Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 06:22 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tonga

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tonga, 29 August 2006, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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 138N/A4654
Ratified Convention 182N/A
ILO-IPEC Member 
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under 15 in Tonga are unavailable.4642 The U.S. Department of State reported that there was no child labor in the formal economy in 2004, the most recent time period for which such information is available.4643

The Education Act of 1974 provides for free and compulsory education for children ages 6 to 14.4644 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 112 percent and in 2001, the net primary enrollment rate was 100 percent.4645 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. Primary school attendance statistics are not available for Tonga.4646 Although the quality of schooling in Tonga has been criticized, education is available through high school and the country has been recognized as having achieved universal primary education.4647 In addition, retention rates to secondary school are high.4648

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

There is no legislation in Tonga that establishes a minimum age for work.4649 The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Tonga. The Constitution prohibits forced or bonded labor.4650 There is no military conscription in Tonga.4651 Technically, prostitution is not illegal, but owning and/or operating a brothel, pimping, and soliciting in a public place are all prohibited activities under the Criminal Code.4652 Penalties for offenses range from imprisonment for 6 months to 2 years. Males convicted a second time of profiting from prostitution may be subject to whipping. The Criminal Code prohibits any person from procuring or attempting to procure any girl under the age of 21 for the purposes of trafficking for prostitution. The punishment for this offense is imprisonment for up to 5 years. The abduction of women and girls is also illegal under the Criminal Code, with penalties ranging from 5 to 7 years of imprisonment.4653

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

The Government of Tonga has established goals to further improve the educational system through the Ministry of Education's 1996 Strategic Plan. The plan calls for an increase by 2010 in the compulsory school age to 17 years, and for the establishment of universal access to quality education up to age 17.4655 It also calls for strengthening the Ministry of Education and enhancing training, expanding and developing vocational and distance education, and establishing formal pre-school programs.4656

The Australia Government Agency for International Development (AusAID), the largest aid donor to Tonga, provides financial assistance to the Ha'apai Development Fund, which supports projects in the Ha'apai islands of Tonga. The fund is overseen by government and community representatives and has involved the construction of teacher housing.4657

Tonga is part of the Pacific Regional Initiative for Delivery of Basic Education (PRIDE), which will harmonize basic education plans in the region and place qualified teachers in all primary schools in the Pacific. This program is funded by the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) in cooperation with the University of the South Pacific and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. NZAID will also build a high school for 200 children in Niuas, the northernmost outer islands of Tonga.4658 In addition, UNICEF works with government agencies and NGOs to address children's health and youth development in the country.4659

4642 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report for information about sources used. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section.

4643 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2005: Tonga, Washington D. C., February 25, 2005; available from

4644 Government of Tonga, Ministry of Education, [online] [cited May 19, 2005]; available from

4645 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios. primary; Accessed December 2005). For an explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

4646 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section for information about sources used.

4647 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Tonga.

4648 ADB, Millenium Development Goals in the Pacific: Relevance and Progress, Manila, March 2003; available from

4649 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Tonga.

4650 Regarding forced labor, the Constitution states, "No person shall serve another against his will except he be undergoing punishment by law..." See Constitution of Tonga, Part I, Clause 2; available from

4651 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report, 2004.

4652 Government of Tonga, Criminal Code of Tonga; available from

4653 Ibid., 126, 128-129.

4654 The Government of Tonga is not a member of the ILO, and is thus unable to ratify ILO conventions.

4655 The plan calls for an increase in compulsory age to 17 years or "Form 6 level" and for universal access to quality education up age 17 years or Form 6. Form 6 is presumed to be the highest secondary education level that can be achieved in Tonga. UNESCO, Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports – Tonga, prepared by Ministry of Education, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 52/84, 2000; available from

4656 Ibid.

4657 AusAID, Tonga Program Details, [online] 2004 [cited May 13, 2004]; available from

4658 NZAID, NZAid June 2003 Newsletter, [online] 2004 [cited May 13, 2004]; available from

4659 UNICEF, UNICEF's Programme of Assistance to Pacific Island Countries, [online] [cited May 19, 2004]; available from, AusAID, Tonga Program Details, [online] 2004 [cited May 13, 2004]; available from

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