Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2014, 15:39 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sri Lanka

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sri Lanka, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa4903c.html [accessed 26 October 2014]
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 Labor3164
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 1998:15
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 1998:17.9
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 1998:11.9
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 1998:
     – Agriculture71.5
     – Manufacturing13.1
     – Services14.8
     – Other0.7
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:108
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2003:100
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 1998:97.1
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Sri Lanka work in both plantation and small-scale farming, as well as in seasonal family agriculture.3165 Children also work in the informal sector, family enterprises, small restaurants, stores, repair shops, small-scale manufacturing, and crafts.3166 Children also work as domestic servants, and some have reported experiencing sexual abuse.3167

The prostitution of children is widespread in the country. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 children in commercial sexual exploitation in Sri Lanka.3168 The majority of children in prostitution are exploited by local citizens, though there are reports of sex tourism as well.3169 Some of these children have been trafficked and many boys are lured from rural areas to southern beach resorts to work in the sex industry, sometimes at the request of their parents.3170

Conflict intensified in Sri Lanka during 2007, and the use of children in armed conflict remained a pressing concern.3171 On January 2, 2008 the Government withdrew from the 2002 ceasefire signed by the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).3172 Reports indicate that the LTTE, an armed terrorist group fighting for a separate ethnic Tamil state, and the Karuna faction both continue to heavily recruit children as soldiers, often forcibly.3173 The LTTE recruit and abduct children as young as 11 years to serve in combat and in various battlefield support functions. Additionally, forcible recruitment of child soldiers by Karuna, a break-off the LTTE faction, continued in 2007. Reports from UNICEF indicate that as of September 2007, 1,460 recruited children remained with the LTTE, while 211 were recruited by the Karuna faction.3174 There is evidence that the Government security forces are supporting and sometimes participating in the abductions and forced recruitment by the Karuna faction.3175

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment in most occupations at 14 years. The minimum age for employment at sea is 15 years.3176 Children under 14 years may be employed in family-run agricultural enterprises or as part of technical training activities. However, these children may not be employed during school hours; for more than 2 hours on a school day or Sunday; between the hours 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.; or in any activity that jeopardizes health or education. The law limits the work hours of children age 14 to 15 years to 9 per day, and the work hours of children 16 to 17 years to 10 per day.3177 The law also requires medical certification of children less than 16 years prior to employment in industries.3178 The maximum penalty for child labor violations is 12 months of imprisonment and/or a fine.3179

The law prohibits all children from employment in any hazardous occupation,3180 and in industrial facilities after 11 p.m., except in certain training or apprenticeship situations.3181 The Minister of Labor Relations and Foreign Employment prohibits the employment of children in any of forty-nine identified hazardous occupations.3182 Forty occupations are unconditional and are to be completely prohibited for children ages 14 to 18 years, while the other nine occupations will be conditionally prohibited upon the publication of the relevant regulations.3183 In 2007, the Bureau of Child Protection of the Sri Lanka police received 106 complaints of child labor violations.3184

The law prohibits forced labor, debt bondage, and all forms of slavery by persons of any age. The maximum fine for violating the law pertaining to children is 30 years of imprisonment.3185 It is illegal for any person to cause or encourage a girl under 16 years of age to be seduced or prostituted. According to the law, offenses may be punished with 6 months imprisonment or a fine.3186 The law prohibits sexual violations against children, defined as persons under 18 years, particularly with regard to child pornography, child prostitution, and the trafficking of children. Penalties for pornography and prostitution violations range from 2 to 5 years of imprisonment.3187 Trafficking of children is punishable by imprisonment of 3 to 20 years.3188 It is also an offense to cause or procure a child for the purpose of begging.3189

The law criminalizes the act of engaging or recruiting a child for use in armed conflict.3190 The minimum age for recruitment into the Armed Forces is 18 years.3191

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

The Government has established a Policy and Plan of Action to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor as part of the National Plan of Action for Children (NPA) 2004-2008. The Ministry of Labor Relations and Foreign Employment implements the child labor components of the plan, which include strengthening child labor laws and enforcement; improving the availability of child labor data; increasing vocational training programs for out-of-school youth; sensitizing the public to child labor issues; and reducing domestic child labor by 30 percent each year.3192 The Government works with 450 social welfare officers to implement the NPA at the community level and has established 11 coordinating committees to further raise awareness of child abuse issues, including child labor.3193 In January 2007, the Government adopted the Youth Employment National Action Plan, which was incorporated into the 10 year National Development Plan and recognizes the links between child labor and youth employment.3194 The Ministry of Labor Relations and Foreign Employment trains labor inspectors, probation officers, and police officers on child labor issues. Training includes trauma and psychosocial counseling, surveillance, legal awareness, as well as training those who train others on these issues.3195 The Women's and Children's Affairs division of the Ministry of Labor conducted four training programs in 2007 to improve the enforcement capacity of those responsible for combating child labor. The division also conducted awareness-raising programs on the elimination of child labor, and organized a training program to create awareness among parents.3196

