Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Zimbabwe

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 7 June 2002
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Zimbabwe, 7 June 2002, available at: [accessed 26 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.

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

The Government of Zimbabwe is making efforts to incorporate child labor issues into the plans and policies of several government ministries, such as the Ministries of Health and Education.[2764] The Government of Zimbabwe is in the preliminary stages of cooperating with ILO-IPEC[2765] and has conducted a national child labor survey with technical assistance from ILO-IPEC's SIMPOC.[2766]

Zimbabwe has made progress in the education sector by promoting better access to schools and improving the quality of schooling.[2767] Since 1980, overall primary school attendance has increased by over 4,000 percent.[2768] The government plans to build more schools and expand existing schools to take on more students, provide scholarships or cover education costs for poor children through the Social Development Fund and other social safety nets, and continue training staff and improving school facilities. From 1990 to 1999, the number of training centers for out-of-school youth has increased from 3 to 15 nationwide.[2769]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, a child labor survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Central Statistics Office, in cooperation with ILO-IPEC, estimated that 33 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 in Zimbabwe were working.[2770] Over 90 percent of working children reside in rural areas.[2771] Children work in a variety of sectors including traditional and commercial farming, domestic work, small-scale mining and gold panning, micro industries, and informal economic activities.[2772] According to the 1992 census, an estimated 800,000 children in Zimbabwe live on large-scale commercial farms, and children as young as 10 to 12 years of age have been reported to work on cotton, tea, and tobacco farms. Many children on commercial farms work for long hours in the fields, often in exchange for education at farm boarding schools.[2773]

In 1999, there were a reported 12,000 street children in Harare, and the number is said to be increasing across the country.[2774] Street children are found selling wares or watching cars.[2775] A rising number of children under 17 years are engaged in prostitution, and children are reportedly trafficked to South Africa for purposes of prostitution and forced labor.[2776] The traditional practice of offering a young girl as payment in an inter-family feud continues to occur in Zimbabwe.[2777] The child labor situation is also affected by the prevalence of HIV/AIDs, which has left nearly one million children orphaned and reliant on informal work to supplement lost family income.[2778]

Education is not free or compulsory.[2779] Primary and secondary school fees were reintroduced under the country's Economic Structural Adjustment Program of 1991.[2780] In 1997, gross primary school enrollment was 112.4 percent.[2781] In 1994, the gross primary attendance rate was 108.9 percent, and the net primary attendance rate was 84.6 percent.[2782] Certain segments of the educational system are particularly weak, including schools in the suburbs, on large-scale farms, and in refugee camps.[2783] Few commercial farms have schools, and landowners have reportedly suspended children from attending if the children refuse to work for them.[2784]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Employment of Children and Young Persons Regulation of 1997 sets 12 years as the minimum age for general employment and 16 years as the minimum age for activities other than light work, apprenticeships, or vocational training.[2785] Children under 18 years may not be employed during school terms without the approval of the Ministry of Labor or in hazardous, overtime, or night work.[2786] Additional protection is provided by the Labor Relations Act, which stipulates that any employment contract for a child under 16 years cannot be considered legally valid.[2787] The Children's Protection and Adoption Act of 1972 protects children's right to education, should they work, and prohibits certain types of street vending and trading by children under 16 years.[2788] Forced labor is also prohibited.[2789]

Pursuant to the 2001 Sexual Offenses Act, prostituting children under the age of 12 or the procurement of any person for prostitution are criminal offenses and punishable by fines of up to USD 167 or up to 10 years of imprisonment.[2790] No laws specifically address trafficking in persons.[2791] Labor regulations, and specifically child labor laws, are poorly enforced because of weak interpretations of the laws themselves, a lack of labor inspectors, and a poor understanding among affected workers of basic legal rights.[2792] Zimbabwe ratified ILO Convention 138 on June 6, 2000, and ILO Convention 182 on December 11, 2000.[2793]

[2764] The Ministry of Health included child labor in its 1992 portfolio Child Welfare, and it chaired the meeting to develop the National Action Plan for Children, which establishes child labor as a problem area and called for improved legal protection of working children. The Ministry of Education policy position supports the right of working children to attend school and warns that child labor should not undermine schooling. See Child Labour in Commercial Agriculture in Africa, technical workshop on child labor in commercial agriculture in Africa, August 27-30, 1996, Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania (Geneva: ILO, 1997), at on 11/30/01.

