Last Updated: Tuesday, 02 September 2014, 13:52 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cameroon

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 - Cameroon, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748e111.html [accessed 3 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     8/13/2001
Ratified Convention 182     6/5/2002
ILO-IPEC Associated Member
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan (Trafficking)

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 15.9 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years were working in Cameroon in 2001. Approximately 14.5 percent of all boys 10 to 14 were working compared to 17.4 percent of girls in the same age group. The majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (88.2 percent), followed by services (7.1 percent), manufacturing (2.1 percent), and other sectors (2.6 percent).901 Only 5 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years worked for wages.902 Of those children who performed domestic work, 11 percent work more than 4 hours a day on these tasks.903 According to a study conducted jointly by the ILO, the Ministry of Labor, and NGOs, children in Cameroon work in the agricultural sector in informal activities such as street vending and car washing, as domestic servants, in prostitution, and in other illicit activities.904 The ILO found that 7 percent of working children in the cities of Yaoundé, Douala, and Bamenda were less than 12 years of age, and 60 percent of these had dropped out of primary school.905 Children employed in the cocoa industry engage in hazardous tasks such as application of pesticides and use of machetes.906 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 2001, 17.1 percent of the population of Cameroon were living on less than USD 1 a day.907

Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for the trafficking of women and children for forced labor and sexual exploitation. While most of the trafficking occurs within the country, children are also trafficked to the United Kingdom for commercial sexual exploitation. Girls in particular are trafficked from Anglophone areas to the Francophone cities of Yaoundé and Douala to work as domestics, street vendors or prostitutes.908 Children are also trafficked internally to work in forced labor in the production of cocoa.909 Cameroon is a destination country for children trafficked from Nigeria and Benin and a transit country for the movement of children between Nigeria, Gabon, Togo, Chad, Niger, the Central African Republic, and the Republic of Congo, to work as indentured or domestic servants, on farms, and for sexual exploitation.910 According to a 2004 study by the Institute for Socio-Anthropological Research, children who have been trafficked in Cameroon are forced to work in agriculture, domestic service, sweatshops, bars and restaurants, and in prostitution.911 There have been credible reports of child slavery in Cameroon, particularly in the Rey Bouba Division of North Province. In some cases, parents offered their young girls to the Lamido (chief) of the Rey Bouba Division as gifts.912 The Ministry of Social Affairs also reports that children of some large rural families are "loaned" to work as domestic servants, baby sitters, vendors, or prostitutes in urban areas in exchange for monetary compensation.913

Education is compulsory through the age of 14 years.914 Primary school education has been free since 2000,915 however, families must pay for uniforms and book fees.916 Tuition and fees at the secondary school level remain unaffordable for many families.917

In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 108 percent.918 Gross enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2001, 84.6 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years were attending school.919 As of 2001, 64 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.920

Fewer girls enroll in primary school in Cameroon than boys.921 In 2001, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child identified a number of problems with the educational system in Cameroon, including rural/urban and regional disparities in school attendance; limited access to formal and vocational education for children with disabilities; children falling behind in their primary education; a high dropout rate; lack of primary school teachers; and violence and sexual abuse against children in schools.922 Early marriage, unwanted pregnancy, domestic chores and certain socio-cultural biases also contribute to low education rates.923 Domestic workers are generally not permitted by their employers to attend school.924

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years.925 The law prohibits youths between the ages of 14 to 18 from moving heavy weights, performing dangerous and unhealthy tasks, and working in confined areas.926 The Labor Code also specifies that children cannot work in any job that exceeds their physical capacity.927 Labor law also requires that employers provide training to children between 14 and 18 years.928 Under the Labor Code, the Labor Inspectorate may require women and children to be examined by a medical professional to make sure their work does not exceed their physical capacity.929

The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Cameroon. The government does not explicitly prohibit forced or compulsory labor by children.930 The Penal Code prohibits a person from requiring another person to perform work for which they have not freely applied. Violation of this law is punishable by imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and/or a fine.931 The Penal Code prohibits slavery.932 The Code also prohibits procuring, as well sharing in the profits from another person's prostitution.933 The penalty includes fines and prison sentences of up to 5 years, which double if the crime involves a person less than 21 years of age.934 In December 2005, the National Assembly passed legislation prohibiting child trafficking.935 Military conscription is not compulsory in Cameroon, and the voluntary recruitment age is 18. Enlistment under age 18 is permitted with parental consent.936 Since 1999, the Government of Cameroon has submitted to the ILO a list or an equivalent document identifying the types of work that it has determined are harmful to the health, safety or morals of children under Convention 182 or Convention 138.937

The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Labor enforce child labor laws through site inspections of registered businesses.938 In 2004, 58 labor inspectors were responsible for investigating child labor cases in Cameroon. However, the U.S. Department of State reports that a lack of resources and inadequate legal provisions covering domestic labor hindered efforts to combat child labor.939

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Insurance (Ministry of Labor), is the government agency responsible for anti-trafficking efforts,940 including the implementation of a national strategy on child trafficking which involves the participation of 10 governmental agencies.941

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

Cameroon is one of five countries collaborating with ILOIPEC on a USDOL-funded West African regional project to combat hazardous and exploitative child labor in the production of cocoa.942 With the support of the Department of State, the Government is participating in an ILO designed program to develop anti-trafficking legislation and train law enforcement and judicial officials on anti-trafficking strategies.

