Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mauritania

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 - Mauritania, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 31 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:14
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:103.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:80.4
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:63.7
ILO Convention 138:12/3/2001
ILO Convention 182:12/3/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In rural areas in Mauritania, children frequently work with their families in activities such as farming (e.g., rice, beans, and vegetables), herding (e.g., goats), and fishing. Children also burn wood to produce charcoal. Children perform a wide range of urban informal activities in cities such as Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Kiffa, and Rosso, including domestic labor, street vending, and driving donkey carts to collect garbage and deliver water and construction materials.

Girls between the ages of 7 and 13 years sell fish, vegetables, and other items in markets and at bus stands, and most work more than 8 hours a day. Boys between the ages of 14 and 18 years cart and transport people and goods, and many work more than 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Boys who work as apprentices to mechanics are as young as 7 years; many of these boys work more than 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Some boy apprentices are beaten and forced to work for many years by their master.

Girls, many of whom are between the ages of 7 and 12 years, work as domestic servants in urban households for more than 10 hours a day. Many girls work without pay and some are beaten and sexually abused. Many domestic servants in Mauritania come from the Senegal River Valley and Assaba and work in Nouakchott. The USDOS estimates that there are 400 street children. These children work on the streets in cities such as Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, and Rosso; many are boys around the age of 14 years. Some are former talibes. Also, some street children are sexually exploited, including by tourists.

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 Mauritania. The majority of boy students, or talibes, are between the ages of 6 and 10 years and come from the Pulaar tribes of southern Mauritania. Many religious leaders, or marabouts, provide the boys with lessons. However, some marabouts force the talibes to beg for more than 12 hours a day without adequate food or shelter. Some talibes suffer severe beatings by their marabout if they fail to produce sufficient profit from their begging activities.

Historically, the practices of slavery and indentured servitude have been utilized in Sahelian communities. In Mauritania, children continue to be exploited in slave-like practices in remote areas of the country, including places where the economy persists on traditional labor and barter arrangements. These children are engaged in activities such as animal husbandry and herding (e.g., with goats, camels, and other animals).

Mauritania is a source and destination country for trafficked children. Reports indicate that children are trafficked within Mauritania for forced labor in agriculture, construction, herding, domestic labor, and fishing. Specifically, children are trafficked by street gang leaders for selling drugs and stealing; girls for domestic labor and sexual exploitation; and talibes for forced begging. Talibes are trafficked from Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau to Mauritania for forced begging. Girls are trafficked to Mauritania from Senegal and Mali for domestic service. Reports indicate that Mauritanian girls are also trafficked to the Gulf States for domestic labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years. If the child has not completed the 9 years of compulsory education, the minimum working age may be raised. At 12 years, children may perform light work in establishments where their family members are employed, provided that they have the Ministry of Labor's authorization and maintain their schooling. However, 12-year-olds may not work more than 2 hours a day, with the total combined hours of school and work not to exceed 7 hours a day, and the work must not be harmful to their normal development. Children under 14 years may not work on Fridays or public holidays, and children under 16 years are prohibited from night work. The law also bans children under 18 years from work that is beyond their strength or is likely to harm their safety, health, or morals. Employers must maintain a registry of employed youths under 18 years, including the hours worked. Violation of Mauritania's child labor laws may result in a prison sentence of 15 days to 1 month and/or a fine. In addition, if the child's health or schooling is compromised, the offense is punishable by a fine and 3 months to 1 year imprisonment.

Mauritanian law defines the worst forms of child labor as all forms of slavery and exploitive work; work exceeding the physical capacity of a child or considered degrading; work connected to trafficking in children; and activities requiring children to handle chemicals or dangerous materials; work on Fridays or holidays; and work outside the country. If the child is found to be engaged in a worst form of child labor, the punishment is a fine and 3 to 6 months imprisonment. In addition, the law establishes penalties for sexual exploitation of a child, ranging from fines to imprisonment for 10 years.

Forced and compulsory labor, as well as enslaving and trafficking in persons are prohibited by law. The law states that inciting a child to beg is punishable by a fine and imprisonment for 1 to 6 months. Further, the crime of giving authority to another person for a child, where the child is subsequently incited to beg, is punishable by a fine and imprisonment for 8 months. The penalty for child trafficking is 5 to 10 years imprisonment and a fine. The minimum age for both voluntary and compulsory recruitment into the military is 18 years.

The Labor Inspectorate has 30 labor inspectors and shares responsibility for following up on child labor violations. According to USDOS, the Government of Mauritania lacks sufficient resources to enforce child labor laws. However, according to USDOS, the Government has made some enforcement efforts by establishing courts to pursue trafficking cases and launching a police brigade to investigate child trafficking.

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

The Government of Mauritania continued to participate in a USD 2.7 million program to return and reintegrate child camel jockeys to their home countries, funded by the United Arab Emirates and implemented by UNICEF. Phase I of the project ended in February of 2009 and assisted 412 children.

In May 2008, the Government of Mauritania, with support from UNICEF held a child trafficking training for judges and law enforcement officials in an effort to raise awareness on the issue. In February 2008, the Government funded and implemented a country-wide campaign to raise awareness on slavery and trafficking laws. The Ministry of Justice, Human Rights Commission, and NGOs participated in the awareness-raising campaign.

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