Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Uganda

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 22 September 2005
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Uganda, 22 September 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca82c.html [accessed 19 December 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 3/25/2003X
Ratified Convention 182 6/21/2001X
ILO-IPEC MemberX
National Plan for ChildrenX
National Child Labor Action PlanX
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

The Ugandan Bureau of Statistics estimated that 33.9 percent of children in Uganda ages 5 to 14 years were working in 2000-01.[4071] Children engage in various types of work, such as commercial agriculture and fishing,[4072] domestic service,[4073] and street sales and other activities in the urban informal sector.[4074] Children are also involved in exploitive labor, including commercial sexual exploitation[4075] and other hazardous activities.[4076] Uganda is considered to be a source country for trafficking of persons. There is evidence of children being abducted and trafficked across the border to Southern Sudan by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The government also acknowledges that internal trafficking of children for labor and commercial sexual exploitation occurs, particularly in border towns and in Kampala.[4077] In Uganda alone, about 2 million children under 18 have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and are especially vulnerable to child labor.[4078]

Children in Uganda are also involved in armed conflict. During the 18-year conflict in Northern Uganda, the LRA has abducted an estimated 20,000 children for use as soldiers, laborers, and sex slaves.[4079] There are also credible reports that a number of children serve in the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) and Local Defense Units. The UPDF contends that children currently serving in the security forces may have been allowed to join through deception or oversight. The UPDF collaborated with UNICEF to identify and remove 300 to 400 under-age soldiers from Uganda's 60,000 person army.[4080] Juvenile prisoners were reported to perform manual labor for little compensation.[4081]

The Constitution states that a child is entitled to basic education, which is the responsibility of the State and the child's parents.[4082] The Government of Uganda provides free education through grade seven. However, education is not compulsory.[4083] In 2003, the gross primary enrollment rate was 127.5 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 100.8 percent.[4084] 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, gross and net primary school attendance rates were 119 and 79 percent, respectively.[4085] The repetition rate for primary school in 2003 was 13.8 percent and the persistence rate to primary grade seven was 22.5 percent in the same year.[4086] Although 80 percent of students passed their primary leaving examination, there continue to be differences in achievement based on gender and geography.[4087]

Since the introduction of Universal Primary Education, primary school enrollment has increased from 2.9 million children in 1996 to 7.6 million in 2003.[4088] However, major obstacles to the provision of quality education remain, including the high cost of education related expenses, inadequate infrastructure, a shortage of schools (requiring students to walk long distances to attend classes), the inability of teacher recruitment to keep pace with rising enrollment, low teacher salaries, internal corruption, lack of professional development and training opportunities for teachers, lack of incentives to attract teachers to hard-to-reach areas, and cultural beliefs that do not favor education.[4089]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Revisions to the Employment Decree of 1975 increased the minimum age for employment to 14 years and prohibit persons below the age of 18 from engaging in hazardous labor.[4090] The Constitution of Uganda states that children under 16 years have the right to be protected from social and economic exploitation and should not be employed in hazardous work; work that would otherwise endanger their health, physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development; or work that would interfere with their education.[4091] Children's Statute No. 6 of 1996 prohibits the employment of children under 18 in work that may be harmful to their health, education, mental, physical, or moral development.[4092] In addition, the Trade Unions Decree No. 20 of 1976 gives minors the right to union membership.[4093] The Constitution prohibits child slavery, servitude, and forced labor.[4094]

Article 125 of the Penal Code prohibits individuals from procuring girls under the age of 21 for sex in Uganda or elsewhere. Violations of this Code are punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment. Owning or occupying a premise where a girl under age 18 is sexually exploited is a felony, and offenders are subject to 5 years of imprisonment under Article 127.[4095] The Penal Code prohibits trading in slaves and forced labor.[4096] The Armed Forces (Conditions of Service) Regulations set the minimum age for military service at 18 years.[4097]

