Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Papua New Guinea

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 - Papua New Guinea, 18 April 2003, available at: [accessed 24 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.

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

The Government of Papua New Guinea is reforming the country's educational system under the National Education Plan (NEP). The NEP promotes universal access to three years of elementary education, urges completion of six years of primary school and aims to increase the number of students who continue into secondary school.2788 The plan also intends to improve equity in enrollments between boys and girls and urban and rural inhabitants, as well as improve the quality of education.2789

The Australian Government is currently supporting 13 education projects on a range of issues, including teacher training, curriculum development, the improvement of facilities, and provision of educational materials.2790 The World Bank recently completed an Education Development Loan project that included the provision of textbooks in schools, increased educational opportunities for girls and strengthening of institutional management.2791 The EU and the Governments of Japan, Germany and China also provide educational assistance.2792

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, the ILO estimated that 17.2 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Papua New Guinea were working.2793 Child labor in the agricultural sector is a growing problem,2794 and there are allegations that children under 12 years old are employed on commercial tea and coffee farms.2795 Although it is not reported to be widespread, children are said to be involved in commercial sexual exploitation.2796 It is unknown whether the use of child soldiers continues to be a problem, but children under 18 years of age fought with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, an armed opposition group, during the secessionist war in the late 1990s.2797

Education is not compulsory or free in Papua New Guinea.2798 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 84.9 percent, with 78.4 percent of girls enrolled as opposed to 91.2 percent of boys.2799 Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Papua New Guinea. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.2800 Primary school dropout rates are high, particularly in rural areas, and only 59 percent of children complete primary school.2801

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Employment Act establishes 18 as the minimum age for employment, but children between the ages of 11 and 18 can work in family businesses with parental permission, a medical clearance and a work permit from the labor office.2802 The Constitution prohibits forced labor.2803 The Summary Offences Act bans child prostitution, and the Criminal Code prohibits procuring, luring or abducting women or girls for sexual relations.2804

The Government of Papua New Guinea ratified both ILO Convention 138 and ILO Convention 182 on June 2, 2000.2805

2788 The National Education Plan was developed in 1995 and 1996. The plan covers all sectors of the formal education system and introduces a new grade-level structure, under which elementary school covers a preparatory year plus grades one and two (at the village level, in the local language), primary covers grades three through eight, and secondary school grades 9 through 12. Voluntary Service Organization, Education in Papua New Guinea, [cited August 14, 2002], 11-13; available from The plan was updated in 1999. See UNESCO, World Data on Education 2001- Papua New Guinea, online, 2001, [cited September 5, 2002]; available from See also Asian Development Bank, Country Operational Strategy Study: Papua New Guinea, online, March 1999, 5 [cited August 23, 2002]; available from

2789 UNESCO, World Data on Education 2001.

2790 Australian Agency for International Development, Papua New Guinea, Program Profiles 2001-2002, 2002, [cited September 5, 2002]; available from png_program_profiles_2001_02.pdf.

2791 The project closed on December 31, 2001. World Bank, Educational Development Project, online, [cited August 23, 2002]; available from

2792 UNESCO, World Data on Education 2001.

2793 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002.

2794 WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Papua New Guinea, Internationally Recognized Core Labor Standards in Papua New Guinea, prepared by International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), November 15 and 17, 1999, [cited December 30, 2002]; available from displaydocument.asp?Index=991209325&Language=EN.

2795 Pacific Islands Report, Child Labor Claimed at PNG Highlands Tea and Coffee Plantations, Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online, [online] 2000 [cited August 27, 2002]; available from

2796 There are also allegations of men selling their young female relatives to work as prostitutes. Swedish International Development Agency, Looking Back, Thinking Forward: The Fourth Report on the Implementation of the Agenda for Action Adopted at the First World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm, Sweden, 28 August 1996, ECPAT International, Bangkok, 2000, Section 7.1. The commercial sex sector, while still relatively undeveloped, is expanding, particularly in urban areas. See John C. Caldwell and Geetha Isaac-Toua, AIDS in Papua New Guinea: Situation in the Pacific (Canberra: National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health of Australian National University, 2002), 104-11.

2797 Children under 18 years of age fought in the ranks of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), and children as young as 13 and 14 years old were reportedly recruited. The BRA has since announced that it will review its recruitment policies and refrain from admitting children under 18 years old. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Papua New Guinea," in Global Report 2001, [cited September 30, 2002]; available from cs/childsoldiers.nsf/f30d86b5e33403a180256ae500381213/d3fd060bf388329f80256ae6002426d7?OpenDocument.

2798 Voluntary Service Organization, Education in Papua New Guinea.

2799 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002.

2800 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

2801 Asian Development Bank, Country Operational Strategy Study, 5.

2802 Information on the enforcement of child labor legislation is not available. U. S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2001: Papua New Guinea, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 1131-32, Section 6d [cited December 20, 2002]; available from

2803 Constitution of the Independent State of New Guinea, [cited August 26, 2002]; available from

2804 Papua New Guinea Criminal Code, Chapter 262, no. 218 [cited August 19, 2002]; available from

2805 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online], [cited August 26, 2002]; available from

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