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

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Ghana

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 - Ghana, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 28 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, 2000:5,174,923
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:24.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:24.5
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:24.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2000:
     – Agriculture71.0
     – Manufacturing5.8
     – Services22.6
     – Other0.6
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:97.7
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:71.6
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:80.0
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2002:63.3
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:6/13/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Ghana work in agriculture in the production, harvesting, and loading of food crops, including cashews, cassava, cotton, maize, rice, plantains, spinach, tomatoes, and yams. An estimated 1.6 million children work in the cocoa sector, some as young as 5 years of age, according to a 2008 study led by Tulane University. Many of these children work under hazardous conditions, such as carrying heavy loads, spraying pesticides, using machetes to clear undergrowth, and burning vegetation. Many children who work in the cocoa sector are able to attend school (90 percent) but report limited access to intervention projects that provide support to children in rural areas (95 percent). Studies conducted by the Ghanaian Government in 2007 and 2008 substantiate many of Tulane University's findings, as did an independent verification assessment of the Government's 2008 certification survey results.

Children herd livestock and also fetch firewood and work in brick-laying. Children, including girls, are also engaged in quarrying and small-scale mining activities, including extracting, transporting, and processing. Children are known to work in diamond and small-scale, illegal gold mining, known locally as "galamsey." The practice of sending children to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Ghana. While some children receive lessons, many are forced by their teachers to beg for money and food.

Children work in fishing on Lake Volta, including both boys and girls who have been trafficked there for this purpose. The fishing industry on Lake Volta employs many children in hazardous labor, such as deep diving and casting and drawing nets. Children are known to engage in fishing for tilapia, mudfish, silverfish, catfish, latesfish, and electric fish. Girls work as domestic servants, cooks, servers, and porters in fishing villages along Lake Volta. They also prepare fish for market and sell them. Children in the Volta Region are also used to weave kente cloth.

Children work in the informal sector in activities such as street vending and fare collecting. Girls as young as 6 years transport heavy loads on their heads (known as "kayaye") in urban areas such as Accra and Kumasi. These girls often live on the streets and are especially vulnerable to being exploited in prostitution. Children in Ghana are also engaged in commercial sexual exploitation, including in Accra and the tourist destinations of Elmina and Cape Coast. As of 2008, Ghana's Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs (MOWAC) estimates that thousands of children are involved in the sex industry in Ghana. Children in Elmina and Cape Coast are also known to sell drugs.

Some children are involved in Trokosi, a religious practice indigenous to the southern Volta region, which involves pledging children to atone for family members' sins by assisting with prayers and the upkeep of religious shrines. The period of atonement for trokosis can last from a few months to 3 years. According to the Government of Ghana, Trokosi constitutes forced or ritual servitude, which is banned under the law.

Ghana is a source, transit, and destination country for child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Ghanaian children are trafficked to and from neighboring countries in West Africa for labor exploitation. Children are also trafficked to Ghana from Burkina Faso. The internal trafficking of children is also a problem. Within Ghana, children are trafficked for forced labor in fishing, agriculture, mining, quarrying, portering, street vending, domestic service, and commercial sexual exploitation. The common cultural practice of "adoption," whereby some parents send their children to live with more affluent relatives and family friends, has been exploited by child traffickers in Ghana.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Ghanaian law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years and the minimum age for light work at 13 years. Light work is defined as work that is unlikely to be harmful to the health or development of a child and does not affect the child's attendance or ability to benefit from school. The law stipulates that children 15 years and older, or children who have completed basic education, can work as apprentices if the craftsman provides food, training, and a safe and healthy work environment. Children under 18 years may not engage in night work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. The law prohibits persons under 18 years from engaging in hazardous labor, which includes work in mines or quarries; at sea; in bars, hotels, and entertainment venues likely to expose children to immoral behavior; in manufacturing that involves chemicals; in places that operate machinery; or in any job that involves carrying heavy loads. Employers who violate any of the above provisions regulating children's employment, with the exception of those related to apprenticeships, are subject to a fine and/or 2 years of imprisonment. Employers who operate in industrial undertakings other than agriculture or commerce must keep a register with the dates of birth or apparent ages of the children they employ; failure to keep this register is punishable by a fine.

The law prohibits forced child labor, slavery, or servitude. Ritual servitude is illegal in Ghana and is punishable by a minimum of 3 years of imprisonment. The law prohibits persons with custody, charge, or care of a child under 16 years from encouraging or causing that child to become involved in prostitution. It is a misdemeanor to procure females under 21 years, except "known prostitutes," for prostitution. The law also prohibits forced prostitution of children under 18 years.

Ghanaian law contains specific provisions against trafficking in persons, including trafficking children under 18 years of age, providing another person for trafficking, and using a trafficked person. Each of these offenses carries a penalty of at least 5 years of imprisonment. The law mandates that police officers respond to all requests for assistance from trafficking victims and offer protection to persons who report cases of alleged trafficking, even if such a person is not the victim. The law provides for the rescue, temporary shelter and care, counseling, family tracing, and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking; it also established a Human Trafficking Fund to assist victims. The law also prohibits children from transporting illicit drugs. The minimum age for military recruitment is 18 years, and there is no conscription.

Ghana was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperation 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 of Ghana 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 Employment and Social Welfare (MESW) is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Labor officers and other officials at the district level are responsible for conducting annual workplace inspections and investigating allegations of violations. According to USDOS, enforcement of child labor laws in Ghana is inconsistent and ineffective.

The Ghana Police Service's Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) is responsible for enforcing anti-trafficking laws, while the Immigration Service's Border Patrol Unit is responsible for monitoring movement across the country's borders. In 2008, the Immigration Service identified 26 traffickers and transferred them into police custody. In 2008, the police intervened to rescue a total of 167 children who were being transported to Côte d'Ivoire in two separate instances of trafficking and 15 children being forced to beg by a Koranic teacher in Bimbilla.