The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development is charged with enforcing child labor laws, as well as investigating and addressing child labor complaints through district labor officers.[4098] The military combats trafficking in persons by the LRA.[4099] However, the government's efforts to enforce the Children's Statute, the Constitution's prohibitions against forced labor and other protections have been hindered by limited staffing, financial constraints, cultural norms, and the large proportion of children within the country's general population.[4100] Only 26 out of 56 districts have labor officers and financial penalties for child labor are not severe enough to deter violations.[4101]

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

The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD) houses the Child Labor Unit (CLU), which develops policies and programs on child labor.[4102] The MGLSD also provides the Secretariat for the National Steering Committee on Child Labor.[4103] The National Council for Children (NCC) is a semi-autonomous body charged with monitoring the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children.[4104] The NCC also falls within the mandate of the MGLSD.[4105]

The Government of Uganda is one of five countries participating in USDOL-funded ILO-IPEC regional programs to combat child labor in the commercial agricultural sector and to build capacity to facilitate national and sub-regional efforts against the worst forms of child labor.[4106] The government is also participating in a regional child labor project focusing on the small urban industry and service sector funded by the Canadian government.[4107] A USDOL Child Labor Education Initiative in the amount of USD 3 million aims to address the education needs of former child soldiers and children living in northern Uganda.[4108] In 2004, USDOL funded two regional projects to combat exploitative child labor and HIV/AIDS that include activities in Uganda: a USD 3 million dollar project based in Uganda and Zambia implemented by ILO-IPEC and a four-country USD 14.5 million Education Initiative project implemented by World Vision.[4109] Several other local and international organizations also implement projects to assist children and youth living in northern Uganda.[4110] Tobacco-exporting companies support programming to combat child labor in the tobacco growing industry.[4111]

The government continues to provide a variety of resettlement packages, some of which include educational benefits and vocational training, to former rebels returning to Uganda.[4112] The military has also established child protection units to assist returning child soldiers.[4113] In addition to these programs, the government is involved in efforts to eliminate child labor through strategies to reduce poverty, specifically the Poverty Eradication Action Plan and the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture.[4114]

In December 2004, the MGLSD adopted the Orphans and Vulnerable Children policy to coordinate government efforts to extend social services to several target groups of children, including those involved in the worst forms of child labor. The MGLSD also adopted the Social Development Sector Strategic Investment Plan to focus resources on supporting victims of poverty, including children, who perform jobs in the informal employment sector.[4115]

The Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) implements the policy of Universal Primary Education to encourage the enrollment and retention of primary students by improving access to education, enhancing the quality of education, and ensuring that education is affordable.[4116] In Financial Year 2003/2004, 31 percent of the general budget was allocated to the MOES for education. Of this amount, 65 percent was allocated to primary education and 10 percent to secondary education.[4117] With USAID assistance, the Ministry of Education and Sports developed a "Basic Education Policy and Costed Framework for Educationally Disadvantaged Children" to increase access among children not served by the current education system, including children engaged in hazardous work.[4118] This policy was adopted in November 2003 and aims to expand and coordinate current non-formal education efforts targeting underserved populations.[4119] The MOES also funds 46 vocational schools for children who cannot afford to attend secondary school.[4120] The Government of Uganda implements several programs to improve girls' education.[4121] In 2004, the Ministry of Education and Sports extended the Ministry's education advocacy campaign to local governments and local communities.[4122] Several donor governments and international organizations support the government's education efforts.[4123]


[4071] Another 32.7 percent of children ages 15 to 17 years were also found working. The number of boys and girls engaged in child labor was relatively equal. The survey also reported the greatest percentage of children were working in domestic service (54.8 percent), crop farming (18.2 percent), and unskilled manual labor (15.4 percent). See ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda: a Report Based on the 2000/2001 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, Report, Uganda Bureau of Statistics and ILO-IPEC, Entebbe, 2002, ix, 23, 29, 30, 36. For more information on the definition of working children, please see the section in the front of the report entitled Statistical Definitions of Working Children.