The Government and the LTTE have a 3-year Joint Plan for Children Affected by War, which will continue through 2007. It was established to help end child recruitment and to demobilize and rehabilitate ex-child soldiers.3197

Under the purview of the National Child Protection Authority, the Government is implementing a National Plan of Action to combat trafficking of children for exploitive employment.3198 The Government supports two rehabilitation centers and five schools that offer counseling, legal assistance, shelter, career guidance, and vocational training to child trafficking victims. In addition, health, judicial and psychological services to children are supported at the local district level.3199 In February 2008, the Government established a hotline for complaints about child labor, corporal punishment, sexual abuse, and parental neglect.3200 The Government also supports a program to monitor the Internet for advertisements soliciting children for child pornography and pedophilia in Sri Lanka.3201 With support from UNICEF, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board is implementing a 2-year campaign to stop the commercial exploitation of children.3202 In addition, the Government is participating in an IOM-funded project to train police officers on anti-trafficking.3203

The Government continues to provide a number of services to assist tsunami-affected children.3204 The Government participates in a USDOL-funded USD 562,000 ILO-IPEC project to address the effects of the tsunami on children, and targets 300 children for withdrawal and 2,100 children for prevention from exploitive work. The project will continue through 2008, and aims to strengthen the capacity of government, media, and international organizations to integrate child labor issues into post-tsunami reconstruction policies; monitor the child labor situation in the post-tsunami environment; and provide educational and psychosocial services to tsunami-affected families in Galle and Trincomalee.3205 The Government also participated in a global USDOL-funded USD 7 million project implemented by ILO-IPEC to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict and support the rehabilitation of former child soldiers. The project withdrew 4,335 children from child soldiering and prevented 4,560 children from involvement with armed groups in seven countries, including Sri Lanka.3206 In addition, the Government participated in two UNICEF-supported projects to assist children affected by war, which ended in June and December 2007.3207 In January 2008, ILO-IPEC commenced youth employment projects in Sabaragamuwa province, an area with many tea and rubber plantations. The project aims to enable rural youth to avoid exploitive work activities by strengthening their employability through providing training in agricultural-related skills, life skills, and entrepreneurship.3208

The Ministry of Education initiated a program to improve education for the children of plantation workers, who are considered especially vulnerable to child labor.3209


3164 For statistical data not cited here, see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956 No. 47 (November 7, 1956), article 13, 34(1); available from http://www.labourdept.gov.lk/Legislations/Emplof%20WomYouPersonsChi.pdf. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Report of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on Efforts by GSP Beneficiary Countries to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Federal Register Notice (November 8, 2007) "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor", Colombo, December 7, 2007, 6. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Compulsory Attendance of Children at Schools Regulation No. 1 of 1997, (November 18, 1997). See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, November 29, 2007, para 9.

3165 ILO-IPEC, Child Labour and Responses: Overview Note Sri Lanka, November 2004, 1; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/download/srilanka.pdf. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas in Sri Lanka, Project Document, Geneva, February 25, 2005, para 10. See also U.S. Department of State, "Sri Lanka," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices2007, Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100620.htm.

3166 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, September 7, 2005, para 10. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 6d.

3167 Nayomi Kannangara, Harendra de Silva, and Nilakshi Parndigamage, Sri Lanka Child Domestic Labour: A Rapid Assessment, ILO-IPEC, Geneva, September 2003, xvi available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/srilanka/ra/domestic.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 6d.

3168 ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Sri Lanka, Bangkok, 2006, 11, 12; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/A4A_2005/PDF/South_Asia/Global_Monitoring_Report-SRI_LANKA.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 5.

3169 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 5.

3170 Ibid. See also Radhika Coomaraswamy and Ambika Satkunanathan, Anti-child Trafficking Legislation in Asia: A Six-Country Review, Report, ILO-IPEC, Bangkok, 2006, 70; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/library/download/pub06-03.pdf. See also ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report: Sri Lanka, 13. See also U.S. Department of State, "Sri Lanka (Tier 2 Watch List)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007, Washington DC, June 12, 2007; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82807.htm.

3171 United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, New York, December 21, 2007, 2; available from http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N07/634/74/PDF/N0763474.pdf?OpenElement. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," Introduction.

3172 Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, Government to Withdraw from CFA, Press Release, Colombo, January 3, 2008; available from http://www.peaceinsrilanka.org/peace2005/Insidepage/PressRelease/GOSLreleases/GOSLmediaRel030108.asp.

3173 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 1. See also United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, 2, 7.