[2765] ILO-IPEC, "All About IPEC: Programme Countries," at on 9/21/01.

[2766] Government of Zimbabwe, Central Statistical Office, Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, National Child Labour Survey, Country Report, Zimbabwe, 1999 (Harare: ILO, 1999) [hereinafter National Child Labour Survey], 53, at

[2767] Line Eldring, Sabata Nakanyane, and Malehoko Tshoaedi, Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector in Africa, report prepared for the IUF/ITGA/BAT conference on Elimination of Child Labor, October 8-9, 2000, (Nairobi: FAFO, 2000) [hereinafter Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector], 84.

[2768] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Zimbabwe (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001) [hereinafter Country Reports 2000], Section 5, at

[2769] UNESCO, The Education for All (EFA) 2000 Assessement: Country Reports – Zimbabwe, at

[2770] Fourteen percent of children between ages 5 and 17 were found to work over 3 hours per day. See National Child Labour Survey at 53.

[2771] In rural areas, 53 percent of working children are boys. In urban areas, the percentages of working boys and girls are equal. See National Child Labour Survey at xii.

[2772] Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 87.

[2773] Commercial farming accounts for 40 percent of Zimbabwe's foreign exchange earnings and 15 percent of the national GDP. While it is unknown how many children work on the farms, child labor is reported to be widespread. Children work after school during the planting and harvesting seasons and full time during holidays. Special boarding schools on the farms allow children to work during busy seasons. See Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 87. See also Country Reports 2000, Section 6d, and USDOL, By the Sweat and Toil of Children: Child Labor in Commercial Agriculture, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, 1995), 39-44.

[2774] Country Reports 2000 at Sections 5. See also U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 2971, October 2001 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 2971].

[2775] A University of Zimbabwe study in 1991 surveyed children working in the streets in five areas of Zimbabwe and found that 85 percent spent part of their time in trading centers and returned home at the end of the day, while 15 percent worked and lived in the streets. See unclassified telegram 2971. See also National Child Labour Survey at 9.

[2776] Unclassified telegram 2971.

[2777] Ibid.

[2778] Ibid. See also Country Reports 2000 at Section 5.

[2779] Country Reports 2000 at Section 5.

[2780] Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 84. See also World Bank, "Structural Adjustment and Zimbabwe's Poor," Operations Evaluation Department, at on 1/10/01.

[2781] World Development Indicators 2001 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2001) [CD-ROM].

[2782] In 1994 the gross primary enrollment rate was 111 percent. See USAID, GED 2000: Global Education Database (Washington, D.C., 2000), at

[2783] Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 84.

[2784] Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 84. See also Rene Loewenson, Child Labour in Commercial Agriculture in Zimbabwe: Report of a Case Study (Harare: ILO-IPEC, March 1995), 7. According to an April 2001 report in the Daily News, 125,000 children living on farms in Zimbabwe do not attend classes because there are no schools. See IRIN News, "Zimbabwe: 125,000 Children on Farms Not Attending School," UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Johannesburg, April 18, 2001), at on 12/6/01.

[2785] Light work is defined as anything that will not infringe upon a child's education, health, safety, rest, or social, physical, or mental development. See Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 86. See also unclassified telegram 2971.

[2786] Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 86.

[2787] Child Labour in the Tobacco Growing Sector at 85.

[2788] Ibid.

[2789] Country Reports 2000 at Section 6c.

[2790] Unclassified telegram 2971.

[2791] Country Reports 2000 at Section 6f.

[2792] Child Labour in the Tobacco-Growing Sector at 85, 86. In coordination with organized labor, women's groups, and other advocates, the Government of Zimbabwe is currently drafting legislation to expand national child protection laws. Several proposed provisions in the draft legislation deal with strengthening child labor monitoring and inspection services. See unclassified telegram 2971.

[2793] ILO, ILOLEX database: Zimbabwe, at on 11/30/01. Although ILO Convention No. 182 has been ratified by Parliament, it has not yet been incorporated into national law. See unclassified telegram 2971.

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