[4072] For more information on children involved in commercial agriculture see ILO-IPEC, Report of Baseline Survey on Child Labour in Commercial Agriculture in Uganda, baseline survey, RAF/00/P51/USA, ILO-IPEC-Commercial Agriculture – Uganda, Geneva, October 2002, viii-ix. For more information on children involved in the fishing industry see also The Republic of Uganda, The National Child Labour Policy, Policy, Draft, The Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Kampala, June 2002, 6-7.

[4073] For more information on children involved in domestic service see FIDA (Uganda), Children in Domestic Service: A Survey in Kampala District, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kampala, 2000, vii-viii.

[4074] A 1999 study estimated that 5,000 children beg, wash cars, scavenge, work in the commercial sex industry, and sell small items on the streets of Kampala. See The Republic of Uganda, National Child Labour Policy, Draft, 8. In northern Uganda, an estimated 13,000 to 30,000 children (called night commuters) travel to urban centers each night to sleep in the relative safety of churches, hospitals and other improvised shelters to avoid abduction by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2003: Uganda, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2004, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27758.htm. See also Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Uganda, Child Soldier Use 2003: A Briefing for the 4th UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, January 16, 2004.

[4075] For more information on links between domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation see Roger Kasirye, "Sexual Risk Behaviors and AIDS Knowledge Among Kampala Street Girls: Implication for Service Providers – A Research Experience" (paper presented at the Africa Regional ISSBD Workshop, Lusaka, Zambia, April 8-12, 1996). Commercial sexual exploitation of children is especially prevalent in urban areas and border towns. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 6d.

[4076] Other hazardous activities include construction (particularly brick baking), sand and gold mining, and stone crushing. See The Republic of Uganda, National Child Labour Policy, Draft, 8.

[4077] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 6f.

[4078] National Aids Documentation Center (NADIC), The HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Facts and Figures, Uganda Aids Commission, [online database] 2002 [cited September 22, 2004]; available from http://www.aidsuganda.org. See also ILO-IPEC Director-General, "A Future without Child Labour: Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights to Work" (paper presented at the International Labour Conference, 90th Session 2002, Geneva, 2002), 41-43.

[4079] It is estimated that 10,000 children have been abducted since mid-2002 when the government launched the anti-rebel campaign "Operation Iron Fist" (more than during any other period of the 18-year conflict). See Human Rights Watch, Abduction of Children in Africa: briefing to the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2004); available from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/01/29/africa7118.htm. See also Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, Against All Odds: Surviving the War on Adolescents – Promoting the Protection and Capacity of Ugandan and Sudanese Adolescents in Northern Uganda, New York, 2001, 2; available from http://www.womenscommission.org/pdf/ug.pdf.

[4080] U.S. Embassy-Kampala official, email communication to USDOL official, May 17, 2005.

[4081] Ibid., Section 6d.

[4082] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Article 34 (2) [cited August 27, 2004]; available from http://www.government.go.ug/constitution/chapt4.htm.

[4083] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 5.

[4084] The Ministry of Education and Sports, Summary of ESIP Indicators 2003 – Primary Schools, The Republic of Uganda, [online] 2003 [cited August 27, 2004]; available from http://www.education.go.ug/Factfile%202003.htm. For a detailed explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

[4085] USAID Development Indicators Service, Global Education Database, [online] 2004 [cited October 10, 2004]; available from http://qesdb.cdie.org/ged/index.html.

[4086] The persistence rate to primary grade four was 66.6 with rates between girls and boys relatively equal. The persistence rate to primary grade seven, in addition to being lower for students overall, revealed a discrepancy between the persistence of boys and girls within the final grades of primary, giving boys more than a three point advantage. See The Ministry of Education and Sports, Summary of ESIP Indicators 2003 – Primary Schools.

