Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014, 10:56 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Malawi

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 - Malawi, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748f953.html [accessed 24 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 Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     11/19/1999
Ratified Convention 182     11/19/1999
ILO-IPEC Associated Member
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 8.9 percent of children ages 5 to 14 were counted as working in Malawi in 2000. Approximately 7.7 percent of all boys 5 to 14 were working compared to 10 percent of girls in the same age group.2901 Children work on tobacco and tea farms, on subsistence farms, and as domestic servants and vendors. Girls working as domestic servants in urban areas often receive little or no pay.2902 To a lesser extent, children also work in other informal sector jobs, such as welding, furniture making, bicycle repair, carpentry, and brick making.2903 Children in the agricultural sector often work alongside their parents in fields where their parents work as tenant farmers.2904 Situations of bonded labor have been reported among tobacco tenants and their families, including children.2905 Reports indicate an increased number of children perform agricultural work to earn money for food or to support their families.2906 Along the border with Tanzania, young girls have reportedly been traded or sold to tribal chiefs and taken to other villages.2907 Over the past few years, the practice of poor families exchanging daughters for cattle or money has reportedly re-emerged, though it is not widespread.2908 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 1997, the most recent year for which data are available, 41.7 percent of the population in Malawi were living on less than USD 1 a day.2909

Malawi is a source country for children trafficked internally and to South Africa for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Children are also trafficked within the country for exploitation in forced agricultural labor.2910 There are unconfirmed reports of small numbers of children trafficked internally to resort areas around Lake Malawi for exploitation in the sex tourism industry.2911 Child prostitutes are reported to be found outside nightclubs and hotels in urban areas.2912 The HIV/AIDS pandemic has increased the incidence of sexual exploitation of minors, who are perceived by their exploiters to be healthier.2913

Primary education is free and guaranteed by the Constitution for at least 5 years, although it is not compulsory.2914 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 140 percent.2915 Gross 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, 72.5 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school.2916 As of 2001, 44 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.2917 Educational costs such as stationery and school clothes, opportunity costs of sending a child to school, family illnesses, and lack of interest in education are lowering school attendance. HIV/AIDS is exacerbating dropout rates, particularly for girls who are expected to take on increased domestic roles following the death of a parent.2918 The sexual abuse of female students by teachers and older male students has also had a negative impact on girls' attendance.2919 Insufficient finances, lack of teachers and teaching materials, poor sanitation, poor teaching methods, and inadequate classrooms have contributed to the inconsistent quality of education.2920

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Employment Act of 2000 sets the minimum age of employment at 14 years. Exceptions are made for work done under certain conditions in vocational technical schools, other training institutions, and in homes.2921 The Act prohibits children between the ages of 14 and 18 from performing hazardous work or work that interferes with their attendance at school or any vocational or training program.2922 The Constitution of Malawi protects children under 16 against economic exploitation as well as any treatment, work, or punishment that is hazardous, interferes with their education, or is harmful to their health or physical, mental, or spiritual and social development.2923 The government published a national code of conduct regarding child labor. The code will be disseminated to all farmers found guilty of violating the code.2924 Employers are required to keep a register of all employees under the age of 18 years. Violation of the law can result in a fine of Malawi Kwacha (MK) 20,000 (USD 168.74) and 5 years of imprisonment.2925

The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Malawi. Both the Constitution and the Employment Act prohibit forced and compulsory labor. Violators are liable for penalties of MK 10,000 (USD 84.37) and 2 years of imprisonment under the Employment Act.2926 Trafficking in persons is not specifically prohibited by law, but the Penal Code contains several provisions that may be used to prosecute human traffickers.2927 Specifically, it prohibits the procuring of any girl under the age of 21 years for the purpose of unlawful sexual relations, either in Malawi or elsewhere. Abduction, procuring of a person for prostitution or work in a brothel, and involuntary detention for sexual purposes are also prohibited by the Penal Code.2928 The government has also strengthened legal protections for students who are subject to exploitation and inappropriate relationships at school.2929 The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the military is 18 years, although those younger may enlist with parental consent.2930

