Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Kenya

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 - Kenya, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 26 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, 2000:9,047,128
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:32.5
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:34.7
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:30.4
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:16
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:105.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:75.5
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:74.9
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:82.9
ILO Convention 138:4/9/1979
ILO Convention 182:5/7/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children work primarily in Kenya's informal sector. The vast majority of working children live in rural areas, with the largest population of working children being found in the Rift Valley Province, followed by Eastern, Central, Nyanza, and Western Provinces.

Kenyan children primarily work in agriculture on mixed farms and, to a lesser extent, on tea and sugar plantations; they also work on ranches. Children also work in the production of coffee, flowers, maize, miraa (a stimulant plant), rice, sisal, and tobacco. Children engage in fishing, including for tilapia and sardines.

Children work in charcoal burning, logging, fishing, herding, quarrying, and mining – including in abandoned gold mines. They are also involved in the production of meat and dairy products, alcohol, textiles, rope and twine, furniture, and cabinets. They work in construction, domestic service, transportation, and communications, and they sell a variety of household and food items through wholesale and retail trading. Children also work in restaurants, barber shops, and beauty shops. They also work as street vendors, shoe shiners, messengers, and porters. In urban areas, children work as mechanics; they also collect and sell scrap metal, paper, plastic, and glass.

Children are exploited in prostitution, including in Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nyeri, and the coastal areas. Children engage in prostitution on the streets and in bars, discos, brothels, and massage parlors. The growth of the tourism industry has been accompanied by an increase in children's involvement in prostitution. In 2006, UNICEF estimated that up to 30 percent of girls between 12 and 18 years living in the coastal areas of Malindi, Mombasa, Kalifi, and Diani – or between 10,000 and 15,000 girls – are engaged in prostitution.

Children are trafficked within Kenya for forced labor in street vending, domestic service, agricultural labor, and herding. Children are also compelled to work as barmaids and engage in prostitution. Poverty and the death of one or both parents may contribute to a family's decision to place a child with better-off relatives, friends, or acquaintances, who may end up trafficking and/or exploiting the child. Orphaned children and street children are at increased risk of being trafficked. Children are also trafficked from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Somalia to Kenya; many of the girls trafficked from these countries are coerced or forced into prostitution. Kenya's coastal areas are known destinations for trafficked children to be exploited in sex tourism. A recent Government-sponsored publication indicates that there are limited reports of children being loaned as workers to settle debts.

The negative effects on children in Kenya of the political crisis following the December 2007 presidential election continued into 2008. The Kenyan education system – particularly in the Rift Valley, Nyanza, and Western Provinces – suffered from a widespread displacement of students and teachers. Many schools were closed, while others were converted into centers for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Children became refugees and IDPs while fleeing the violence with their families, leaving them at increased risk for exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation. In Eldoret, the population of unaccompanied children, children separated from their families, and children living on the streets has increased since the election, according to Save the Children. Some of these street children scavenge for boxes and scrap metal in order to survive.

The Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF), a Soy clan militia in ongoing conflict with the Ndorobo clan in the Mount Elgon District, forcibly recruited a number of children in 2008.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

A new Employment Act entered into force in June 2008. This new law sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years. Children between 13 and 16 years may perform "light work" that is not hazardous or likely to keep them from attending school or engage in apprenticeships. The law prohibits the employment of children – defined as persons below 18 years – in the worst forms of child labor, defined as slavery or practices similar to slavery, including the sale and trafficking of children; child prostitution and child pornography; involvement in illicit activities, including drug production and trafficking; and work likely to injure the health, safety, or morals of a child. The law also prohibits children from being employed in industrial undertakings between 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., except in the case of an extreme emergency as defined by the Minister of Labor, and prohibits children from working in sub-surface workplaces entered through a shaft. The law provides for fines and/or up to 1 year of imprisonment for employers caught employing a child in any of the activities prohibited by the law. In cases where children are injured or killed while performing one of the prohibited activities, these same penalties apply, with increased fines and the stipulation that a portion of the fines should be used to benefit the child and/or his or her immediate family. Employers who employ children are required to maintain a register of the children's ages and dates of birth and employment.

