Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sri Lanka

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 31 August 2007
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sri Lanka, 31 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d749549.html [accessed 20 April 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 Labor
Percent of children 5-14 estimated as working in 1998:15%3848
Minimum age for admission to work:143849
Age to which education is compulsory:143850
Free public education:Yes3851
Gross primary enrollment rate in 2004:98%3852
Net primary enrollment rate in 2004:97%3853
Percent of children 5-14 attending school in 1998:97.1%3854
Percent of primary school entrants likely to reach grade 5:Unavailable
Ratified Convention 138:2/11/003855
Ratified Convention 182:3/1/013856
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes3857

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1998, approximately 17.9 percent of boys and 11.9 percent of girls ages 5 to 14 were working in Sri Lanka. The majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (71.5 percent), followed by services (14.8 percent), manufacturing (13.1 percent) and other sectors (0.7 percent).3858 Children work in both plantation and non-plantation agriculture, as well as in seasonal agriculture for families.3859 Children also work in the informal sector, which includes family enterprises, small restaurants, stores, and repair shops, in small-scale manufacturing and crafts.3860 Children also work as domestic servants.3861 Some children from rural areas are reportedly victimized in debt bondage as domestic servants in urban households.3862

The prostitution of children is widespread in the country. The majority of children in prostitution are exploited by local citizens, though there are reports of sex tourism as well.3863 Children are reportedly trafficked internally and internationally for sexual exploitation and domestic labor.3864 Some internally trafficked children, mostly boys, are lured from the conflict-ridden northern and eastern provinces to southern beach and mountain resorts to work in the sex industry, sometimes at their parents' request.3865

Conflict intensified in Sri Lanka during 2006 and the use of children in armed conflict remained a pressing concern.3866 Reports indicate that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed terrorist group fighting for a separate ethnic Tamil state, continue to heavily recruit, often forcibly, thousands of children as soldiers. The LTTE recruit and abduct children as young as 8 to serve in combat and in various battlefield support functions. Many of those recruited by the LTTE are girls.3867 Additionally, forcible recruitment of child soldiers by Karuna, a break-off LTTE faction, increased markedly in 2006. Reports from UNICEF indicate that as of October 2006, 1,598 recruited children remained with the LTTE, and 164 were recruited by Karuna.3868 There are no indications that the government is using child soldiers.3869

Children continue to be affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004.3870 Thousands of children were orphaned or separated from their families, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking and other worst forms of child labor.3871 The government, NGOs and international organizations have provided a number of services to assist affected children, but there continues to be a shortage of schools and economic opportunities for families.3872

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.3873 The law prohibits all children under 18 to be employed in any hazardous occupation.3874 Children under 14 may be employed in family-run agricultural enterprises or as part of technical training activities. However children under 14 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 activities that jeopardize health or education. The law limits the work hours of children 14 to 15 years to 9 per day, and the work hours of children 16 to 17 years to 10 per day.3875 The law prohibits young people under 18 from working in industrial facilities after 11 p.m., except in certain training or apprenticeship situations.3876 The law also requires medical certification of children less than 16 years prior to employment in industries.3877 The maximum penalty for child labor violations is 12 months of imprisonment.3878

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 children is 30 years of imprisonment.3879

See also Education Guardian, Sri Lankan Children 'Missing Out' on Education, [online] December 22, 2005 [cited January 20, 2006]; available from http://education.guardian.co.uk/schoolsworldwide/story/0,14062,1672987,00.html?gusrc=rss.

The 2006 Penal Code Amendment Act strengthened provisions against trafficking.3880 The law also 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 violations related pornography and prostitution range from 2 to 5 years of imprisonment.3881 Trafficking of children is punishable by imprisonment of 3 to 20 years.3882

The 2006 Penal Code Amendment Act criminalizes the act of engaging or recruiting a child for use in armed conflict.3883 The minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces is 18 years.3884 The law also protects children affected by tsunami.3885

In August 2006, parliament passed legislation empowering the Minister of Labor Relations and Foreign Employment to publish regulations prohibiting the employment of children under 18 in hazardous occupations. Forty-nine hazardous occupations have been identified.3886

The Department of Labor and the Department of Probation and Child Care Services enforce child labor laws, often in collaboration with the police.3887 In the first half of 2006, the Department of Labor received 60 complaints of child labor violations.3888 Most child labor offenses are prosecuted by the police, under the Penal Code.3889 In 2006, the Government created the new Ministry of Child Development. The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), which was previously an independent authority, is now under the new ministry.3890 NCPA is the primary oversight agency for the protection of children, and its anti-trafficking unit coordinates governmental anti-trafficking activities. NCPA works with 450 social welfare officers at the community level and has established 11 district child protection committees to further raise awareness of child abuse issues, including child labor.3891 The NCPA's Cyber Watch unit monitors the Internet for advertisements soliciting children for child pornography and pedophilia in Sri Lanka.3892

