Last Updated: Wednesday, 01 October 2014, 08:57 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Kenya

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Kenya, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748f54d.html [accessed 1 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 Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     4/9/1979
Ratified Convention 182     5/7/2001
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 32.5 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years in Kenya were counted as working in 2000. Approximately 34.7 percent of all boys 5 to 14 were working compared to 30.4 percent of girls in the same age group.2583 Children living in rural areas were more likely to work than children living in urban areas.2584 The commercial and subsistence agriculture and fishing sectors employ the largest number of working children, followed by the domestic service sector.2585 Children are found working on tea, coffee, sugar, and rice plantations. Children also work in the informal sector, predominantly in family businesses.2586 There are large numbers of street children in Kenya's urban centers. Street children are often involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking.2587 Child prostitution is widespread in Kenya, and takes place in bars, discos, brothels, massage parlors, and on the streets. The majority of children exploited in prostitution are between 13 and 17 years old.2588 Poverty and an increased number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS have contributed to a rise in the number of child prostitutes.2589 Many girls who hawk or beg during the day reportedly work as prostitutes at night.2590 In the agricultural sector, girls are sometimes forced to provide sexual services in order to obtain plantation work. Sudanese and Somali refugee children are also alleged to be involved in prostitution in Kenya.2591 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 1997, the most recent year for which data are available, 22.8 percent of the population in Kenya were living on less than USD 1 a day.2592

Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for child trafficking.2593 Poverty, the death of one or both parents, and self-interest may contribute to a family's decision to place a child in the hands of better-off relatives, friends, or acquaintances who may end up trafficking and/or exploiting the child. Child trafficking in Kenya occurs mainly through personal and familial networks.2594 Kenyan children are trafficked internally for sexual exploitation, as well as for work in street vending, agriculture, and forced domestic labor. Kenya's coastal area is a known destination for trafficked children. Children are trafficked there to be sexually exploited in Kenya's growing sex tourism industry. Children from Burundi and Rwanda may have been trafficked to Kenya for sexual exploitation and domestic work.2595

Primary education is free and schooling is compulsory through grade 12. However, less than half of children who graduate from primary school continue on to secondary school. The government has provided tuition-free primary education since 2003.2596 As a result of this policy, first-time enrollment increased by between 1.1 million2597 and 1.3 million children in the year following implementation.2598 Unintended results of the policy have included overcrowded classrooms due to increased enrollment, insufficient numbers of teachers, and inadequate financial resources. In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 92 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 66 percent.2599 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2000, 74.9 of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school.2600 As of 2001, 59 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.2601 However, there remains a gender bias in school access, with girls reportedly experiencing greater difficulty in accessing education than boys.2602 As the government expands primary education, it faces the challenges of high numbers of overage students, lack of teachers in some areas or overworked teachers, teaching material shortages, large class sizes, lack of classrooms, and inadequate facilities.2603

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Children's Act of 2001 prohibits all forms of child labor that are exploitative and hazardous, or that would prevent children under the age of 16 from going to school.2604 However, this law does not apply to children who work in agriculture or as apprentices under the terms of the Industrial Training Act.2605

The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Kenya. The Constitution prohibits forced and bonded labor, servitude, and slavery.2606 The Children's Act prohibits child sexual exploitation.2607 The Penal Code prohibits procurement of a girl under 21 for the purpose of unlawful sexual relations.2608 Kenya does not explicitly prohibit trafficking in persons, but the Penal Code criminalizes child commercial sexual exploitation, child labor, and the transportation of children for sale.2609 The Children's Act prohibits children under 18 years from being recruited in armed conflicts or participating in hostilities.2610

The Ministry of Labor and Human Resource Development is responsible for enforcing child labor legislation with its Child Labor Division, but is assisted by other sections when specific expertise is required.2611 Labor inspectors and occupational health and safety officers have been trained in child labor reporting2612 and labor inspection reports include findings on child labor.2613 According to the U.S. Department of State, the Ministry of Labor and Human Resource Development's enforcement of the minimum age law was minimal.2614 The Ministry of Labor has indicated that its inspectorate department, which is the main unit responsible for enforcing compliance, is understaffed.2615 As of late 2005, the Ministry of Labor's directorate of Occupational Health and Safety Services only had 57 inspectors to cover the whole country.2616 The Department of Children's Services is responsible for the administration of all laws regarding children, conducts awareness-raising activities regarding children's rights, and manages child rehabilitation institutions.2617