In 2008, the Government of Kenya completed its list of hazardous occupations for children. Kenya designates the following occupations as being hazardous forms of work for children: deep-lake and sea fishing; scavenging; begging; carpet and basket weaving; mining; stone crushing; sand harvesting; picking miraa; making bricks; performing domestic service for third-party households; working in a glass factory or tannery; engaging in internal armed conflicts; working in agriculture, transportation, construction, or industrial undertakings; and working in the production of matches and fireworks.

The law prohibits forced child labor, slavery, and servitude. The law also prohibits the defilement of a child, committing indecent acts with a child, promoting sexual offenses with a child, child trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, promoting child sex tourism, child prostitution, and child pornography. Penalties for violations include fines and/or imprisonment of up to life in prison, depending on the type of offense and the age of the child, but the minimum penalty for child trafficking is a fine and 10 years of imprisonment. The minimum penalty for sex trafficking is a fine, 15 years of imprisonment, or both.

The Children's Act prohibits children under 18 years from being recruited into the military and holds the Government responsible for protecting, rehabilitating, and reintegrating children involved in armed conflict into society. However, the Armed Forces Act permits the enlistment of children under 18 years with the permission of a parent, guardian, or district commissioner.

According to USDOS, the Ministry of Labor and Human Resource Development's enforcement of Kenya's minimum age law is limited. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development is the lead agency on anti-trafficking issues, as of 2008. According to USDOS, the Government's anti-trafficking efforts improved in 2008, and more investigations of suspected trafficking cases were conducted.

As of December 2008, six people were on trial on charges of trafficking 14 children in Nandi and Bomet Districts. In May 2008, police closed a children's home in Kajiadu for its involvement in trafficking a child to the United Kingdom.

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

In June 2008, the Government of Kenya released a report analyzing the child labor situation in the country based on data from the 2005/2006 Integrated Household Based Survey Labour Module. This report replaces the Government's 1998/1999 child labor survey as the most up-todate source of comprehensive information on the child labor situation in the country. As of the writing of this report, data were not available to UCW for analysis for use in this report. For information on data used in this report, please see the data sources and definitions section.

In 2008, the Government expanded its cash transfer program for orphans and vulnerable children to cover 25,000 children in 17 districts. The program provides monthly cash transfers to families of working children to help meet basic needs, including school costs, to prevent children from having to work. The child must attend school as a prerequisite for receiving these financial incentives.

The Government participated in a 4-year USD 23.8 million project funded by the EU and implemented by ILO-IPEC to combat child labor through education in 11 countries. In addition, the Government of Kenya is collaborating on two other ILO-IPEC projects, funded by the Government of Germany at USD 447,410 and USD 538,731, respectively, that promote national coordination in combating child labor.

The Government participated in a 4-year, USD 5 million Timebound Project on the Elimination of Child Labor funded by USDOL and implemented by ILO-IPEC through April 2009. The project withdrew 14,904 and prevented 10,695 children from exploitive labor in domestic service, commercial sexual exploitation, commercial and subsistence agriculture, fishing, herding, and informal-sector street work.

The Government also took part in the 4-year Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia Together project, which was funded by USDOL at USD 14.5 million and World Vision at USD 5.9 million through March 2009. Implemented by World Vision, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and the Academy for Educational Development, the project withdrew and prevented a total of 32,823 children from exploitive labor in HIV/AIDS-affected areas of these four countries through the provision of educational services.

The Government continues to participate in the 2-year, USD 460,000 regional anti-trafficking technical assistance project implemented by UNODC's Regional Office for Eastern Africa and funded by Norway and Sweden. The project aims to bolster coordination among the 11 countries involved through the Regional Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Eastern Africa and harmonize national legislation in line with the Palermo Protocol.

In May 2008, the Ministry of Gender and Children's Affairs and a local NGO, Childline Kenya, launched a toll-free, nationwide hotline to help children in need. The hotline has already provided counseling and referrals to a number of callers who needed assistance with child labor and child prostitution situations.

The Government continues to work closely with IOM on the country's anti-trafficking initiative, which included launching a 6-month, nationwide public information campaign to combat human trafficking in Kenya in July 2008. The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, UNICEF, and the World Tourism Organization worked to raise awareness of child prostitution and child sex tourism among hotels and tour operators and lobbied companies in the hospitality industry to adopt and implement the ECPAT Code of Conduct.

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