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

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Benin

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 - Benin, 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, 2002-2003:2,086,870
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2002-2003:13.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2002-2003:11.5
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2002-2003:15.3
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2002-2003:
     – Agriculture68.9
     – Manufacturing5.2
     – Services22.3
     – Other3.7
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:11
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:95.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:80.2
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003:59.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:71.5
ILO Convention 138:6/11/2001
ILO Convention 182:11/6/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Benin, children work on family farms, in cotton fields and on rice plantations. Children work in animal husbandry (e.g., cattle, goats, and rabbits) and also hunt and fish. Children also work in transportation, small businesses, urban markets, and on construction sites. Children also work in gold mines and in stone and granite quarries. Under the practice of vidomegon, children, primarily girls, from poor families are sent to work as domestics in exchange for housing and food. Income generated from the children's activities is divided between the children's host and natural families. While the arrangement is initially a voluntary one between the families, the child frequently is subject to poor conditions such as long work hours, insufficient food, and sexual exploitation. Some street children are also sexually exploited.

The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Benin. While some boys receive lessons, many are forced to beg and surrender the money that they have earned or to work in agricultural fields. Also, some boys work as alms collectors, porters, and rickshaw operators in exchange for an education from Koranic teachers.

Benin is a source, transit, and to a lesser extent, a destination country for trafficked children. The vast majority of trafficked Beninese children are trafficked internally; are trafficked from rural areas to urban cities (such as Cotonou, Parakou, and Porto-Novo); and are girls. Girls are trafficked for domestic labor (including under the practice of vidomegon) and sexual exploitation.

Boys are trafficked for work in agriculture (e.g., harvesting cotton), construction, and as street vendors.

The majority of Beninese children trafficked outside of the country are sent to Nigeria, followed by Côte d'Ivoire and Gabon. However, Beninese children are also trafficked to Ghana, Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, and the Central African Republic for work in stone quarries, prostitution, and domestic labor; and to Togo and Côte d'Ivoire for work on plantations. Children are also trafficked from Niger, Togo, and Burkina Faso to Benin for domestic labor.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for admission to work in Benin is 14 years, including for apprenticeships; however, children between 12 and 14 years may perform domestic work and temporary or seasonal light work if it does not interfere with their compulsory schooling. Children are also prohibited from performing night work, defined as work between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Beninese law prohibits workers under 18 years from performing certain types of work, including transporting heavy loads, operating certain types of machinery, working with hazardous substances, and working in underground mines and quarries. Employers are required to maintain a register including the birth date of all employees under 18 years, and a labor inspector can require that workers between the ages of 14 and 21 years be examined by a doctor to determine that they are not working beyond their abilities. Violators of the minimum age laws are subject to fines, which increase for repeat violators.

The law prohibits forced labor and stipulates a penalty of imprisonment for 2 months to 1 year and/or a fine. Beninese law expressly forbids the trafficking of children. Child trafficking is defined as any means that alienate a child's freedom, such as the recruitment, transport, placement, receiving, or harboring of a child with the intent of exploitation. Exploitation is defined to include practices such as forced or compulsory labor; prostitution; the use of children in armed conflict; the use of children for the purpose of illicit activities; and work that may harm the safety, health, and morals of children. The punishment for moving or attempting to move a child within the country without proper authorization is 1 to 3 years imprisonment and fines. The punishment for moving a child out of Benin without proper authorization is 2 to 5 years of imprisonment and fines. Child traffickers face a punishment of 10 to 20 years in prison, with the penalty increasing to life in prison if the child is not returned; if the child is found dead before a verdict is reached; if force, fraud, or violence is used; or if other aggravating circumstances exist. Individuals who employ child trafficking victims in Benin face 6 months to 2 years of imprisonment and a fine, while the penalty for parents who send their children with traffickers is a prison sentence of 6 months to 5 years. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment and conscription into the military is 18 years.

Benin was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperative Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Joint Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, in West and Central African Regions. As part of the regional Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Government agreed to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; to rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficking victims; and to assist fellow signatory countries to implement these measures under the Agreement.

The Ministry of Labor and Civil Service is responsible for implementation of the Labor Code and employs 126 labor inspectors. While the majority of child labor in Benin takes place in the informal sector, the labor inspectors only regulate the formal sector. In addition, according to USDOS, the Government of Benin did not effectively enforce the labor code due to a lack of labor inspectors. The Government's Brigade for the Protection of Minors is responsible for enforcement of child labor and child trafficking laws. During 2008, the Brigade prosecuted 58 people for child trafficking. According to USDOS, while the Brigade monitored travelers at some of the border crossings, the Government's enforcement of trafficking laws was still inhibited by corruption.

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

In November 2008, the Joint Benin and Nigeria Committee to Combat Child Trafficking developed a 2009 to 2010 Joint Action Plan to combat the Trafficking of children from Zakpota, Benin to Abeokuta, Nigeria, for labor in stone quarries. The Government of Benin developed a 2008 to 2012 National Plan to Combat Child Trafficking and Labor, with support from the ILO. The National Child Protection and Monitoring Working Group was tasked with following up on and monitoring the implementation of the Plan. With support from UNICEF and other donors, the Government continued to create and support the functioning of local committees to combat child trafficking.

During the reporting period, the Brigade for the Protection of Minors increased its efforts to combat child trafficking by rescuing 222 trafficking victims. The Government of Benin also continued to collaborate with NGOs to provide child trafficking victims with basic services, such as food, shelter, medical care, and education services. The Government of Benin continued to work with NGOs and journalists to raise awareness on child labor and trafficking through the media and workshops. The Government also continued programs to sensitize teachers, local committees, law enforcement agents, and other people on child trafficking, with support from USAID and UNICEF.

The Government of Benin participates in a 4-year technical assistance project with the EU Cooperation and Technical Assistance Bureau (BCAT). In 2008, the Government, with support from BCAT created a website for the National Child Protection and Monitoring Working Group. The aim of the website is to provide important information on child protection.

The Government participates in a 1-year regional project funded by Denmark at USD 2.64 million and implemented by ILO-IPEC. The project focuses on implementation of policy level agreements. The Government also participates in a 3-year regional project funded by France at USD

4.83 million and implemented by ILO-IPEC. The project aims to combat the worst forms of child labor in Francophone Africa. The Government participated in a 5-year regional project funded by Denmark at USD 6.19 million and implemented by ILO-IPEC. The project aimed to combat child trafficking for labor exploitation and ended in April 2008. The Government of Benin is participating in a 4-year USDOL-funded USD 1.6 million ILO-IPEC project to conduct data collection on child labor.

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