Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cameroon

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 31 August 2007
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cameroon, 31 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d749280.html [accessed 18 December 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 Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Percent of children 10-14 estimated as working in 2001:15.9%813
Minimum age for admission to work:14814
Age to which education is compulsory:14815
Free public education:Yes816*
Gross primary enrollment rate in 2004:117%817
Net primary enrollment rate:Unavailable
Percent of children 10-14 attending school in 2001:84.6%818
As of 2002, percent of primary school entrants likely to reach grade 5:64%819
Ratified Convention 138:8/13/2001820
Ratified Convention 182:6/5/2002821
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes822
* Must pay for school supplies and related items.

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2001, approximately 14.5 percent of boys and 17.4 percent of girls ages 10 to 14 were working in Cameroon. 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).823 Some children work on cocoa farms as well as on banana and rubber plantations.824 Children also work as load bearers, traders, street vendors, car washers, and domestic servants.825 Children are also found working in fisheries, livestock raising, and mining.826 According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, children from large rural families are "loaned" for labor in exchange for monetary compensation in urban areas where they serve as domestics and street vendors, and sometimes as prostitutes.827

Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking of children for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. While most of the trafficking occurs domestically,828 Cameroonian children are trafficked to Nigeria, Gabon, and the Central African Republic. Children are also trafficked to Cameroon from Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Benin, and Niger. Cameroon also serves as a country of transit for children trafficked between other countries such as Nigeria, Benin, Niger, Chad, Togo, the Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. Girls are trafficked from Anglophone areas in Cameroon to the Francophone cities of Yaoundé and Douala to work as domestic servants, street vendors, prostitutes, as well as in child care; the children's unfamiliarity with the language makes it easier for employers to assert their control.829 Girls are trafficked into Europe and Equatorial Guinea, for sexual exploitation.830 Trafficked children also work on cocoa, tea, banana, and rubber plantations; in spare-parts shops; and in bars and restaurants.831

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years, including for apprenticeships.832 Children are prohibited from working at night,833 and children under 18 are prohibited from moving heavy weights, performing dangerous and unhealthy tasks, and working in confined areas.834 The law also specifies that children cannot work in any job that exceeds their physical capacity, and the Labor Inspector can require child laborers to take a medical exam to determine if such a situation exists.835 The law also restricts the tasks that children may perform on ships and requires medical certificates in certain cases to verify their capacity for the type of work.836 Violations of child labor provisions are punishable by fines.837

The law prohibits slavery and servitude, and it guarantees the right to free choice of employment.838 The penalty for a person who subjects a child to debt bondage is 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine.839 Cameroon's anti-trafficking law defines child trafficking as the act of moving or helping to move a child within or outside Cameroon to reap financial or material benefit.840 Under the law, individuals who traffic or enslave a child are subject to the punishment of a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years and a fine; if the child is under 15 years or if the offender is the victim's parent, the punishment increases to 15 to 20 years of imprisonment.841 Cameroonian law also prohibits procuring prostitutes, including sharing the profits from another person's prostitution, and sets the penalty as a fine and imprisonment for 6 months to 5 years, which doubles if the crime involves a person less than 21 years.842 Military conscription is not compulsory in Cameroon. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18, although enlistment under 18 is permitted with parental consent.843

The Ministries of Social Affairs, Labor, and Social Insurance enforce child labor laws through site inspections of registered businesses. The country has 58 labor inspectors who are responsible for investigating child labor cases.844 However, the U.S. Department of State reports that a lack of resources hindered the efforts to combat child labor.845 The Ministries of Labor, Social Insurance, and Social Affairs are also the lead government agencies responsible for anti-trafficking efforts.846 In November 2006, police arrested 9 traffickers carrying 16 Nigerian children; Cameroonian authorities planned to repatriate the victims to the proper Nigerian authorities.847

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

Between 2002 and 2006, the Government of Cameroon participated in a USD 6 million ILOIPEC regional project jointly funded by USDOL and the cocoa industry's Global Issues Group to combat exploitive child labor in the cocoa sector.848 The project closed in April 2006, and withdrew 8,756 children and prevented an additional 2,844 from exploitive work in the cocoa and other sub-agricultural sectors.849 With the support of USDOL, the Government of Cameroon is also taking part in a USD 9 million project implemented by ILO-IPEC to combat trafficking in children in West and Central Africa; the project aims at withdrawing and preventing 9,000 children from trafficking.850 USAID and the chocolate industry fund the Sustainable Tree Crops Program in Cameroon, a public-private partnership that promotes sustainable tree crop systems, including coffee, cocoa, and cashews, and contains a component to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor on farms.851