[4087] In remote districts, where conflict is constant, barely 20 percent of students passed the primary leaving examination. See Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Uganda: Addressing the challenge of educating the disadvantaged", [online], February 3, 2004 [cited February 11, 2004]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=39262. Boys are more likely to finish primary school and perform better on leaving exams. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 5.

[4088] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Uganda, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18232.htm. See also Ministry of Education and Sports, Primary Education Enrollment flows since inception of UPE in 1997, 2004; available from http://www.education.go.ug/Latest%206th%20Aug.03%20Enrolment%20%20paper%20background.htm.

[4089] International Monetary Fund and the International Development Association, Uganda: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Progress Report, Joint Staff Assessment, March 9, 2001. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 5. See also Ministry of Education and Sports, Ninth Education Sector Review: Aide memoire, [online] May 2003 [cited June 10, 2003], 54; available from http://www.education.go.ug/Final%209th%20ESR%20Aide%20Memoire.doc. See also Ministry of Education and Sports, Primary Education Enrollment flows since inception of UPE in 1997.

[4090] The Employment Decree of 1975, Section 50, originally limited employment for children between the ages of 12-18 years and prohibited children under 12 from working. See ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda, 6-7.

[4091] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Articles 34 (4) (5).

[4092] Uganda Bureau of Statistics and ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda: A Report Based on the 2000/2001 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, Entebbe, 2002, 6. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 5.

[4093] A "minor" is defined as above the apparent age of 16 but under the age of 21. See Mohammed Mwamadzingo, Ouma Mugeni, and Harriety Mugambwa, Trade Unions and Child Labour in Uganda: A Workers' Education Handbook (Geneva: Bureau for Workers' Activities of the International Labour Organization in co-operation with National Organisation of Trade Unions, 2002), 17-18.

[4094] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Articles 25 (1), (2).

[4095] The Republic of Uganda, Penal Code, as cited in The Protection Project Legal Library, [database online] 2001; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/statutesPDF/UgandaF.pdf.

[4096] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Uganda, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2004/33189.htm.

[4097] Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Uganda, in Child Soldiers 1379 Report (2002), [online database] 2002 [cited September 22, 2004], 96; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/cs/childsoldiers.nsf/6be02e73d9f9cb8980256ad4005580ff/c560bb92d962c64c80256c69004b0797/$FILE/B.%20CHILD%20SOLDIERS%201379%20REPORT-%20Countries%20A-L.pdf.

[4098] Community Child Labor Committees have been set up to monitor child labor at the district level. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 5, 6d. There is no system by which complaints are transferred to the Child Labor Unit from the district level. See U.S. Embassy-Kampala, unclassified telegram no. 1811, August 23, 2004.

[4099] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 6f. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Uganda.

[4100] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 5, 6c, 6d. See also U.S. Embassy-Kampala, unclassified telegram no. 1806, August 2003.

[4101] In districts without labor officers, probation and welfare officers handle child labor issues. Local governments also have an Office of Children's Affairs. See U.S. Embassy-Kampala, unclassified telegram no. 1811.

[4102] The Child Labour Unit also promotes coordination and networking among key stakeholders and monitors the implementation of programs to eliminate hazardous child labor. See FIDA (Uganda), Children in Domestic Service, 14.

[4103] ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda, 7.

[4104] The NCC was established in 1993 to monitor the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children. See FIDA (Uganda), Children in Domestic Service, 14. See also ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda, 7.

[4105] Parliament, Social Services Committee Report on the Ministerial Policy Statement and Budget Estimates for the Financial Year 2003/2004, online, The Republic of Uganda, 2004; available from http://www.parliament.go.ug/social%20rpt7_session3.htm.

[4106] The commercial agriculture project is scheduled to close in December 2004. See ILO-IPEC, Targeting the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Commercial Agriculture in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, technical progress report,, Geneva, March 2004. See also ILO-IPEC, Building the Foundations for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Children Labour in Anglophone Africa, technical progress report,, ILO-IPEC, Geneva, March 2004.

