Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Afghanistan

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Afghanistan, 10 September 2009, 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 Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years:
Working children, 5-14 years (%):
Working boys, 5-14 years (%):
Working girls, 5-14 years (%):
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:18
Compulsory education age:Secondary level
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:101.4
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:No
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Afghanistan work in brick factories and as street vendors, shopkeepers, workshop assistants, blacksmiths, domestic servants, auto mechanics, and carpet weavers. Children as young as 4 or 5 years of age have been reported working. In rural areas, children work in agriculture and coal mining, and in urban areas, some children are engaged in begging gangs. Years of conflict have left many families with child-headed households, thus forcing those children to work. Children are also used in the production and trafficking of opium.

Afghanistan is a country of origin and transit for children trafficked internally and to Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Zambia for forced labor as child soldiers, begging, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic service, or debt bondage in the carpet and brick industries. There is increasing evidence of children being recruited into both state and non-state armed forces, though the prevalence of the occurrence is unclear.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 18 years, although children may be employed in light work at 15 years and may be hired as trainees at 14 years. Children between 16 and 18 years may only work 35 hours per week. The law does not permit children to be engaged in underground work or in conditions that are physically arduous or harmful to their health. The recruitment of children less than 18 years for work that is harmful to their health and could cause physical damage or disability is prohibited. USDOS reports that enforcement of child labor laws is made difficult due to a lack of Government capacity, lack of formal birth registrations, and the concentration of child labor in the informal sector and agriculture, which are not covered by the labor law.

The Constitution prohibits forced labor. A new anti-trafficking law was enacted on July 15, 2008, which prescribes an 8-to 15-year sentence for labor trafficking and life imprisonment for sex trafficking. The minimum age for recruitment into the Armed Forces is 18 years.

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

The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs, and Disabled, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior, are administering the National Strategy on the Protection of Children at Risk. This strategy includes a separate chapter on the worst forms of child labor, with a focus on street children. The Government also has a national plan of action to combat trafficking. In general, NGOs run care facilities for trafficking victims, with the Government providing referrals and transportation to the facilities. Child victims of trafficking are placed with Government social service agencies, orphanages, or NGO-run facilities. The Government has also provided land for NGOs to build shelters that house child trafficking victims. A large anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at women and girls has been implemented by IOM with cooperation from the Government.

In January 2009, the Government began participating in a 4-year, USD 24 million social protection program funded by the European Commission that aims to combat child labor through family reintegration, schooling, and vocational and literacy training. The Government is also participating in two USDOS-funded anti-trafficking projects implemented by IOM. The projects will create links between the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the media in order to facilitate anti-trafficking media campaigns, as well as provide referral services for victims of trafficking, including children. In addition, a focus will be on building the capacity of law enforcement officials.

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