The Government of Kenya has made efforts to combat trafficking in persons. Kenya has adopted stricter border controls, and in late 2004-early 2005, the Human Trafficking Unit of the Kenyan police investigated a suspected child trafficking ring with operations between the United Kingdom and Kenya.2618 The Unit also conducted surveys of massage parlors, brothels, foreign employment agencies, and other establishments and persons that were suspected of being involved in trafficking.2619 However, during the period of 2005-early 2006, the Human Trafficking Unit had not conducted any investigations into trafficking cases.2620

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

The government's National Development Plan for 2002-2008 recognizes child labor as a problem and calls for an evaluation of the impact of child labor on the individual and the country, as well as its implications on the quality of the future labor force.2621

The Government of Kenya is taking part in a 3-year, USD 5.3 million USDOL-funded ILO-IPEC regional project aimed at building capacity to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.2622 The government also participates in a 4-year, USD 5 million USDOL-funded Timebound Program implemented by ILO-IPEC that focuses on withdrawing and preventing children from engaging in domestic service; commercial sex; commercial and subsistence agriculture; fishing and pastoralism; as well as informal sector street work.2623 In partnership with the ILO, the government removes children from the street and provides them with educational and vocational training.2624 Kenya is also part of a USDOL-funded regional project that aims to improve access to and quality of basic, technical, and vocational education and training for HIV/AIDS-affected children who are working or at risk of working in the worst forms of child labor.2625 The government also took part in a Sweden-funded ILO-IPEC project on child labor in domestic work, which ended in June 2005.2626 Kenya also participated in two Dutch-funded inter-regional ILO-IPEC projects which focused on combating child labor with educational interventions.2627 The government also participated in a USDOL-funded ILO-IPEC East Africa Commercial Agriculture project, which ended in May 2005.2628

In 2005, the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, UNICEF, the World Tourism Organization, and ECPAT worked with hotels and tour operators to increase their awareness of child prostitution and sex tourism and to develop a Code of Conduct to combat child sex tourism and protect children.2629 In 2004, the government implemented a new program requiring owners of tourist guesthouses to register all workers,2630 partly to deter sex tourism.2631 Subsequently, eight guesthouses were closed due to violations and the government provided assistance to seven foreign children.2632 Beginning in 2005, the Ministry of Tourism mounted a campaign to register villas and cottages, putting them under the same strictures and requirements as hotels, and encouraging them to participate in the ECPAT Code of Conduct initiative.2633 Government officials, prosecutors, and police also attended training workshops on human trafficking conducted by the American Bar Association.2634 The government provides shelter and medical care to street children working in commercial sexual exploitation.2635 The government and ILO-IPEC are also working to improve a database on abused children, particularly those who are working.2636

Education sector reforms undertaken by the government include the promotion of the free primary education policy, good governance and school management, as well as the review and development of the curriculum.2637 The Government of Kenya has also received support from UNICEF to raise the enrollment and primary completion rates of girls.2638 The Government of Kenya is currently receiving support from the Education for All Fast Track Initiative to achieve its goal of implementing universal quality primary education.2639 To support the government's policy of free primary education, the World Bank is providing USD 50 million, the majority of which will be used to expand the Government of Kenya/British Department for International Development textbook program. World Bank funds will also be used for activities such as teacher development and enhancing school accounting policies.2640 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also providing funds to support nutritious school meals for children.2641


2583 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, October 7, 2005. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

2584 Central Bureau of Statistics – Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report, September 2001, 34; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/kenya/report/ken98.pdf.

2585 Ibid., 37.

2586 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Kenya, Washington, DC, February 28, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41609.htm.

2587 Ibid., Section 5. HIV/AIDS and poverty are thought to have contributed to a rise in the number of orphans and street children. See Commonwealth News and Information Service, Better Care Needed for Children Orphaned by HIV/Aids in Kenya, [previously online] April 21, 2004 [cited May 13, 2004]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200404210895.html [hard copy on file].

2588 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Sections 5 and 6d. See ECPAT International CSEC Database, http://www.ecpat.net (Kenya; accessed June 1, 2005).

2589 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 5.

2590 ECPAT International CSEC Database, (Kenya; accessed June 1, 2005).

2591 Ibid.

2592 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

2593 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, DC, June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46614.htm.

2594 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi official, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006.

2595 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi official, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, DC, June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46614.htm.

2596 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 5. See also UN Commission on Human Rights, Kenya's Statement at the 61st Session on the Commission on Human Rights, Agenda Item 13: Rights of the Child, 61st, April 7, 2005; available from http://www.unchr.info/61st/docs/0408-Item13-Kenya.pdf.

