Last Updated: Monday, 20 October 2014, 15:44 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Niger

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 - Niger, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748ff4d.html [accessed 21 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     12/4/1978
Ratified Convention 182     10/23/2000
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 66.2 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were counted as working in Niger in 2000. Approximately 71.8 percent of all boys 5 to 14 were working compared to 60.6 percent of girls in the same age group.3412 Children work primarily in the urban informal and agricultural sectors.3413 Children in rural areas mainly work on family farms gathering water or firewood, pounding grain, tending animals, or working in the fields.3414 Children as young as 6 years old are reported to work on grain farms in the southwest.3415 Children also shine shoes; guard cars; work as apprentices for artisans, tailors, and mechanics; perform domestic work; and work as porters and street beggars.3416 Children work in hazardous conditions in small trona,3417 salt, gypsum, and gold mines and quarries as well as in slaughterhouses. In 2000, the ILO estimated that 57 percent of the workers in small quarries in Niger were children. Some 250,000 children were estimated to be working in this sector.3418 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 1995, the most recent year for which data are available, 60.6 percent of the population in Niger were living on less than USD 1 a day.3419

Children also are exploited in prostitution and drug trafficking. In the shantytowns that spring up around mines, there are reports that girls as young as 10 are vulnerable to exploitation in prostitution and that both boys and girls are exploited in drug trafficking.3420

Traditional forms of caste-based servitude still exist in isolated parts of Niger,3421 although estimates on the exact number of Nigeriens involved vary. In addition to being subjected to social discrimination, many are forced into labor of various forms.3422 Children's' caste standing often determines the sort of work in which they engage. Depending on the region, slave-caste children's work is likely to be agricultural or domestic in nature, while other children are involved in cattle rearing, leather, wood, or iron-working.3423

Niger serves as a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for domestic service and commercial labor, including commercial sexual exploitation.3424 Some Koranic teachers indenture young boys for manual labor and to send them to beg in the streets.3425

Primary education is free and compulsory for six years.3426 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 44 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 38 percent.3427 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, 31.1 percent of children ages 5 to14 years were attending school.3428 As of 2001, 69 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade five.3429 Among the challenges faced by the Nigerien education system are outdated primary teaching methodologies, pre-school education that is restricted primarily to urban areas, negative parental attitudes towards Nigerien education, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of supplies.3430 Children are often made to work rather than attend school, particularly during planting or harvesting periods. In addition, nomadic children in northern parts of the country often do not have the opportunity to attend school.3431 Slave caste children's enrollment in school is decided by their masters. In some cases, slave caste children are allowed to attend school, but their masters can withdraw them at will for work or to give away or sell.3432 As with other nomadic children, however, the primary constraint facing slave caste children is lack of access to schools.3433

Education initiatives were temporarily threatened by the food security emergency that forced families to migrate in search of pasture and food in 2004 and 2005.3434

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years, although children between 12 and 14 years of age may work with special authorization. Children 14 to 18 years old may not work for more than 4.5 hours per day nor in industrial jobs.3435 The law also requires that employers guarantee minimum sanitary working conditions for children.3436 The Labor Code prohibits forced and bonded labor, except for work by legally-convicted prisoners.3437

The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Niger. Niger's 2003 Anti-Slavery Law outlaws all forms of slavery and provides for a prison sentence of 10 to 30 years and a fine for violations.3438 The minimum age for conscription into the military is 18 years old.3439 The Penal Code criminalizes the procurement of a minor for the purpose of prostitution.3440 Since 1999, the Government of Niger has submitted to the ILO a list or an equivalent document identifying the types of work that it has determined are harmful to the health, safety or morals of children under Convention 182 or Convention 138.3441

The Ministry of Labor is charged with enforcing labor laws, but has very limited resources with which to do so.3442 The Ministry of Labor has approximately 30 inspectors deployed nation-wide. They are responsible for investigating cases of child labor, but are also responsible for enforcing all other elements of the labor code as well. As part of a recent project to aid the Government of Niger's fight against child labor, the ILO trained 50 Ministry of Labor inspectors. Each inspector is responsible for the design and implementation of a project on child labor.3443

