Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mauritania

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 18 April 2003
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mauritania, 18 April 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d7489e27.html [accessed 21 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.

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. 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.2296 The government is currently working with the ILO to plan the child labor study,2297 which the government views as necessary prior to discussion of a broad-based, national program to address the issue.2298 Small-scale efforts to eradicate child labor are taking place, including the passage of a 2002 regulation prohibiting children from selling in the streets of the capital city, Nouakchott,2299 as well as government-funded magazine and TV ads on child labor.2300

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.2301 The goals for elementary school education are to achieve universal access by 2005, raise the retention rate from 55 to 78 percent by 2010, eliminate gender and regional disparities, improve the quality and relevance of education, and lower the pupil-teacher ratio.2302 Mauritania is also aiming to raise the share of education spending from 3.7 percent of GDP in 1999 to 5.4 percent of GDP by 2015.2303 The World Bank is assisting the government to achieve these goals through a USD 49.2 million education loan project aimed at increasing enrollment, particularly among girls and in low-performing regions.2304

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, the ILO estimated that 22.1 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Mauritania were working.2305 Children traditionally work on family subsistence farms, as a means of survival.2306 They also perform a wide range of other informal activities, such as working as cashiers,2307 street workers, dishwashers in restaurants, car washers, domestic workers, fishermen,2308 herders, and apprentices in garages.2309 In addition, children living with marabouts, or Koranic teachers, assist with domestic work.2310 Mauritania abolished slavery in 1980;2311 however, due to the lack of economic and social opportunities for former slaves, their children are at risk of abject poverty,2312 which may serve as an impetus for child labor.

Beginning in July 2001,2313 seven years of school attendance beginning at age 7 became compulsory.2314 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 83.2 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 60.2 percent.2315 Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Mauritania. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school.2316 Public school is free, but other costs such as books and lunches make education unaffordable for many poor children.2317 Ongoing challenges to the provision of quality education in Mauritania include the high dropout and repetition rates, a shortage of teachers, an inadequate curriculum,2318 and poor national infrastructure, which prevents children from accessing schools.2319

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years, except in specific circumstances approved by the Minister of Labor.2320 The Labor Law also prohibits forced labor2321 and sets 18 years as the minimum age for work requiring excessive force, or that could harm the health, safety, or morals of children.2322 The Labor Law contains special regulations on night work and general working hours for children under 16 years.2323 The Criminal Code, which follows Islamic criminal law, establishes strict penalties for engaging in prostitution or procuring prostitutes, ranging from fines to imprisonment for six months to imposition of the death penalty.2324 Trafficking is not specifically prohibited, but the Criminal Code sets a penalty of imprisonment for the use of fraud or violence to abduct minors.2325

The Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing child labor laws in the formal sector, and according to the government, no cases of child labor have been reported.2326 However, the government reportedly lacks the resources to effectively monitor compliance with child labor laws.2327 Information is not available on prosecutions or convictions related to commercial sexual exploitation of children. According to UNICEF, the government is tightening security at airports and questioning travelers vigilently as preventive measures against trafficking.2328

Mauritania ratified both ILO Convention 138 and ILO Convention 182 on December 3, 2001.2329


2296 Khaled Cheikhna, Director of Labor, Mauritanian Ministry of Labor, interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002.

2297 Dina, Secretary General, Union des Travailleurs de Mauritanie (UTM), interview with USDOL official, August 15, 2002. See also Cheikhna, interview, August 14, 2002.

2298 Cheikhna, interview, August 14, 2002.

2299 Moctar O. Hemeina, U.S. Embassy – Nouakchott official, interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002.

2300 Dina, interview, August 15, 2002.

2301 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 September 4, 2002]; available from http://www.adeanet.org/newsletter/latest/06.html.

2302 Ibid.

2303 Ibid.

2304 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 1, 2002]; available from http://www4.worldbank.org/sprojects/Project.asp?pid=P071308.

2305 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002.

2306 Dina, interview, August 15, 2002.

2307 Nahah, Secretary General, Confederation General des Travailleurs de Mauritanie (CGTM), interview with USDOL official, August 14, 2002.

2308 Ely Samake, UNICEF, interview with USDOL official, August 15, 2002.

2309 Nahah, interview, August 14, 2002.

2310 Sow, interview, August 15, 2002.

2311 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Mauritania, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 449-52, Section 6c [cited September 4, 2002]; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8392.htm.

2312 Samory O. Beye, Secretary General, Confederation Libre des Travailleurs de Mauritania (CLTM), interview with
USDOL official, August 14, 2002.2313 United Nations Development Programme, Mauritania Helps Girls by Making Education Compulsory, [online]
2001 [cited September 4, 2002]; available from http://www.undp.org/dpa/frontpagearchive/2001/july/25july01/
index.html.2314 Samake, interview, August 15, 2002.

2315 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002.

2316 For a more detailed description on the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

2317 Samake, interview, August 15, 2002.

2318 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, United Nations, Geneva, November 6, 2001, [cited September 4, 2002]; available from http://www.unhchr.ch.

2319 Samake, interview, August 15, 2002.

2320 Government of Mauritania, Code du Travail, 1963, Loi N. 63.023, (January 1963), Deuxième Livre, Article 1.

2321 Ibid., Premier Livre, Article 3.

2322 Ibid., Deuxième Livre, Article 47.

2323 Ibid., Deuxième Livre, Articles 7-14.

2324 Criminal Code of Mauritania, Articles 307-14 as cited in Protection Project [cited September 4, 2002]; available from http://www.protectionproject.org.

2325 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 September 4, 2002]; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/ 4ec6bda0d30ae362cl256a64002c7a85?0opendocument.

2326 Cheikhna, interview, August 14, 2002.

2327 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2001: Mauritania, 449-52, Section 6d.

2328 Samake, interview, August 15, 2002.

2329 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited September 4, 2002]; available from http://ilolex.ilo.ch:1567/english/newratframeE.htm.

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