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

The government has integrated its Policy and Plan of Action to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor into the National Plan of Action for Children (NPCA) 2004-2008. The Ministry of Labor Relations and Foreign Employment has committed a budget to implement the child labor components of the plan, which included 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.3893 The 2006 Plan of Action for Decent Work also commits the government to eliminating child labor.3894

The government and the LTTE have agreed to a 3-year Joint Plan for Children Affected by War to end child recruitment and to demobilize and rehabilitate ex-child soldiers. The plan was initiated in 2003 and is scheduled to go through 2007.3895 However, there are reports that the Action Plan is stalled as the LTTE continued to recruit child soldiers.3896

The government is implementing a National Plan of Action to combat trafficking of children for sexual and labor exploitation, under the purview of the NPCA.3897 The NPCA and other government agencies, with support from international organizations, have various mechanisms in place to care for child trafficking victims, such as rehabilitation camps and other shelters that provide medical care, and counseling services. The government has also committed funding for its anti-Human Smuggling and Investigation Bureau to combat trafficking. The government assists Sri Lankan trafficking victims abroad through its diplomatic missions.3898 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 of trainers on these issues.3899 With support from UNICEF, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board is implementing a 2-year campaign to stop the commercial exploitation of children.3900

The government has participated, and is currently participating in, several ILO-IPEC projects to combat child labor in Sri Lanka. These include a USD 3 million project funded by USDOL to combat child trafficking in Asia that ended in March 2006. The project withdrew 367 children and prevented 10,378 children from trafficking throughout the region.3901 It also includes a global USD 7 million child soldier project funded by USDOL that targets 5,264 children for withdrawal and 4,250 for prevention from serving in armed groups in seven countries, including Sri Lanka.3902 The Netherlands and NORAD supported child labor projects, which ended in 2006, and UNICEF is supporting two projects to assist children affected by war, which end in June and December 2007.3903 In addition, with USDOL funding, ILO-IPEC and the Sri Lankan government initiated a USD 562,000 project after the tsunami that will continue through 2008. The project 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. The project targets 300 children for withdrawal and 2,100 children for prevention from exploitive work.3904

The Ministry of Education initiated a program to improve education for the children of plantation workers, who are considered especially vulnerable to child labor. The program has strengthened formal schools in plantation areas; recruited teachers to work on plantations; provided special education classes to children with learning disabilities; and provided vocational training to dropouts.3905


3848 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, March 1, 2007.

3849 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956 No. 47 (November 7, 1956), Articles 13, 34(1).

3850 U.S. Department of State, "Sri Lanka," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006, Washington, DC, March 6, 2007, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78875.htm. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Compulsory Attendance of Children at Schools Regulation No. 1 of 1997, (November 18, 1997).

3851 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 5.

3852 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

3853 Ibid.

3854 Ibid.

3855 APPLIS, List of Ratifications of International Labour Standards: Sri Lanka, March 30, 2007; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/appl-byCtry.cfm?lang=EN&CTYCHOICE=1750&hdroff=1.

3856 Ibid.

3857 ILO, IPEC Action Against Child Labour: Highlights 2006, Geneva, February 2007, 29; available from http://www.ilo.org/iloroot/docstore/ipec/prod/eng/20070228_Implementationreport_en_Web.pdf.

3858 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

3859 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, 10. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 6d.

3860 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, September 7, 2005. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 6d.

3861 Nayomi Kannangara, Harendra de Silva, and Nilaksi Parndigamage, Sri Lanka Child Domestic Labour: A Rapid Assessment, ILO-IPEC, Geneva, September 2003, 12; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/srilanka/ra/domestic.pdf. See also Bharati Pflug, An Overview of Child Domestic Workers in Asia, 2003, 5, 13; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/publ/childdomestic/overview_child.pdf.

3862 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 6c, 6d.

3863 Ibid., Section 5. See also ECPAT International CSEC Database, Sri Lanka accessed September 22, 2006; available from http://www.ecpat.net.

3864 U.S. Department of State, "Sri Lanka (Tier 2)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006, Washington, DC, June 5, 2006; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2006/65990.htm.

3865 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 5. See also Sarath W. Amarasinghe, Sri Lanka: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Rapid Assessment, ILO-IPEC, Geneva, February 2002, xvii; available from http://www-ilo-mirror.cornell.edu/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/srilanka/ra/cse.pdf.

3866 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, 9. See also United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, December 20, 2006, 2-5; available from http://www.crin.org/docs/UNSG_Report_CAC_SriLanka_E.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Introduction.

3867 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, 9. See also Save the Children – UK, Girls and Conflict Forgotten Casualties of War, London, April 27, 2005, I; available from http://www.rb.se/NR/rdonlyres/C0A44378-E6CE-4C74-9EF5535E673B8FD1/0/GirlsandConflictForgottencasualtiesofwar.pdf.

