Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 13:07 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Lesotho

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Lesotho, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa47b3c.html [accessed 1 October 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 Labor1998
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:28.1
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:31.3
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:25
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:114
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:75
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:80.7
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:73
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes
* Must pay for miscellaneous school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Available information on the occupations in which children work is anecdotal, but suggests that jobs performed by children tend to be gender specific. Boys as young as 5 years herd livestock in the highlands, either for their families or through an arrangement where they are hired out by their parents. Boys also work as load bearers, car washers, taxi fare collectors, and street vendors. Girls are often employed as domestic servants.1999 Some teenage children, primarily girls, are also involved in prostitution. UNICEF and the Government of Lesotho (GOL) believe that the number of individuals under the age of 18 who are involved in prostitution is small, but increasing.2000

Anecdotal evidence indicates that children are trafficked within Lesotho for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Boys may be trafficked, sometimes with the permission of their families, for cattle herding as well as street vending. Girls may be trafficked internally for domestic labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and cattle herding.2001 Children who are trafficked for sexual exploitation in South Africa are often abused in private residences rather than the traditional settings of clubs and brothels.2002 According to a 2003 report from the IOM, Lesotho children are trafficked into South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia for sexual exploitation.2003

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years, although children between 13 and 15 years may perform light work in a home-based environment, technical school, or other institution approved by the Government. Also exempt from the minimum age is work performed by a child of any age in a private undertaking for their own family, so long as there are no more than five other employees and each is a member of the child's family.2004 Although there is no specific list of work that is likely to jeopardize the health, safety, or morals of children, the law in general prohibits employment of children in work that is harmful to their health or development.2005

In addition, the labor law sets restrictions on night work by children, and also restricts work by children in mines and quarries. Persons under the age of 16 years may not work for more than 4 consecutive hours without a break of at least 1 hour, and may not work more than 8 hours in any 1 day. Each employer in an industrial undertaking is required to keep a register of all its employees, including those under the age of 18 years.2006 The law identifies the "protection of children and young persons" as a principle of State policy.2007

The law sets a penalty of up to 3 months in prison for an employer in the industrial sector who employs an underage child, or for an employer who fails to keep a register of all employees who are children and young persons (under age 18). The law also dictates imprisonment of up to 6 months for persons who employ a child or young person in violation of restrictions related to dangerous work, required rest periods, parental rights to refuse work for their children, and children's rights to return each night to the home of their parents or guardians.2008

The law identifies freedom from forced labor and slavery as a fundamental right available to all people.2009 The law further defines forced labor as non-voluntary work or service under duress of punishment and makes it illegal. The use of forced labor – adult or child – may result in a fine and up to 1 year in prison.2010 The law states that there is no compulsory military service, and the minimum age for voluntary enlistment is 18.2011 A 2003 law concerning sexual offenses defines and explicitly prohibits child prostitution.2012 The procurement of a girl for prostitution is punishable by a maximum penalty of up to 6 years in prison.2013 Although there are no specific laws that prohibit trafficking in persons, it is illegal to procure or attempt to procure a women or girl to become a prostitute within Lesotho, or to leave Lesotho so that she may be a prostitute elsewhere.2014

The law provides broad powers for the Labor Commissioner and subordinates to perform workplace inspections, but only in the commercial sector.2015 Current labor laws do not apply to child labor in the informal sector.2016 The Ministry of Employment and Labor has 24 trained inspectors who are responsible for enforcement of the Labor Code, including child labor provisions.2017 Each quarter a random sample of employers is inspected.2018 According the CEACR, Government inspections are difficult to execute due to a lack of resources and the absence of oversight in the informal sector.2019

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

The Government of Lesotho (GOL) is working with ILO-IPEC to implement a USDOL-funded, USD 5 million regional child labor project in Southern Africa. Activities in Lesotho include research on the nature and incidence of exploitive child labor and efforts to build the capacity of the Government to address child labor issues.2020

With the participation of the GOL, the American Institutes for Research is implementing another regional, USDOL-funded project. This USD 9 million project intends to prevent 10,000 children from engaging in exploitive labor in five countries, including Lesotho, by improving quality of and access to basic education.2021

The GOL's Ministry of Home Affairs, Child and Gender Protection Unit and UNICEF are working together on children in prostitution.2022 Government officials, including the Prime Minister of Lesotho, have participated in awareness-raising activities, espousing the need to protect children from hazardous work and appealing to adults for children to attend school instead of working.2023


1998 For statistical data not cited here, see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see Government of Lesotho, Labour Code Order, 24, (1992), parts II(3), IX(124); available from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/31536/64865/E92LSO01.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, "Lesotho," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2007 Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100488.htm. See also ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); Lesotho (ratification: 2001); CEACR 2007, [online] [cited December 11, 2007], article 1; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newcountryframeE.htm.

