Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tonga

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 22 September 2005
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tonga, 22 September 2005, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
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 138N/A[3951]
Ratified Convention 182N/A
ILO-IPEC Member 
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Recent statistics on the number of working children under 15 in Tonga are unavailable.[3952] The U.S. Department of State reported that there was no child labor in the formal economy in 2003.[3953]

The Education Act of 1974 provides for free and compulsory education for children ages 6 to 14.[3954] In 2001, the gross primary enrollment rate was 112.4 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 99.9 percent.[3955] 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 Tonga. Although the quality of schooling in Tonga has been criticized, education is available through high school and the country has been recognized as having achieved universal primary education.[3956] In addition, retention rates to secondary school are high.[3957]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

There is no legislation in Tonga that specifically prohibits child labor.[3958] The Constitution prohibits forced or bonded labor.[3959] Technically, prostitution is not illegal, but owning and/or operating a brothel, pimping, and soliciting in a public place are all prohibited activities under the Criminal Code.[3960] Penalties for offenses range from imprisonment for 6 months to 2 years. Males convicted a second time of profiting from prostitution may be subject to whipping.[3961] The Criminal Code prohibits any person from procuring or attempting to procure any girl under the age of 21 for the purposes of trafficking for prostitution. The punishment for this offense is imprisonment for up to 5 years. The abduction of women and girls is also illegal under the Criminal Code, with penalties ranging from 5 to 7 years imprisonment.[3962]

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

The Government of Tonga has established goals to further improve the educational system through the Ministry of Education's 1996 Strategic Plan. The plan calls for an increase by 2010 in the compulsory school age to 17 years, and for the establishment of universal access to quality education up to age 17.[3963] It also calls for strengthening the Ministry of Education and enhancing training, expanding and developing vocational and distance education, and establishing formal pre-school programs.[3964]

AusAID is the largest aid donor to Tonga and provides financial assistance to the Ha'apai Development Fund, which supports projects in the Ha'apai islands of Tonga. The fund is overseen by government and community representatives and has involved the construction of teacher housing.[3965]

Tonga is part of the Pacific Regional Initiative for Delivery of Basic Education (PRIDE), which will harmonize basic education plans in the region and place qualified teachers in all primary schools in the Pacific. This program is funded by NZAID in cooperation with the University of the South Pacific and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. NZAID will also build a high school for 200 children in Niuas, the northernmost outer islands of Tonga.[3966] Forty percent of New Zealand's USD 5.6 million aid for Tonga for 2003-2004 will focus on education and training.

UNICEF works with government agencies and NGOs to address children's health and youth development in the country.[3967]

[3951] The Government of Tonga is not a member of the ILO, and is thus unable to ratify ILO conventions.

[3952] The most recent statistics are from 1993 and 1994 when 2.1 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years were reportedly working in Tonga. See LABORSTAT, Tonga: 1A – Total and econmically active population, by age group (Thousands), [Database] [cited August 30, 2004]; available from

[3953] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2003: Tonga, Washington D. C., February 25, 2004, Section 6d; available from

[3954] Government of Tonga, Ministry of Education, [online] [cited May 19, 2004]; available from

[3955] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2004. For an explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

[3956] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Tonga. See also UNESCO, Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports – Tonga, prepared by Ministry of Education, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 52/84, 2000, Section 1.2; available from

[3957] ADB, Millenium Development Goals in the Pacific: Relevance and Progress, Manila, March 2003, 48; available from

[3958] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Tonga.

[3959] Regarding forced labor, the Constitution states, "No person shall serve another against his will except he be undergoing punishment by law..." See Constitution of Tonga, Part I, Clause 2; available from There is no evidence that forced or bonded labor occurs in the country. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Tonga.

[3960] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Tonga. Section 5. See Sections 80-81 in Government of Tonga, Criminal Code of Tonga; available from

[3961] Criminal Code of Tonga, Articles 80-81.

[3962] Ibid., Articles 126, 28-29. Sections 126, 128-129.

[3963] The plan calls for an increase in compulsory age to 17 years or "Form 6 level" and for universal access to quality education up age 17 years or Form 6. Form 6 is presumed to be the highest secondary education level that can be achieved in Tonga. UNESCO, EFA Country Report: Tonga.

[3964] Ibid., Part 3, 11.0.

[3965] AusAID, Tonga Program Details, [online] 2004 [cited May 13, 2004]; available from

[3966] NZAID, NZAid June 2003 Newsletter, [online] 2004 [cited May 13, 2004]; available from

[3967] UNICEF, UNICEF's Programme of Assistance to Pacific Island Countries, [online] [cited May 19, 2004]; available from

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