3868 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, 9. See also United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, 5, 8.

3869 Human Rights Watch, World Report 2006, New York, January, 2006, 308-309; available from http://www.hrw.org/wr2k6/. See also 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/document_get.php?id=878.

3870 ADB, Sri Lanka: Tsunami Summary, [online] December 8, 2005 [cited October 10, 2006]; available from http://www.adb.org/media/Articles/2005/6619_tsunami_impact_Sri_Lanka/default.asp?RegistrationID=guest.

3871 ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas, project document, 5, 6, 36. See also UNICEF, Caring for children growing up alone after the tsunami, [online] March 1, 2005 [cited March 30, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/24615_25298.html.

3872 UNICEF, Children and the Tsunami, A Year On, November 2005; available from http://www.unicef.org/emerg/disasterinasia/files/WhatWorked.pdf#search=%22children%20and%20the%20ts unami%20a%20year%20on%22. See also ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas in Sri Lanka, Geneva, March 30, 2006, 5.

3873 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956, Part III, Articles 13 and 34 (1). See also Government of Sri Lanka, Shop and Office Employees Act of 1954, No. 19 Article 10 (1). See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 18, 2003.

3874 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children (Amendment), 2006 Act. No. 24, (August 21, 2006).

3875 Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act Nos. 47 of 1956 and 43 of 1964, (November 7,), Section 13, 14. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 18, 2003.

3876 Government of Sri Lanka, Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act of 1956, Section 2, 3(3), 4(1).

3877 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 18, 2003.

3878 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 6d.

3879 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006, Act No. 16, 358(a). See also ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Trafficking for Labor and Sexual Exploitation (TICSA Phase II), March 30, 2006, 4. 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 (July 25, 2005) "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor", Colombo, August 19, 2005, 1.

3880 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006, Section 360. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Report of Sri Lanka on Efforts to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1.

3881 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 1995, Act No. 22, Articles 286A (1) and (2), 360A, and 360B. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 1998, Act No. 29, Articles 288A(1) and (2), and 360A(1) and (2) . See also Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006, Articles 268, 358, 360.

3882 Government of Sri Lanka, Penal Code (Amendment), 2006, 360(2).

3883 Ibid. See also ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Trafficking for Labor and Sexual Exploitation (TICSA Phase II), technical progress report March 2006, 4.

3884 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Child Soldiers Global Report 2004."

3885 ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Trafficking for Labor and Sexual Exploitation (TICSA Phase II), technical progress report, Geneva, September 12, 2005, 3.

3886 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, 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.

3887 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 6d. See also Government of Sri Lanka, Report of Sri Lanka on Efforts to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, 6.

3888 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, 4.

3889 Government of Sri Lanka, Report of Sri Lanka on Efforts to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labour, 6.

3890 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, December 14, 2006, 6.

3891 Government of Sri Lanka, National Child Protection Authority Act of 1998, No. 50 See also ILO, National Legislation and Policies Against Child Labour in Sri Lanka, [online] March 21, 2005 [cited October 10, 2006]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/responses/srilanka/national.htm. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 23, 2004.

3892 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 5.

3893 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, Combating Child Trafficking for Labor and Sexual Exploitation (TICSA Phase II), technical progress report, Geneva, September 12, 2005, 3.

3894 ILO – IPEC, Emergency response to child labour in selected Tsunami affected areas in Sri Lanka, Geneva, September 30, 2006.

3895 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 23, 2004. See also UNICEF Press Center, Call to Increased Action for Sri Lanka's War Affected Children, press release, January 22, 2004; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_19036.html.

3896 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 5.

3897 Ibid. See also ILO-IPEC, Child Labour and Responses, 3.

3898 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: Sri Lanka." See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Sri Lanka," Section 5.

3899 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, September 7, 2005. See also U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, August 23, 2004.

3900 UNICEF, Zero Tolerance for Child Sex Tourism in Sri Lanka, [online] June 18, 2006 [cited September 26, 2006]; 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 September 26, 2006]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/sri_lanka_34933.html.

3901 ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Trafficking for Labor and Sexual Exploitation (TICSA Phase II), project document, Geneva, September 30, 2002, 1.

3902 U.S. Department of Labor, Prevention and Reintegration of Children Involved in Armed Conflict: An Inter-Regional Program, ILAB Technical Cooperation Summary, Washington, DC, 2003.

3903 ILO-IPEC official, E-mail communication USDOL official, March 1, 2007.

3904 ILO-IPEC, Emergency Response to Child Labour in Selected Tsunami Affected Areas, project document, 15, 38.

3905 U.S. Embassy – Colombo, reporting, September 7, 2005. See also ILO – IPEC, Emergency response to child labour, technical progress report September 2006, 2.

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