Beginning in November 2004, inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT) were given the authority to conduct investigations and press charges.2931 According to the U.S. Department of State, enforcement of child labor laws by the police and labor inspectors is limited due to resource and capacity constraints, although there is some monitoring of rural child labor by MOLVT youth committees.2932 Police and the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare, and Community Services handle trafficking cases that are brought to the attention of the authorities.2933 In August 2005, a Zambian trafficker was arrested and fined 24,000 Kwacha (USD 200) for attempting to smuggle 15 boys between 9 and 15 years across the border.2934 In 2005, seven employers, mostly cattle farmers and tobacco growers, were prosecuted and convicted of employing children, paying fines between USD 60 and 100.2935 Also in 2005, 14 children were rescued from situations of trafficking in persons and repatriated, in part due to the efforts of child protection workers in the rural areas.2936

The government implemented a Child Justice Act in 2004. The Act was developed in coordination with UNICEF, international donors, and NGOs, and is intended to provide access to the justice system for juveniles by establishing a court dedicated to children's issues.2937 The child labor elimination unit within MOLVT is working with UNICEF to register violations of child labor laws and build capacity on child labor issues.2938

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

The Government of Malawi participated in a regional ILO-IPEC program funded by USDOL to withdraw and rehabilitate children engaged in hazardous work in the commercial agriculture sector in East Africa, including in Malawi's tobacco sector; the project ended in May 2005.2939 Currently, the government is participating in a USD 2.1 million, USDOL-funded project to combat child labor in tobacco growing and domestic service.2940 Also funded by USDOL, Winrock International is implementing a project to combat exploitative child labor through the provision of basic education.2941

The Government of Malawi, through its MOLVT, chairs a National Steering Committee on Child Labor,2942 which has developed an action plan against child labor. The plan includes the drafting of a national policy against child labor and reviewing existing legislation, establishing child labor monitoring committees, and coordinating income generation activities.2943 Through the plan, the government has published a code of conduct on child labor and trained 77 child labor youth activists to raise awareness in local communities.2944 In 2005, the Ministry also conducted training courses for its 150 child labor inspectors and its community and district level labor committees.2945

For the first time, in 2005/2006, the Government of Malawi earmarked USD 60,000 to support MOLVT child labor education activities and to purchase equipment for labor inspectors at the district level.2946

The Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare, and Community Services formulates policies on childcare and protection and relies on the Child Rights Unit and other partners to help carry out those policies.2947 In 2005, with funding from the Nordic Agency for Development, the Ministry trained 240 child protection workers from all regions of the country to work with vulnerable children, including street children.2948

In 2004, the government established an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee.2949 The government has also undertaken various measures to raise public awareness of trafficking issues, including workshops for teachers and traditional authorities, meetings for rural families with young children, and radio jingles.2950 The Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare, and Community Services has launched a National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children that aims to improve access to essential services, including education, health, water, sanitation, and birth registration. The Plan includes provisions for trafficking victim protection, awareness raising, and prevention.2951 As part of the plan, approximately 200 child protection officers were trained to identify trafficking victims, and 37 Victim Support Units were established in collaboration with UNICEF. The units are responsible for providing protective and support services to exploited children, including trafficking victims.2952 The government also works to rehabilitate and reintegrate children in prostitution by providing them with education and vocational training.2953 The government has also provided immigration officers and police with basic counter-trafficking training.2954

The government is implementing a long-term education strategy called Vision 2020 that focuses on improving access, quality and equity in primary, secondary and tertiary education; strengthening the science, technical, vocational and commercial components of school curriculum; improving special education; and improving the education management plan.2955 In May 2005, the World Bank began financing a 5-year project to support Malawi's education sector. Among the project's components are improving the quality and capacity of teacher training, improving learning conditions at secondary schools, providing schools with basic learning materials, and strengthening community participation.2956


2901 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 section in the front of the report entitled "Data Sources and Definitions."