The Government of Cameroon works with local and international NGOs to assist trafficking victims, including placing them in temporary shelters.852 UNICEF is using a multifaceted approach in Cameroon to combat the exploitation and trafficking of children: raising public awareness, promoting education as a preventative strategy against child labor, and establishing a legal framework and penalties.853 Both the government-owned and independent media have also engaged in awareness-raising activities, which included coverage of antitrafficking press conferences, meetings, and events such as information week on the trafficking of African girls for sexual exploitation.854 The U.S. Department of State funded a USD 500,000 project in Cameroon to combat trafficking in children for exploitive labor until December 2006.855 The Government of Cameroon, along with ILO-IPEC, continued other awareness-raising activities to eliminate child trafficking in airports by distributing anti-trafficking embarkation and disembarkation cards.856


813 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, March 1, 2007.

814 Government of Cameroon, Labour Code, Law no. 92/007, (August 14, 1992), Article 86(1); available from http://natlex.ilo.org/txt/E92CMR01.htm.

815 U.S. Department of State, "Cameroon," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006, Washington, DC, March 6, 2007, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78723.htm.

816 Ibid. See also UNICEF, Girls' Education in Cameroon, [online] [cited January 21, 2007]; available from www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index.html.

817 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Gross Enrolment Ratio. Primary. Total, accessed December 20, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

818 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

819 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Survival Rate to Grade 5. Total, accessed December 18, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org.

820 ILO, Ratifications by Country, accessed March 26, 2004; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/index.cfm?lang=EN.

821 Ibid.

822 ILO-IPEC, IPEC Action Against Child Labour; Highlights 2006, Geneva, October 2006; available from http://www.ilo.org/iloroot/docstore/ipec/prod/eng/20061019_Implementationreport_eng_Web.pdf.

823 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

824 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 6d. See also U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 2, 2006.

825 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Sections 6d and 6c. See also Marie Therese Mengue, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Cameroon, July 2006; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/pdf/Cameroon/Cameroon_CSEC_Report%20_Eng.pdf. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties Due in 1995, Geneva, March 26, 2001, para. 275.

826 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Reports submitted by states parties under article 44 of the convention, para. 275.

827 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 6c. See also U. S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, December 13, 2006.

828 U.S. Department of State, "Cameroon (Tier 2)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006, Washington, DC, June 5, 2006; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2006/65988.htm.

829 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 2, 2005. See also U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: Cameroon." See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Secton 5.

830 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: Cameroon."

831 U. S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, December 13, 2006. See also U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: Cameroon." See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 5.

832 Government of Cameroon, Cameroon Labor Code, Article 86(1).

833 Ibid., Article 82(2).

834 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 6d.

835 Government of Cameroon, Cameroon Labor Code, Article 87(1).

836 Ibid., Article 86(2).

837 Ibid., Article 167.

838 Government of Cameroon, Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon, Law no. 96-06, (January 18, 1996), Article 4. See also Government of Cameroon, Cameroon Labor Code, Article 2(3). See also U. S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, December 13, 2006.

839 Government of Cameroon, Law relating to the Fight against Child Trafficking and Slavery, Law No. 2005/015, (December 29, 2005), Article 3.

840 Ibid., Article 2(b).

841 Ibid., Articles 4-5.

842 The Protection Project, "Cameroon," in 2005 Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Washington, DC, 2005; available from http://www.protectionproject.org.

843 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Cameroon," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=966.

844 U. S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, December 13, 2006.

845 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 6d.

846 Ibid., Section 5. Also see U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, E-mail communication to USDOL official, August 1, 2007.

847 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 6, 2007.

848 U.S. Department of Labor International Child Labor Program, West Africa Cocoa/Commerical Agriculture Program to Combat Hazardous and Exploitative Child Labor (WACAP), project summary, 2006.

849 Ibid.

850 ILO-IPEC, Combating the Trafficking in Children for Labour Exploitation in West and Central Africa (LUTRENA) – Amendment, project document amendment, Geneva, September 3, 2004, 6. See also U.S. Department of Labor International Child Labor Program, Combating Trafficking in Children for Labor Exploitation in West and Central Africa, Phases 1 & 2 (LUTRENA), project summary, 2006.

851 USAID, "Chocolate Companies Help West African Farmers Improve Harvest," (September, 2005); available from http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_sep05/pillars.htm. See also International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Sustainable Tree Crops Program, [online] [cited October 19, 2006]; available from http://www.treecrops.org/index.htm.

852 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 5.

853 UNICEF, At a Glance: Cameroon, [online] [cited June 6, 2006]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/cameroon.html?q=printme.

854 U.S. Embassy – Yaounde, reporting, March 6, 2007.

855 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, IPEC projects from all non-USDOL donors E-mail communication USDOL official, March 1, 2007.

856 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cameroon," Section 5.

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