1999 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Lesotho," section 6d. See also UNICEF, Lesotho – Real Lives, [online] [cited December 10, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/lesotho_20016.html.

2000 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Lesotho," sections 5, 6d. See also U.S. Embassy – Maseru, reporting, November 30, 2007, section 1(2).

2001 U.S. Department of State, "Lesotho (Special Cases)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007, Washington, D.C., June 12, 2007; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/86204.htm.

2002 Jonathan Martens, Maciej "Mac" Pieczkowski, and Bernadette van Vuuren-Smyth, Seduction, Sale and Slavery: Trafficking in Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation in Southern Africa, 3rd edition, International Organization for Migration Regional Office for Southern Africa, Pretoria, May 2003, 42; available from http://www.iom.org.za/site/media/docs/TraffickingReport3rdEd.pdf.

2003 International Organization for Migration, The Trafficking of Women and Children in the Southern African Region, Pretoria, March 24, 2003, 12; available from http://www.iom.int/documents/publication/en/southernafrica%5Ftrafficking.pdf.

2004 Government of Lesotho, Labour Code Order, sections 3, 124. See also U.S. Embassy – Maseru, reporting, November 30, 2007.

2005 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138); Lesotho (ratification: 2001); CEACR 2004/75th Session, [online] [cited January 22, 2007], 3; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/appl-displayAllComments.cfm?conv=C138&ctry=1800&hdroff=1&lang=EN.

2006 Government of Lesotho, Labour Code Order, sections 3, 7.

2007 Government of Lesotho, The Constitution of Lesotho, (1993), section 32; available from http://www.parliament.ls/documents/constitution.php#NOTE.

2008 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); Lesotho (ratification: 2001); CEACR 2004/75th Session, [online] [cited January 22, 2007], 6; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newcountryframeE.htm.

2009 Government of Lesotho, The Constitution of Lesotho, section 9.

2010 Government of Lesotho, Labour Code Order, sections 3, 7, 124-129.

2011 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Global Report 2004 – Lesotho, [online] 2004 [cited March 17, 2008]; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/regions/country?id=119.

2012 Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Harmonisation of laws relating to children: Lesotho, African Child Policy Forum, 2007, 14; available from http://www.africanchild.info/documents/Lesotho%20Reportfinal%20Sarah.doc.

2013 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); CEACR 2004/75th Session, 6.

2014 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Lesotho," section 5. See also ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); CEACR 2004/75th Session, 2, 3.

2015 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); CEACR 2004/75th Session, 4, 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Maseru, reporting, November 30, 2007, para 5.

2016 Sloth-Nielsen, Harmonisation of laws relating to children: Lesotho, 17.

2017 U.S. Embassy – Maseru, reporting, September 2, 2003, para 7.

2018 U.S. Embassy – Maseru, reporting, November 30, 2007, para 5.

2019 ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182); CEACR 2007, para 9.

2020 ILO-IPEC, Supporting the Timebound Programme to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour in South Africa's Child Labour Action Programme and Laying the Basis for Concerted Action Against Worst Forms of Child Labour in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, project document, Geneva,, September 30, 2003, 38-39.

2021 Notice of Award: Cooperative Agreement. U.S. Department of Labor / American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC, August 16, 2004, 1-2. See also American Institutes for Research, Reducing Exploitive Child Labor Southern Africa (RECLISA), project document, Washington September 8, 2005, 21.

2022 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Lesotho (Special Cases)."

2023 American Institutes for Research (AIR), Reducing Exploitive Child Labor in Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland) through Education, Technical Progress Report to USDOL International Child Labor Program, September, 2007, 5.

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