2902 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Malawi, Washington, D.C., February 28, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41613.htm. See also The Republic of Malawi, National Report on The Follow-Up to The World Summit For Children, UNICEF, 2000, 3; available from http://www.unicef.org/specialsession/how_country/edr_malawi_en.PDF.

2903 Liv Tørres, The Smoking Business: Tobacco Tenants in Malawi, Fafo Institute for Applied Social Sciences, 2000, 74; available from http://www.fafo.no/pub/rapp/339/339-web.pdf. See also ILO/IFBWW, Change in Malawi: Children Working in the Brick Kilns, Geneva, March 2001; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/actrav/genact/child/download/malawi.pdf.

2904 U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, October 2, 2001. An ILO-IPEC study demonstrated that in a survey of 74 children in four districts, 94 percent of children working in agriculture in the sample study were under 14 years old, 87 percent missed school as a result of work, and 51 percent were injured on the job during the previous 12 months. See ILO-IPEC, Malawi Child Labor Baseline Survey Report, February 12, 2003, 25, 26, 30.

2905 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Report for the WTO General Council Review of Trade Policies of Malawi, online, Geneva, February 6-8, 2002, [accessed December 16, 2005]; available from http://www.icftu.org/displaydocument.asp?Index=991214742&Language=EN&Printout=Yes. See also Tørres, The Smoking Business, 78-79.

2906 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 6d.

2907 U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, March 10, 2004.

2908 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe official, email communication to USDOL official, May 20, 2005.

2909 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

2910 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46614.htm. See also U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, March 10, 2004.

2911 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi. See also ECPAT International, Malawi, in ECPAT International, [database online] n.d. [cited June 15, 2005]; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/countries.asp?arrCountryID=103&CountryProfil e=facts,affiliation,humanrights&CSEC=Overview,Prostitution,Pronography,trafficking&Implement=Coordination_cooperation,P revention,Protection,Recovery,ChildParticipation&Nationalplans=National_plans_of_action&orgWorkCSEC=orgWorkCSEC&Dis playBy=optDisplayCountry.

2912 ECPAT International, Malawi.

2913 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5. Within a sample of 549 children involved in commercial sexual exploitation 14.9 percent were under the age of 14 years. See Government of Malawi and ILO-IPEC, Malawi Child Labour 2002 Report, Lilongwe, February 2004, 87.

2914 Families are responsible for purchasing books and uniforms, though some very poor families could access a public book fund. See The Republic of Malawi, Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, Chapter IV, Human Rights, 25-1, 2; available from http://www.sdnp.org.mw/constitut/intro.html. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5.

2915 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005). For an explanation of gross primary enrollment rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rates in the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

2916 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

2917 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

2918 Samer Al-Samarrai and Hassan Zaman, The Changing Distribution of Public Education Expenditure in Malawi, Africa Region Working Paper Series No. 29, World Bank, Washington D.C., 2002, 5; available from http://www.worldbank.org/afr/wps/wp29.htm. See also Esme Kadzamira and Pauline Rose, Educational Policy Choice and Policy Practice in Malawi: Dilemmas and Disjunctures, IDS Working Paper 124, Institute of Development Studies, 2001, 10, 16; available from http://www.ids.ac.uk/ids/bookshop/wp/wp124.pdf.

2919 Integrated Regional Information Networks, "SOUTHERN AFRICA: Sexual abuse of schoolgirls largely unpunished", IRINnews.org, [online], February 6, 2004 [cited June 30, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=39353.

2920 Samer Al-Samarrai and Hassan Zaman, The Changing Distribution of Public Education Expenditure in Malawi, 5.

2921 The Republic of Malawi, Employment Act of 2000, (2000), Part IV-Employment of Young Persons, 21;available from http://www.sdnp.org.mw/~esaias/ettah/employment-act/.

2922 Ibid., Part IV-Employment of Young Persons, 22.

2923 Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, Chapter IV, Human Rights, 23.

2924 See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 6d. See also U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, August 23, 2005.