The Government of Cameroon has worked over the past year to raise awareness of and working to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government has worked closely with the International Labor Organization, UNICEF, and Plan International to better understand the causes of child labor and to find long-term solutions to the problem. The government has also developed revisions to its Family Code that would raise the minimum age for marriage from 15 to 18.943 Since early marriage is a common threat to girl's completion of education, this can be regarded as a positive government action to support education and anti-child labor efforts.

The Minister of Social Affairs has pledged support for UNICEF, which plans to conduct a sociological study on victims and perpetrators of child trafficking to help address the problem in the country.944 To raise awareness about the need to combat exploitative child labor, the government participated in various child labor awareness raising activities in conjunction with the ILO's World Day Against Child Labor and Red Card Against Child Labor Initiative and UN's Day of the African Child.945

In June 2004, the government collaborated with NGOs to launch several initiatives to issue birth certificates to children to enable school enrollment in Cameroon's northern and central provinces.946 In August 2004, WFP began a 3-year program to distribute food to female students and their families in the northern and eastern provinces. This program not only helps to mitigate food insecurity in the region, but also encourages girls to attend school in areas with particularly low rates of attendance.947


901 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, October 7, 2005. 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 section in the front of the report titled "Data Sources and Definitions."

902 Ministère de l'Economie et des Finances, Rapport Principal. Enquête à Indicateurs Multiples (MICS) au Cameroun 2000, Yaoundé, 2000, 11.

903 Ibid.

904 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Cameroon, Washington, DC, February 25, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41592.htm.

905 Ibid. The study found, however, that the rate of child labor is lowest in the metropolitan areas of Yaounde and Douala. See Ministère de l'Economie et des Finances, Rapport Principal. Enquête à Indicateurs Multiples (MICS) au Cameroun 2000, 41.

906 International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector of West Africa: A Synthesis of Findings in Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, [online] n.d. [cited December 8, 2005]; available from http://www.iita.org/news/cocoa.pdf.

907 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

908 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, DC, June 10, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/.

909 Ibid. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 5.

910 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 2, 2005. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 5.

911 According to reports, traffickers beat and starve children and threaten to leave them destitute. See U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 2, 2005. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon.

912 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 5.

913 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 2, 2005.

914 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 5.

915 U.S. Embassy – Younde Official, email correspondence to USDOL Official, August 17, 2006.

916 Ibid. Government of Cameroon, Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon, Law no. 96-06, (January 18, 1996); available from http://www.right-to-education.org. See also Sylvestre Tetchiada, Schools for Scandal, February 24, 2004 [cited June 23, 2005]; available from http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/interna.asp?idnews=22537.

917 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 5.

918 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrollment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005). 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 rates in the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

919 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates. Attendance figures do not necessarily indicate that a child is progressing through various grade levels and thus may exceed statistics on persistence to grade 5.

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

921 Ministère de l'Economie et des Finances, Rapport Principal. Enquête à Indicateurs Multiples (MICS) au Cameroun 2000, 26.

922 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Cameroon, CRC/C/15/Add.164, Geneva, November 6, 2001, para. 54. See Tetchiada, Scandal.

923 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, August 24, 2004.

924 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon.

925 Government of Cameroon, Labour Code, Law no. 92/007, (August 14, 1992), Part V, Chapter III, Section 86; available from http://natlex.ilo.org/txt/E92CMR01.htm. See also U. S. Embassy-Yaounde, reporting, August 29, 2005.

926 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 6d.

927 Cameroon Labor Code, Part V, Ch. III, Section 87.

928 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 6d.

929 Cameroon Labor Code, Part V, Chapter III, Section 87.

930 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 6c.

931 Article 292 as cited in The Protection Project, "Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children: A Country-by-Country Report on a Contemporary Form of Slavery," 2002, Article 292; available from http://www.protectionproject.org/human_rights/countryreport/cameroon.htm.

932 Ibid.

933 Ibid.

934 Ibid.

935 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde Official, email correspondence to USDOL Official, August 17, 2006.

936 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, November 17, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=966.

937 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, email communication to USDOL official, November 14, 2005.

938 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon, Section 6d. See also U. S. Embassy-Yaounde, reporting, August 29, 2005.

939 U. S. Embassy-Yaounde, reporting, August 29, 2005.

940 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Cameroon.

941 U. S. Embassy-Yaounde, reporting, August 29, 2005.

942 ILO-IPEC, West Africa Cocoa/Commercial Agriculture Program to Combat Hazardous and Exploitative Child Labor project document RAF.02.P50.USA, Geneva, 2002.

943 U. S. Embassy-Yaounde, reporting, August 29, 2005.

944 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, August 24, 2004.

945 U. S. Embassy-Yaounde, reporting, August 29, 2005.

946 Ibid.

947 Ibid.

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