2597 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 5.

2598 See Statement by Kenya 2005, 3. See also UNICEF, Harry Belafonte urges all countries to end school fees, New York, February 18, 2004; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_19262.html.

2599 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005).

2600 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

2601 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

2602 School completion rates for girls have increased, and the Government of Kenya has reported that the completion rate among girls is higher than that for boys. Kenya CRC Coalition, Supplementary Report to Kenya's First Country Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nairobi, March 2001, 5.

2603 Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), "Kenya: Feature: The challenge of providing free primary education", IRINnews.org, [online], February 7, 2003 [cited June 23, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=32164. See also UNESCO-Nairobi Office, "Kenya launches mass literacy," EFA News No. 4 (May, 2003); available from http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/news_en/28.05.03_kenya.shtml.

2604 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi, reporting, August 15, 2003. See also ILO NATLEX National Labor Law Database, Children Act, 2001 (No.8 of 2001); accessed June 23, 2005; available from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.home.

2605 See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 6d.

2606 The Constitution of Kenya, Revised Edition; available from http://kenya.rcbowen.com/constitution/.

2607 Integrated Regional Information Network, "Kenya: Focus on New Legislation and Hopes for Child Welfare", IRINnews.org, [online], March 1, 2002 [cited June 23, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=23483.

2608 Government of Kenya, Penal Code, [previously online], Section 147; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/statutesPDF/Kenya1.pdf [hard copy on file]. See also ECPAT International CSEC Database, (Kenya; accessed June 1, 2005).

2609 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 5.

2610 The Children's Act of 2001 also states that it is the government's responsibility to protect, rehabilitate, and re-integrate child victims of armed conflict into society. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004: Kenya, London, November 17, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=966.

2611 The Child Labor Division is staffed by 10 officers. Central Bureau of Statistics – Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report, 7. See also U.S. Embassy – Nairobi, reporting, August 23, 2004. U.S. Embassy – Nairobi, reporting, September 14, 2005.

2612 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 6d.

2613 Ibid.

2614 Ibid.

2615 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi official, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006.

2616 Ibid. See also U.S. State Department official, email communication to USDOL official, August 18, 2006.

2617 Central Bureau of Statistics – Ministry of Finance and Planning, The 1998/99 Child Labor Report, 7.

2618 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

2619 Ibid.

2620 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi official, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006.

2621 ILO-IPEC, Technical Progress Report: Prevention, withdrawal, and rehabilitation of children engaged in hazardous work in commercial agriculture in Kenya, Geneva, August 29, 2002, 3.

2622 The project's core countries also include Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. ILO-IPEC, Building the Foundations for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Anglophone Africa, project document, Geneva, September 24, 2002.

2623 The project supports the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Kenya. See ILO IPEC, Supporting the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Kenya, project document, Geneva, September 30, 2004.

2624 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

2625 World Vision, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia Together (KURET) Initiative, project document, Federal Way, July 18, 2005.

2626 ILO-IPEC official, email communication to USDOL official, November 8, 2005.

2627 One project was funded at USD 2.47 million and ended in December 2005, while the other, which focuses on child domestic workers, was funded at USD 391,615 and is slated to end in February 2006. Ibid.

2628 ILO-IPEC, Prevention, withdrawal and rehabilitation of children engaged in hazardous work in the commercial agricultural sector in Africa, project document, Geneva, September 28, 2000.

2629 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi official, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006.

2630 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2005.

2631 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Kenya, Section 5.

2632 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

2633 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi official, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006.

2634 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report.

2635 Ibid.

2636 U.S. Embassy – Nairobi, reporting, August 23, 2004.

2637 Republic of Kenya, Millennium Development Goals: Progress Report for Kenya, 2003; available from http://www.undp.org/mdg/kenya.pdf.

2638 UNICEF, At a glance: Kenya, in UNICEF, [online] n.d. [cited June 23, 2005]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/kenya.html.

2639 World Bank, Education for All Fast Track Initiative: Frequently Asked Questions, World Bank, [online] October 14, 2005 [cited January 17, 2006]; available from http://www1.worldbank.org/education/efafti/faq.asp.

2640 World Bank Projects Database, http://www.worldbank.org (Free Primary Education Support Project; accessed September 23, 2005).

2641 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Funds Will Provide School Meals in Latin America, Caribbean, press release, Washington, D.C., August 17, 2004; available from http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile english&y=2004&m=August&x=20040817152631AEneerG0.8231623&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html.

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