Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:41 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mauritania

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 - Mauritania, 7 June 2002, 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.

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

In 1999, the Government of Mauritania announced its current educational plan, which is intended to run for 15 years and aims to provide all children with 10 years of basic schooling (elementary plus the first secondary level), followed by training opportunities tailored to the requirements of the labor market. New emphasis will be placed on pre-school education that prepares children for basic education and on creating incentives to encourage private education.[1619] The goals for elementary school education are to achieve universal access by 2005, raise the retention rate by 2010, eliminate gender and regional disparities, improve the quality and relevance of education, and lower the pupil-teacher ratio.[1620] Mauritania is also aiming to raise the share of education spending to 5.4 percent of GDP by 2015.[1621] A French-funded ILO program is currently charged with investigating the extent of slavery practices in Mauritania and recommending possible actions.[1622]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, the ILO estimated that 22.4 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Mauritania were working.[1623] Young children in rural areas regularly work in herding, farming, fishing, and other activities.[1624] Many children serve as apprentices in small industries and in the informal sector.[1625] Mauritania abolished slavery in 1980 but there are persistent allegations that vestiges of slavery and slavery-like practices continue to exist.[1626] According to the Washington Post, however, anti-slavery activists estimate that the number of persons living in these conditions has fallen to a few thousand in recent years.[1627]

Mauritania made school attendance compulsory in July 2001.[1628] In 1996, the gross primary enrollment rate was 79 percent.[1629] Low enrollment and dropout rates among girls are caused by extreme poverty, lack of school infrastructure, traditionally low priority placed on girls' education, unequal treatment in class, and discriminatory stereotypes conveyed by teachers and instruction materials.[1630] Spending on education has declined from 5 percent of GDP in 1985 to 3.5 percent in 1998.[1631]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Labor law specifies that no child under the age of 13 may be employed in the agricultural sector without the permission of the Minister of Labor, nor under the age of 14 in the nonagricultural sector.[1632] Forced and bonded labor by children is prohibited.[1633] The government reportedly lacks the resources to effectively enforce child labor laws.[1634] Mauritania ratified both ILO Convention 138 and ILO Convention 182 on December 3, 2001.[1635]

[1619] Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), "Mauritania: Debt Relief Will Facilitate Implementation of the Ambitious Ten-Year Program for Education," ADEA Newsletter, vol. 13, no. 2 (April-June 2001), at on December 3, 2001.

[1620] Ibid.

[1621] Ibid.

[1622] ILO, Stopping Forced Labor: Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, International Labour Conference, 89th Session, Report I (B), Geneva, 2001.

[1623] World Development Indicators 2001 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2001) [hereinafter World Development Indicators 2001].

[1624] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Mauritania(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001) [hereinafter Country Reports 2000], Section 6d, at

[1625] Ibid.

[1626] Kevin Bales, Disposable People (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999), Chapter 3, "World: Africa Award for Mauritanian Anti-Slavery Activist," BBC News Online, at See also Douglas Farah, "Despite Legal Ban, Slavery Persists in Mauritania," Washington Post, October 21, 2001 [hereinafter "Despite Legal Ban, Slavery Persists in Mauritania"]; National Public Radio, "Slavery Lives on in Mauritania: Tradition Thrives Thanks to a Confluence of Cultures," August 21, 2001, at, as cited December 4, 2001; Kendall Wilson, "Slavery Thrives in African Nation," Philadelphia Tribune, June 25, 1999, 1A.; "Mauritania: Paradise under the Master's Foot: An 800-Year-Old System of Black Chattel Slavery Thrives in Mauritania," as cited December 4, 2001; and Country Reports 2000.

[1627] "Despite Legal Ban, Slavery Persists in Mauritania."

[1628] UNDP, "Mauritania Helps Girls by Making Education Compulsory," July 25, 2001 [hereinafter "Mauritania Helps Girls by Making Education Compulsory"], as cited in Human Rights Internet (HRI) at on December 3, 2001.

[1629] World Development Indicators 2001.

[1630] "Mauritania Helps Girls by Making Education Compulsory."

[1631] World Bank, Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit, Report No. 22529-MAU, September 26, 2001, at 4.

[1632] Country Reports 2000.

[1633] Ibid.

[1634] Ibid.

[1635] ILO, Table of Ratifications and Information Concerning the Fundamental Conventions of the ILO, at

Search Refworld