Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 11:03 GMT

2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Guinea-Bissau

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 April 2004
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Guinea-Bissau, 29 April 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca1ac.html [accessed 23 September 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.

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

The Government of Guinea-Bissau has noted that child labor is harmful to the development of those involved, but states that it suffers from ineffective policies and lacks the resources or mechanisms to adequately address the problem.[1987] The government is receiving support from the ILO to incorporate child labor indicators into its poverty reduction strategy, and to revise the national labor code in order to strengthen laws protecting children.[1988] Small-scale child labor initiatives that focus on literacy, education alternatives, and technical training are being implemented by NGOs.[1989]

The government is implementing a basic education project called "FIRKIDJA," which is designed to improve both access to schools and the quality of education, promote girls' schooling, and strengthen educational management.[1990] The World Bank is one of the organizations assisting the Ministry of Education to achieve these goals through a USD 14.3 million Basic Education Support loan project.[1991] In addition, UNICEF is supporting the government with a program to promote female literacy and girls' access to education in one targeted region of the country.[1992]

According to 1998 estimates, over half of the country's displaced population consisted of children under 18 years of age.[1993] The government is assisting these children with humanitarian services and World Food Program aid aimed at increasing school attendance, particularly among girls.[1994]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, UNICEF estimated that 65.4 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years in Guinea-Bissau were working.[1995] Children work in street trading, farming, and domestic labor.[1996] During the annual cashew harvest, children are withdrawn in part or completely from school in order to work in the fields.[1997] According to the government, the number of children working in the informal sector, often in difficult or dangerous conditions, is increasing considerably.[1998] In addition, commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs, but the extent of the problem is unknown.[1999] Children were reported to be involved in the recent civil war in Guinea-Bissau.[2000]

Education is compulsory from the age of 7 to 13 years.[2001] In 1999, the gross primary enrollment rate was 82.7 percent, with a higher enrollment rate for males (99.1 percent) compared to females (66.3 percent). In 1999, the net primary enrollment rate was 53.6 percent. Males had a higher net rate (62.6 percent) compared with females (44.5 percent).[2002] In 2003, the majority of school-age children were unable to receive schooling due to prolonged strikes in state-run schools.[2003] The number of classrooms and schools is insufficient, particularly in rural areas where the majority of the population resides. According to UNICEF, 26 percent of rural schools offer only 2 grades, and 50 percent offer only 4 grades.[2004] Girls face additional challenges to receiving an education, as they are often kept home to assist with domestic work, encouraged to marry at an early age,[2005] and banned from schools when pregnant.[2006]

Guinea-Bissau is continuing to recover from the civil conflict in 1998 and 1999, which displaced one-third of the population, destroyed many schools, and prevented most young children from attending school for at least half a year.[2007]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The General Labor Law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years for factory work and 18 years for heavy or dangerous labor, including work in mines.[2008] The law prohibits forced or bonded labor.[2009] The practice of prostitution for lucrative purposes is illegal in Guinea-Bissau, as is the use of violence, threats, or other coercive actions to transport individuals to foreign countries.[2010] In order to prevent trafficking, the law requires that individuals responsible for a child during travel submit identification documents (birth certificates) to relevant authorities.[2011] According to Decree 20/83, boys under 16 years may volunteer for the armed forces, and all citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are subject to compulsory military service.[2012]

The Ministry of Justice and Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws in the formal sector,[2013] but due to economic conditions, formal private sector employment of any kind is virtually nonexistent.[2014] There is no information available on the enforcement of laws pertaining to trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau has not ratified ILO Convention 138 or ILO Convention 182.[2015]


[1987] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial reports of States parties due in 1992, Guinea-Bissau, CRC/C/3/Add.63, prepared by Government of Guinea-Bissau, pursuant to Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, July 26, 2001, para. 139-42.

[1988] U.S. Embassy-Dakar, unclassified telegram no. 2129, August 2003.

[1989] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties, para. 252.

[1990] Ibid., para. 29-31.

[1991] World Bank, Basic Education Support Project, World Bank Project Data, [cited June 19, 2003]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P001015.

[1992] UNICEF, Girls' Education in Guinea Bissau, [cited June 19, 2003]; available from http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/Bissaufinal.pdf.

[1993] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties, paras. 234, 39. The displacement was caused by internal conflict beginning in 1998 and lasting 11 months. WFP, WFP-Assisted Projects, Guinea-Bissau, 2003 [cited June 19, 2003]; available from http://www.wfp.org/country_brief/africa/guinea_bissau/projects_c.html.

[1994] WFP, WFP-Assisted Projects.

[1995] In the 2000 study, children who are working in some capacity include children who have performed any paid or unpaid work for someone who is not a member of the household, who have performed more than four hours of housekeeping chores in the household, or who have performed other family work. It was estimated that 5.1 percent of children between ages 5 and 14 engage in paid work; 9.7 percent participate in unpaid work for someone other than a household member; and, overall, 65.4 percent of children are working in some capacity. See Government of Guinea-Bissau, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS): Guinea-Bissau, UNICEF, December 2000; available from www.childinfo.org/MICS2/newreports/guineabissau/guineabissau.PDF. See also Government of Guinea-Bissau, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2: Guinea Bissau, UNICEF, 2000; available from http://www.ucw-project.org/resources/index.html.

[1996] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Guinea-Bissau, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8385.htm.

[1997] U.S. Embassy-Dakar, unclassified telegram no. 2129.

[1998] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties, para. 250.

[1999] Prostitution among young people is reported to be reaching alarming proportions. See Ibid., para. 253.

[2000] Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers 1379 Report, November 2002, 38, [cited June 19, 2003]; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/cs/childsoldiers.nsf/Display%20Message/CSC%20Publications?OpenDocument. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Guinea Bissau, CRC/C/15/Add.177, Geneva, June 13, 2002, para. 48.

[2001] UNICEF, Youth at the UN, Country Profiles on the Situation of Youth: Guinea-Bissau, UNICEF, 2000 [cited June 19, 2003]; available from http://esa.un.org/socdev/unyin/countrya.asp?countrycode=gw.

[2002] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[2003] U.S. Embassy-Dakar, unclassified telegram no. 2129.

[2004] UNICEF, Girls' Education in Guinea Bissau.

[2005] Ibid. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties, para 33.

[2006] UNICEF, Girls' Education in Guinea Bissau.

[2007] UNICEF, UNICEF's Humanitarian Response to Children, January – December 1999, Guinea-Bissau, UNICEF, 11, [cited June 19, 2003]; available from www.unicef.org/cap/gbissau.pdf.

[2008] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Guinea-Bissau, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18208pf.htm.

[2009] Ibid., Section 6c.

[2010] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties, para. 259-61.

[2011] Ibid., para. 176.

[2012] Ibid., para. 137.

[2013] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Guinea-Bissau, Section 6d.

[2014] U.S. Embassy-Dakar, unclassified telegram no. 3985, December 2001.

[2015] ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited June 19, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

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