.

1978 UNESCO, Kenya-Education System: Structure of Education System: 2000-2001, [online] [cited August 18, 2002]; available from

1979 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington D.C., 2002.

1980 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

1981 Kenya CRC Coalition, Supplementary Report: Kenya, 5-6.

1982 Ibid., 5.

1983 Integrated Regional Information Network, "Kenya: Focus on New Legislation and Hopes for Child Welfare", [online], March 1, 2002, [cited August 13, 2002]; available from report.asp?ReportID=23483&SelectRegion=East_Africa&SelectCountry=KENYA. See also Judy Thongri, The Children's Act Becomes Operational with Effect from March 1st, 2002, news release, Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (FIDA Kenya), Nairobi, 2002, [cited August 13, 2002]; available from ChildrensAct.asp. According to the coalition of Kenyan NGOs that are involved in implementing the CRC, the enforcement of 63 pieces of existing legislation concerning child related issues needs to be reconciled to the Children's Act. See Kenya CRC Coalition, Supplementary Report: Kenya, 9. The Community Service Order (CSO) is one of the many existing laws that contradicts the Children's Act, because it allows children to be sentenced to community service work as a form of juvenile conviction. There is currently a move to draft new guidelines for the implementers of the CSO. Africa News Service, Kenya: Children's Act Obstacle to CSO, Says Magistrate,, [online] April 22, 2002 [cited August 29, 2002]; available from

1984 Constitution of Kenya, Revised Edition 1998, Article 73 [cited September 9, 2002]; available from

1985 Central Bureau of Statistics- Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report, 7.

1986 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi, unclassified telegram no. 7028, November 2001.

1987 Ibid.

1988 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited August 15, 2002]; available from

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