[4107] ILO-IPEC – Geneva official, email communication to USDOL official, May 12, 2004.

[4108] U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao Convenes International Conference on Child Soldiers: Announces $13 Million U.S. Initiative on Prevention and Rehabilitation, press release, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2003; available from http://www.childsoldiers.us/press.html.

[4109] U.S. Department of Labor, News Release: United States Provides over $110 Million in Grants to Fight Exploitative Child Labor Around the World, October 1, 2004.

[4110] UNWIRE, "Sweden Gives $1 Million to Ugandan Women, Children", [online], June 14, 2004; available from http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040614/449_24857.asp. See also World Bank Group, Northern Uganda Social Action Fund Project, online, Washington, D.C., 2004. See also USAID, Uganda, online, Washington, D.C., 2003; available from http://www.usaid.gov/pubs/cbj2003/afr/ug/. See also UNICEF, At a Glance: Uganda, UNICEF, [online] [cited May 20, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/uganda.html.

[4111] The Elimination of Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation (ECLT) is funding a child labor project in Masindi District. See ECLT Foundation, ECLT Foundation Program in Uganda 2003-2006: The Project for Elimination of Child Labour from Tobacco Farms in Masindi District, Uganda, [online] November 14, 2004 [cited May 26, 2004]; available from http://www.eclt.org/filestore/UgandaProgramme.pdf. See also British American Tobacco, Social Report 2002/03: Human Rights Report, online, 2003; available from http://www.bat.com/oneweb/sites/uk__3mnfen.nsf/0/80256bf30082a32c80256d41003515b2?OpenDocument.

[4112] This assistance is provided through the 2000 Amnesty Act. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Uganda, Section 6f.

[4113] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Uganda.

[4114] ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda, 9-11. The Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) aims to reduce poverty levels to 10 percent by 2017. The Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA) constitutes an important sectoral policy framework within the PEAP. See USAID/UGANDA, Overall Assistance Environment in Uganda, [online] August 3, 2004 [cited September 22, 2004]; available from http://www.usaid.or.ug/about%20usaid-uganda.htm.

[4115] U.S. Embassy-Kampala official, email communication.

[4116] Ministry of Education and Sports, The Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education (UPE), The Republic of Uganda, Kampala, July 1999, 10. See also ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda, 7-8. International Monetary Fund and the International Development Association, Uganda: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Progress Report, 5.

[4117] U.S. Embassy-Kampala, unclassified telegram no. 1811.

[4118] The framework is part of Uganda's commitment to the international Millennium Development Goals which establish education goals to be met by 2015. The Republic of Uganda, Basic Education Policy and Costed Framework for Educationally Disadvantaged Children, 1st Draft, Ministry of Education and Sports, Kampala, October 31, 2002, 1-2. See also U.S. Embassy-Kampala, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 19, 2004.

[4119] The policy was adopted during the 10th Education Sector Review Conference. See ILO-IPEC, National Program on the Elimination of Child Labor in Uganda, Final Report, August 2004. See also The Republic of Uganda, Basic Education Policy, 1.

[4120] U.S. Embassy-Kampala official, email communication.

[4121] These programs include: the Girl Education Movement, which seeks to improve girls' leadership and technical skills; the Girl Child Education Strategy, which seeks to increase girl student enrollment; and, in conjunction with UNICEF, a "Non-Formal Alternatives" program intended to teach basic skills to girls ages 10 to 16 years who have never attended school. See U.S. Embassy-Kampala, unclassified telegram no. 2989, September 18, 2001. See also The GEM Agenda, Annex, 1.

[4122] Ministry of Education and Sports, Primary Education Enrollment flows since inception of UPE in 1997.

[4123] USAID, Uganda. See also UNICEF, At a Glance: Uganda. See also World Bank Group, Northern Uganda Social Action Fund Project.

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