2925 Employment Act, Part IV-Employment of Young Persons, 23-24. For currency conversion see FX Converter, [online] [cited December 16, 2005]; available from http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic.

2926 Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, Chapter IV, Human Rights, 27. See also Employment Act, Part II-Fundamental Principles, 4. (1)-(2). For currency conversion see FX Converter.

2927 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi.

2928 See Government of Malawi, The Penal Code, as cited in The Protection Project Legal Library, 140; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/statutesPDF/UgandaF.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi.

2929 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5.

2930 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, November 17, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=783.

2931 As a result, two child trafficking cases resulted in convictions, and 13 children were removed from situations of forced labor on tea and tobacco estates. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi.

2932 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 6d.

2933 Ibid., Section 5.

2934 The verdict prompted criticism that the penalty was too lenient, alleging that legislation is aimed at protecting girls, not boys. See Integrated Regional Information Networks, "MALAWI: Outrage over lenient fine for trafficking boys", IRINnews.org, [online], August 24, 2005 [cited August 26, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=48740.

2935 U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, August 23, 2005.

2936 Child protection workers are voluntary community members that receive a small honoraria as part of a UNICEF project. See Ibid.

2937 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5.

2938 CEACR, Observation, Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Malawi (ratification: 1999), Geneva, 2004; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/.

2939 International Child Labor Program U.S. Department of Labor, Prevention, Withdrawal and Rehabilitation of Children Engaged in Hazardous Work in the Commercial Agriculture Sector in Africa, Project Summary, 2000. See also ILO-IPEC, Targeting the worst forms of child labour in commercial agriculture in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, TPR, technical progress report, Geneva, March 10, 2005, 1.

2940 The 3-year project was funded in 2005. See ILO-IPEC, Country Programme to Combat Child Labour in Malawi, project document, Geneva, September 2005.

2941 Winrock International, Child Labor Reduction through Community-Based Education, [online] 2005 [cited December 20, 2005]; available from http://www.winrock.org/where/display_country.cfm?ID=5544&CountryID=1280.

2942 The Labor Commissioner chairs the committee. Membership includes government, donors, workers, employers, representatives and civil society organizations. See ILO-IPEC, Baseline Survey Report, 49.

2943 CEACR, Observation, Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Malawi (ratification: 1999), Geneva, 2003; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/. See also ILO-IPEC, Baseline Survey Report, 50.

2944 U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, August 23, 2005.

2945 Ibid.

2946 Ibid.

2947 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary record of the 765th meeting: Malawi, Geneva, January 31, 2002, Paras. 20 and 54; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/TBS/doc.nsf/e121f32fbc58faafc1256a2a0027ba24/1e631bcfbb5f333ec1256b5a005a5c68?OpenDocument.

2948 U.S. Embassy – Lilongwe, reporting, August 23, 2005.

2949 The committee began developing a national anti-trafficking action plan, but efforts were stalled due to lack of data on human trafficking. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi.

2950 Ibid.

2951 Ibid. See also Integrated Regional Information Networks, "MALAWI: New child welfare plan gives stakeholders common platform", IRINnews.org, [online], June 21, 2005 [cited June 21, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=47747.

2952 See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Malawi, Section 5.

2953 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Malawi.

2954 Ibid.

2955 Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Vision for Education, [online] n.d. [cited June 30, 2005]; available from http://www.malawi.gov.mw/educ/educvis.htm. This education strategy is intended to update and improve the Education Policy and Investment Framework developed in 1995, which outlined education policy over a 10-year period in an attempt to accommodate free primary education and other reforms. See Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Role of Education in National Development, [online] n.d. [cited June 30, 2005]; available from http://www.malawi.gov.mw/educ/educrole.htm. See also Kadzamira and Rose, Educational Policy Choice and Policy Practice in Malawi, 8.

2956 World Bank, Education Sector Support Project 1, in World Bank, [online] n.d. [cited December 16, 2005]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64027221&piPK=64027220&theSitePK=355870&menuPK=355904&P rojectid=P070823.

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