Last Updated: Friday, 29 August 2014, 14:18 GMT

2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mauritania

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 April 2004
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mauritania, 29 April 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca24c.html [accessed 30 August 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.

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

In 2000, the Government of Mauritania began working with the ILO to raise awareness on worker rights, including child labor.[2796] Key efforts to eradicate child labor have taken place that include the passage of a 2002 regulation prohibiting children from working in the streets of the capital city of Nouakchott,[2797] and government-funded magazine and TV ads on child labor.[2798] The government has also provided training to police and border guards on trafficking and human rights issues.[2799]

In 1999, the Government of Mauritania adopted 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 is being placed on pre-school education that prepares children for basic education and on creating incentives to encourage private investment to promote private education.[2800] The goals for elementary school education are to achieve universal access by 2005, raise the retention rate from 55 percent to 78 percent by 2010, eliminate gender and regional disparities, improve the quality and relevance of education, and lower the pupil-teacher ratio.[2801] The government is currently implementing a school meals program designed to improve attendance and children's health. In addition, the Girls' School Enrollment Support Fund was created in 1997 as part of the government's Basic Education Department. The fund has conducted 13 multimedia campaigns aimed at increasing girls' attendance in five of the least-developed regions in Mauritania.[2802]

In June 2002, the Government of Mauritania became eligible to receive funding from the World Bank and other donors under the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, which aims to provide all children with a primary school education by the year 2015.[2803] The World Bank is assisting the government to achieve education sector goals through a USD 49.2 million education loan project aimed at increasing enrollment, particularly among girls and in low-performing regions.[2804] In 2000, the African Development Bank provided loan for a five-year education sector improvement project, including the promotion of women's education and literacy, and increased government capacity.[2805] In 2001, several UN agencies began implementation of a girls' education project that supports infrastructure development, gender-neutral curriculum development, and increased income-generation opportunities among the target population.[2806]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2001, the ILO estimated that 21.7 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Mauritania were working.[2807] Children traditionally work on family subsistence farms as a means of survival.[2808] They also perform a wide range of other informal activities, such as working as cashiers,[2809] street workers, dishwashers in restaurants, car washers, domestic workers, fishermen,[2810] herders, and apprentices in garages.[2811] In addition, children living with marabouts, or Koranic teachers, assist with domestic work.[2812] In 2002, there were two reported arrests of traffickers recruiting young boys to work in the Middle East as camel jockeys.[2813] Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981;[2814] however, due to the lack of economic and social opportunities for former slaves, their children are at risk of abject poverty,[2815] which may serve as an impetus for child labor.

In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 83.0 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 64.0 percent.[2816] Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Mauritania. In July 2001,[2817] the government announced that school attendance would become compulsory between the ages of 6 and 14.[2818] While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.[2819] Public school is free, but other costs such as books and lunches make education unaffordable for many poor children.[2820] Ongoing challenges to the provision of quality education in Mauritania include the high dropout and repetition rates, a shortage of teachers, an inadequate curriculum,[2821] and poor national infrastructure which prevents children from traveling to and from schools.[2822]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

An amendment to the Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years.[2823] The Labor Law also prohibits forced labor[2824] and sets 18 years as the minimum age for work requiring excessive force, or that could harm the health, safety, or morals of children.[2825] The Criminal Code, which follows Islamic criminal law, establishes strict penalties for engaging in prostitution or procuring prostitutes, ranging from fines to imprisonment for two to five years for cases involving minors.[2826] Article 3 of the law against trafficking in persons, passed on July 17, 2003, expands the scope of trafficking for cases involving children.[2827] In addition, the Criminal Code sets a penalty of 5 to 10 years' imprisonment for the use of fraud or violence to abduct minors.[2828]

According to the government, no cases of child labor have been reported.[2829] However, the government reportedly lacks the resources to effectively monitor compliance with child labor laws.[2830]

The Government of Mauritania ratified ILO Convention 138 and ILO Convention 182 on December 3, 2001.[2831]


[2796] The government drafted a national plan on workers' rights, which led to recommendations by the ILO that the government conduct studies on the extent of the child labor problem and forced labor in Mauritania, due to the lack of available information on these subjects. In 2002, government officials reported that they were working with the ILO to plan the child labor study. Further information on the status of this study is not available. See Khaled Cheikhna, Director of Labor, interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002. See also Dina, Secretary General, Union des Travailleurs de Mauritania, interview with USDOL official, August 15, 2002.