According to USDOS, the Government of Ghana's efforts to combat trafficking in 2008 through law enforcement were modest. Ghana's Criminal Investigations Department conducted a raid in 2008 on the Soldier Bar, a group of brothels in Accra where child prostitution was known to take place.

More than 75 male clients and three employees were detained, but none was charged. In May 2008, two men were convicted of conspiracy and slavery charges for attempting to sell a child 16 years of age; both were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Current Government Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Ghana included child labor as an issue to be addressed in its Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2006 through 2009 (GPRS II), indicating that priority will be given to special programs to combat the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking. Under one of the strategies developed as part of GPRS II, the Government is implementing the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, a cash transfer program for families that includes child labor as one of the selection criteria for families to receive assistance. The Government's National Policy Guidelines on Orphans and Other Children Made Vulnerable by HIV/AIDS includes children engaged in the worst forms of child labor and street children as target groups.

The Government continued to implement its National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Child Labor and collaborated with ILO-IPEC on a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 4.75 million project of support to the National Plan of Action in Ghana through June 2009. The project has withdrawn 5,326 children and prevented 5,753 children from exploitive labor through the provision of educational services. The Government participated in the second phase of the regional anti-trafficking LUTRENA project through April 2008, funded by the Danish Government at USD 6.19 million and implemented by ILO-IPEC in West and Central Africa, with activities in Ghana.

The Government of Ghana continued to implement its 5-year National Program for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector, which is a component of the Government of Ghana's National Timebound Program for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The objective of this program is to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in cocoa production by 2011 and contribute to the elimination of other worst forms of child labor by 2015. The child labor monitoring system developed under the USDOL-funded West Africa Cocoa/Commercial Agriculture Program to Combat Hazardous and Exploitative Child Labor Project is being integrated into the program. The program is funded by the Government, cocoa industry partners, and multilateral and bilateral donors; implementation is coordinated by MESW, with participation of other Government agencies. MESW reported in January 2009 that key stakeholders in 46 cocoa-producing districts had been trained on issues related to child labor. In addition, 110 communities in 11 districts established committees to combat the worst forms of child labor and protect children; 1,246 children have been supported to attend school or engage in apprenticeships.

The Governments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire continued to take steps during 2008 toward implementing agreements under the Harkin-Engel Protocol by publishing child labor certification surveys covering more than 50 percent of the cocoa-growing region in June 2008 and participating in verification activities in the cocoa sector.

The Government of Ghana continued to participate in the International Cocoa Verification Board (ICVB) convened by Verité, Inc., in 2007 to strengthen remediation efforts, improve national surveys, and work toward verification. In 2008, ICVB contracted the FAFO Institute of Advanced International Studies and Khulisa Management Services to assess the accuracy of the Governments' child labor certification surveys. In December 2008, FAFO and Khulisa published their verification assessment report, which will be used to strengthen future cocoa sector certification and verification exercises, as well as child labor remediation activities. In 2008, the international cocoa industry provided the majority of funding for ICVB's activities, at more than USD 2 million.

The Government of Ghana continued to cooperate with the 3-year project to oversee the efforts of the international cocoa industry and the Governments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sector, funded by USDOL at USD 4.3 million and implemented by Tulane University, in partnership with the West African Health Organization.

During 2008, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) continued to implement projects in 252 communities throughout Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. ICI conducted trainings to enhance awareness of child labor and trafficking, including for Government officials from the Department of Social Welfare, the Judiciary Service, and the Ghana Police Service. From 2005 to 2008, the international cocoa industry funded ICI at approximately USD 6.79 million.

The Government continued to participate in the USD 6 million Empowering Cocoa Households with Opportunities and Education Solutions (ECHOES) project, funded by the World Cocoa Foundation, USAID, and the international cocoa industry, and implemented in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire by Winrock International, the International Foundation for Education Self-Help, and Making Cents through 2009. The ECHOES project aims to provide vocational agriculture education to 4,500 primary and secondary school children and 260 out-of-school youth, and provide 250 children and their families with income-generating support. The project will also raise awareness on child labor issues in agriculture.

The Government of Ghana continued to participate in the 4-year Phase II Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), funded by USAID, the World Cocoa Foundation, and the international cocoa industry through 2011. STCP is a public-private partnership that promotes sustainable tree crop systems, including coffee, cocoa, and cashews, and contains a component to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor on farms.

In Ghana, the trains farmers through Farmer Field Schools and Video Viewing Clubs and works with eight communities to develop cocoa cooperatives. The international cocoa industry contributed approximately USD 2.55 million to the program between 2005 and 2008.

In 2008, the Government of Ghana adopted and began implementing its National Plan of Action to combat trafficking in persons. In December 2008, the Government allocated an estimated USD 75,000 to the Human Trafficking Fund established by the 2005 Human Trafficking Act.

The Government continued to collaborate with IOM on the implementation of a USD 420,000 project, funded by private donors through 2009. The project aims to withdraw 587 child trafficking victims from exploitive child labor in fishing villages on Lake Volta and rehabilitate, return, and reintegrate them into their original communities. The Government continued to provide staff and in-kind support to an IOM-funded shelter in Medina that provides care to children trafficked for fishing. The Government also continued to operate two facilities in Accra for poor children, including some who were victims of trafficking. MOWAC launched programs to withdraw, rehabilitate, and reintegrate children involved in prostitution in Ghana. This program assisted at least 20 girls who were arrested as part of the Government's raid on Soldier Bar in February 2008. The Government continued to conduct awareness campaigns on the 2005 Human Trafficking Act and train DOVVSU officials on child protection issues.

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