3174 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, November 29, 2007, para 12.

3175 Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Statement from the Special Advisor on Children and Armed Conflict, Press Release, Colombo, November 13, 2006; available from http://www.un.org/children/conflict/pr/2006-11-13127.html. See also Human Rights Watch, Complicit in Crime, New York, January 2007, 3, 10; available from http://hrw.org/reports/2007/srilanka0107/srilanka0107webwcover.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 1.

3176 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956, part III, article 13 and 34(1). See also Government of Sri Lanka, Shop and Office Employees Act of 1954, No. 19 (August 9, 1954), article 10(1); available from http://www.labourdept.gov.lk/Legislations/Shop%20&%20Office%20Employees.pdf. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 18, 2003.

3177 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956, section 2. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 18, 2003.

3178 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 18, 2003.

3179 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 6d.

3180 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children (Amendment), 2006 Act. No. 24, (August 21, 2006).

3181 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956, section 2, 3(3), 4(1).

3182 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, para 2. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas in Sri Lanka, Technical Progress Report, Geneva, September 30, 2006, 2. See also ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), Sri Lanka (ratification: 2001), 2004; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/index.cfm?lang=EN.

3183 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, November 29, 2007, para 5.

3184 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 6d.

3185 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006 Act No. 16, (April 24, 2006), 358(a). See also ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Trafficking for Labor and Sexual Exploitation (TICSA Phase II), Technical Progress Report, Geneva, March 30, 2006, 4. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Report of Sri Lanka on Efforts to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, 2.

3186 ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report: Sri Lanka, 23.

3187 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 1995, Act No. 22, (October 31, 1995), articles 286A(1) and (2), 360A, and 360B. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 1998, Act No. 29, (June 6, 1998), article 288A(1) and (2), and 360A(1) and (2) See also Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006, article 268, 358, 360.

3188 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006, 360(2).

3189 Coomaraswamy and Satkunanathan, Anti-trafficking Legislation: Asia, 88.

3190 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas in Sri Lanka, Technical Progress Report, Geneva, March 30, 2006, 4.

3191 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Sri Lanka," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/library/global-reports.

3192 B. Abeygunawardana, Director General, and National Planning Department, National Plan of Action for the Children of Sri Lanka, 2004-2008, Government of Sri Lanka Ministry of Finance and Planning, Colombo, 2004, 122-123; available from http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/srilanka/docs/National_Plan.pdf. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas, project document, 3.

3193 Government of Sri Lanka, National Child Protection Authority Act of 1998, No. 50 See also ILO-IPEC, Child Labour and Responses. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Report of Sri Lanka on Efforts to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, 4. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 23, 2004.

3194 ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas in Sri Lanka, Technical Progress Report, Geneva, September 30, 2007, 7.

3195 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, September 7, 2005. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 23, 2004.

3196 Government of Sri Lanka, Report of Sri Lanka on Efforts to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, 4. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, November 29, 2007, para 8.

3197 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 23, 2004. See also UNICEF, Action Plan for Children Affected by War Progress Report January-June 2004, June 2004, 6; available from http://www.unicef.org/videoaudio/PDFs/plan_progress_june04.pdf.

3198 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 5. See also ILO-IPEC, Child Labour and Responses, 3.

3199 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, February 29, 2008, para 4b. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 5.

3200 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, February 29, 2008, para 4h.

3201 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Sri Lanka," section 5.

3202 UNICEF, Zero Tolerance for Child Sex Tourism in Sri Lanka, [online] June 18, 2006 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_34596.html. See also UNICEF, Sri Lanka Campaign Promotes "Zero Tolerance" for Child Sex Tourism, [online] July 13, 2006 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/sri_lanka_34933.html.

3203 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, February 29, 2008, para 3g.

3204 IRIN, Sri Lanka: Uneven Progress in Post-tsunami Schools' Reconstruction, [online] September 6, 2007 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/PrintReport.aspx?ReportId=74156#. See also IRIN, Sri Lanka: Post-tsunami Jobs Increase, Incomes Decline, [Online] June 28, 2007 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=72977. See also Integrated Regional Information Networks, Sri Lanka: Rebuilding Livelihoods in Tsunami-hit, War-torn Vaharai, [online] June 12, 2007 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=72681. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour, Technical Progress Report, March 2006, 5.

3205 ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas, project document, 15, 38.

3206 ILO-IPEC Geneva official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, March 14, 2008. See also ILO-IPEC, Prevention and Reintegration of Children Involved in Armed Conflict: An Inter-Regional Program, Project Document, ILO, Geneva, September 17, 2003.

3207 ILO-IPEC official, E-mail communication USDOL official, January 23, 2008.

3208 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, November 29, 2007, para 11.

3209 Ibid., para 10. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour, Technical Progress Report, September 2006, 2.

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