[2797] Moctar O. Hemeina, Official, U.S. Embassy-Nouakchott, interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002.

[2798] Dina, interview, August 15, 2002.

[2799] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Mauritania, Washington, D.C., June 11, 2003; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/21276.htm.

[2800] 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), 2001 [cited July 2, 2003]; available from http://www.adeanet.org/newsletter/latest/06.html.

[2801] Ibid.

[2802] Government of Mauritania, Written Replies by the Government of Mauritania Concerning the List of Issues Received by the Committee on the Rights of the Child Relating to the Consideration of the Initial Report of Mauritania, CRC/C/Q/MAU/1, August 16, 2001, 11; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/6/crc/doc/replies/wr-mauritania-1.pdf.

[2803] World Bank, World Bank Announces First Group Of Countries For 'Education For All' Fast Track, press release, Washington, D.C., June 12, 2002; available from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,, contentMDK:20049839~menuPK:34463~pagePK:34370~ piPK:34424,00.html.

[2804] Souleymane Sow, Senior Operations Manager, World Bank, interview with USDOL official, August 15, 2002. For a summary of other project components, see World Bank, Education Sector Development Project, [cited October 22, 2003]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P071308.

[2805] African Development Bank Group, Project Information Sheet – Mauritania: Education Development Support Project, [online] [cited July 2, 2003]; available from http://www.afdb.org/projects/projects/education_Mauritania.htm.

[2806] Participating UN agencies include UNDP, UNFPA, WHO, WFP, UNAIDS and UNICEF. See Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Mauritania: Encouraging Girls to Go to School", IRINnews.org, [online], July 26, 2001 [cited July 2, 2003]; available from http://irinnews.org/.

[2807] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[2808] Dina, interview, August 15, 2002.

[2809] Nahah, Secretary General, Confederation General des Travailleurs de Mauritania, interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002.

[2810] Ely Samake, UNICEF official, interview with USDOL official, August 15, 2002.

[2811] Nahah, interview, August 14, 2002.

[2812] Sow, interview, August 15, 2002.

[2813] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Mauritania.

[2814] Ibid.

[2815] Samory O. Beye, Secretary General, Confederation Libre des Travailleurs de Mauritania, interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002.

[2816] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003.

[2817] UNDP, Mauritania Helps Girls by Making Education Compulsory, [online] 2001 [cited July 2, 2003]; available from http://www.undp.org/dpa/frontpagearchive/2001/july/25july01/index.html.

[2818] The legislation establishes monitoring procedures and fines for offenders. See Government of Mauritania, Written Replies to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 9.

[2819] For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

[2820] Ely Samake, interview, August 15, 2002.

[2821] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Mauritania, CRC/C/15/Add.159, UN, Geneva, November 6, 2001, [cited July 2, 2003], para. 45; available from http://www.unhchr.ch.

[2822] Ely Samake, interview, August 15, 2002.

[2823] Government of Mauritania, Written Replies to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 9.

[2824] Government of Mauritania, Code du Travail, 1963, Loi N. 63.023, (January 1963), Livre I, Titre Premier, Article 3.

[2825] Ibid., Livre Deuxième, Article 47.

[2826] Criminal Code of Mauritania, Articles 307-14, as cited in The Protection Project Legal Library; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/statutesPDF/Mauritania.pdf.

[2827] U.S. Department of State, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 19, 2004.

[2828] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial reports of states parties due in 1993, CRC/C/8/Add.42, prepared by Government of Mauritania, pursuant to Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, January 10, 2001, [cited July 2, 2003], para. 345; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/4ec6bda0d30ae362cl256a64002c7a85?0opendocument. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Mauritania.

[2829] Cheikhna, interview, August 14, 2002.

[2830] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Mauritania, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18215.htm.

[2831] ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited July 2, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

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