Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2014, 15:39 GMT

2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sierra Leone

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 22 September 2005
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sierra Leone, 22 September 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca73c.html [accessed 25 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 Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138 
Ratified Convention 182 
ILO-IPEC Member 
National Plan for ChildrenX
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

UNICEF estimated that 71.6 percent of children aged 5 to 14 years in Sierra Leone were working in 2000. Two percent of these children were paid, while a large percentage performed unpaid work for someone other than a household member.[3607] Children in Sierra Leone work in family businesses and as petty vendors, and on family subsistence farms.[3608] Street children are employed by adults to sell, steal and beg. Children, some of whom are forced, also mine in alluvial diamond fields.[3609] Child prostitution is an increasing problem.[3610]

Trafficking in persons declined with the demobilization of child soldiers following the end of the civil conflict.[3611] Children have been trafficked to Liberia as forced conscripts, and to Europe where they were exploited through fictitious adoption schemes.[3612] Internally, children continue to be trafficked from rural areas to Freetown and to diamond mining areas for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.[3613]

The law mandates primary school attendance, and government policy officially calls for free primary education.[3614] In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate in Sierra Leone was 78.9 percent.[3615] Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Attendance rates are not available for Sierra Leone.[3616] Schools throughout the country were looted or destroyed in the 11-year conflict that ended in 2002.[3617] While the majority of schools have been rebuilt, staffing problems continue.[3618] The lack of schools and teachers and the fact that schooling is not free in reality due to the imposition of administrative fees have made implementation of compulsory education impossible.[3619]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for employment in Sierra Leone is 15. The employment of children is permitted in certain non-hazardous occupations, provided the child has parental consent.[3620] The official workweek for a person of any age is 38 hours, but this guideline is not enforced.[3621] The use of forced and bonded labor, including children, is prohibited by the Constitution.[3622]

The "Prevention of Cruelty to Children" section of the Laws of Sierra Leone prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and defines a child as under the age of 16. Procuring a woman or girl for prostitution is punishable by up to 2 years in prison, and soliciting of prostitution is punishable by fine.[3623] There is no law that specifically prohibits trafficking in persons, but traffickers may be prosecuted under anti-prostitution laws.[3624]

The U.S. Department of State reported that the Government of Sierra Leone lacks the resources to enforce existing labor laws.[3625]

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

The Government of Sierra Leone has established a National Commission for War-Affected Children whose goals are to provide support to demobilized child combatants, to develop and implement strategies to ensure that the needs of young girls are addressed, and to continue to provide services for children who are separated from their parents.[3626] Efforts continue under Sierra Leone's National Youth Policy, approved in 2003, to target assistance to key groups such as young girls.[3627]

USAID, in coordination with UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee, completed two programs in 2004 aimed at reintegrating ex-child soldiers through community-based education and skills training.[3628]

In the area of trafficking, the government has formed a multi-sectoral Trafficking in Persons Action Committee to clarify and coordinate roles in combating trafficking, and has held anti-trafficking training for police officers.[3629]

The government has created a National Education Action Plan that emphasizes improving the quality and relevance of education, expanding access to primary education, especially for girls and the rural poor, and enhancing the planning and management capacity of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.[3630] UNICEF is engaged in projects to renovate schools, distribute teaching materials and equipment, retrain teachers, and promote girls' education.[3631]


[3607] The provisional results of the census are now in – the estimated number of the entire Sierra Leone population is 4.9 million, which means that this number is grossly inflated. Gov't was still at war in 2000 – no way could the numbers have been accurate. Children who are working in some capacity include children who have performed any paid or unpaid work for someone who is not a member of the household, who have performed more than 4 hours of housekeeping chores in the household, or who have performed other family work. See Government of Sierra Leone, The Status of Women and Children in Sierra Leone: A Household Survey Report (MICS-2), November, 2000, 60; available from http://www.childinfo.org/MICS2/newreports/sierraleone/sierraleone.PDF and http://www.childinfo.org/MICS2/newreports/sierraleone/sierraleonetables.pdf.

[3608] Email. "FW: Worst Forms of Child Labor Report Clearance." U.S. Department of State. May 24, 2005.

[3609] Ibid. Section 6d.

[3610] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Sierra Leone, Washington, D.C., June 13, 2004 2004; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/21277.htm.

[3611] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Sierra Leone. Section 6f. Email. "FW: Worst Forms of Child Labor Report Clearance." U.S. Department of State. May 24, 2005.

[3612] Ibid. Section 6f.

[3613] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: Sierra Leone. available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/21277.htm

[3614] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Sierra Leone, Section 5. See also Inaugural Address by His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, First Session of the First Parliament of the Third Republic, July 12, 2002; available from http://www.sierra-leone.org/kabbah071202.html. See also Government of Sierra Leone, Letter of Intent and Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, Freetown, August 12, 2002; available from http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/2002/sle/02/index.htm.

[3615] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2004.

[3616] For a more detailed discussion of the relationship between education statistics and work, see the preface to this report.

[3617] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Sierra Leone, Section 5.

[3618] UNICEF, At a glance: Sierra Leone, UNICEF, [online] n.d. [cited October 27 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/sierraleone.html.

[3619] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Sierra Leone, Section 5.

[3620] Government of Sierra Leone, Employers and Employed Act, Amendment No. 23, (1962); available from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.details?p_lang=en&p_country=SLE&p_classification=04&p_origin=COUNTRY. The U.S. Department of State reports that the minimum age is 18 years. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Sierra Leone, Section 6d.

[3621] Email. "FW: Worst Forms of Child Labor Report Clearance." May 24, 2005.

[3622] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2003: Sierra Leone, Section 6c.

[3623] The Protection Project, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children: A Human Rights Report – Sierra Leone, Washington, D.C., 2002; available from http://209.190.246.239/ver2/cr/sl.pdf.

[3624] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: Sierra Leone.

[3625] "FW: Worst Forms of Child Labor Report Clearance." May 24, 2005.

[3626] Government of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone: Post-Conflict Development Agenda: Strategies for Growth and Poverty Reduction, Paris, November 13-14, 2002, 28; available from http://www.undpsalone.org/files/Programmes/SIL%20Medium%20Term%20Post-conflict%20Agenda.pdf.

[3627] Sierra Leone Approves National Youth Policy, UNFPA, [online] n.p. 2004 [cited October 27, 2004]; available from http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters/issue20.htm.

[3628] DCOF Country Programs: Sierra Leone, USAID, [online] n.d. [cited October 27, 2004].

[3629] U.S. Embassy-Freetown, unclassified telegram no. 730, August, 2004.

[3630] Government of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone: Post-Conflict Development Agenda.

[3631] UNICEF, Sierra Leone: Donor Update, July 14, 2004; available from http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/0/dd5e173e8571e21ac1256ed1003e7263?OpenDocument.

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