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

The Ministry of Labor continued its work with ILO-IPEC and UNICEF on a child labor program to determine the extent of the problem in the four areas of gold mines, slaughterhouses, street children, and agriculture on the Niger River.3444 As a result the Ministry of Mines is cooperating in a regional ILO-IPEC project to remove children from the artisanal gold mining in two sites in Niger.3445 In 2003, the ILO – Government of Niger cooperative project was successful in eliminating child labor from the Niamey slaughterhouse. The project withdrew children from the labor force and reinserted them into schools and vocational training programs.3446 A child labor network headed by UNICEF and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has been organized and will meet on a quarterly basis.3447 The Government of Niger is also participating in a 4-year USD 2 million USDOL Education Initiative project designed to combat child labor through education.3448 The program has already provided direct benefits to child laborers and at-risk children, while providing indirect benefits to others who attend the program's schools. The Government of Niger's Ministry of Basic Education has assisted the project by providing teachers and working with the implementing partners on teacher training and curricula reform. Slave-caste children have been included in the community schools in their regions, and parents of at-risk children have benefited from connected income generating activities. The government has also taken steps on anti-trafficking measures including training on trafficking victim identification and public education sessions, and has signed a Multilateral Agreement on Child Trafficking.3449 In March 2005, the government began to educate communities on the new Anti-Slavery Law, including the rights of victims.3450

Education is a cornerstone of the country's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper under the IMF's Enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.3451 The goals of this initiative include increasing primary school enrollment and completion rates, especially among girls, as well as enrollment in rural secondary schools.3452 UNICEF is also supporting government education efforts to improve primary education through programs like the African Girls' Education Initiative, as well as general improvements to educational infrastructure and curricula.3453 WFP is also active in Niger, implementing activities to increase enrollment and attendance in primary schools through a school feeding program.3454


3412 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and Work 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.

3413 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in Niger and Senegal, ICFTU, Geneva, September 24, 2003; available from http://www.icftu.org/www/pdf/nigersenegalclsreport.pdf.

3414 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Niger, Washington, D.C., February 28, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41619.htm.

3415 Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Niger: Child Labour Project Launched", IRINnews.org, [online], September 13, 2001 [cited May 27, 2004]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=11374.

3416 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Examen des Rapports Présentés par les États Parties en Application de l'Article 44 de la Convention, Rapports initiaux devant être soumis en 1992, Niger, CRC/C/3/Add.29/Rev. 1, Geneva, October 17 2001, para. 381. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003; Niger, Section 6d.

3417 Trona is a mineral used as a source of sodium compounds.

3418 Soumaila Alfa, Child Labour in Small-Scale Mines in Niger, Sector Publication, ILO, Geneva, September 28, 2000; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/sector/papers/childmin/137e1.htm#Niger. See also U.S. Embassy – Niamey, reporting, August 15, 2003.

3419 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

3420 Alfa, Child Labour in Small-Scale Mines in Niger. See also U.S. Embassy – Niamey, unclassified telegram no. 1166.

3421 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 6c.

3422 U.S. Embassy – Niamey Official, email correspondence to USDOL Official, July 31, 2006.

3423 U.S. Embassy – Niamey Official, email correspondence to USDOL Official, July 31, 2006. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 6c. See also Moustapha Kadi Oumani: Un Tabou Brise, L'Esclavage En Afrique, Cas du Niger, L'Harmattan, Paris, 2005. See also Galy Kadir Abdelkader, ed., Slavery in Niger: Historical, Legal, and Contemporary Perspectives, Slavery International and Association Timidira, March 2004, 2004. See also The Economist, "Still With Us," The Economist, March 9, 2005; available from http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_id=S%27%29%280%2FQ%21%3F%26%20%40%224%0A&tranMode=none.

3424 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Niger, Washington, D.C., June 11, 2004. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 5.

3425 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Niger, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46614.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 6d.

3426 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Niamey official, email communication to USDOL official, October 4, 2005.

3427 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrollment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005).

3428 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and Work Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates. A large number of children, particularly in rural areas, are not registered at birth. See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Niger, Geneva, June 13 2002.

3429 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=55 (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

3430 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Rapports initiaux, para. 302, 303, 305, 306. See also Abdelkader, Slavery in Niger.

3431 U.S. Embassy – Niamey, reporting, July 2000.

3432 Masters often give slave caste children away when their own daughter marries and receive, as part of her trousseau, a slave caste boy or girl to take to her new home. See Abdelkader, Slavery in Niger. See also Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Niger: The Government Says Slavery No Longer Exists, the Slaves Disagree", June 24 2005; available from http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=47813&SelectRegion=West_Africa&SelectCountry=NIGER.

3433 U.S. Embassy – Niamey Official, email communication to USDOL Official, July 31, 2006.

3434 Combating Exploitive Child Labor through Education in Niger, Catholic Relief Services, Niamey, March 28 2005. The food crisis had been corrected by October 2005 as harvests were coming in. See U.S. Embassy – Niamey official, email communication, October 4, 2005.

3435 U.S. Embassy – Niamey, reporting, February 1998.

3436 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 6d.

3437 Despite these legal proscriptions, a traditional caste system is practiced by some ethnic minorities, which promotes slave-like relationships between the upper and lower castes. See International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Core Labour Standards in Niger and Senegal, 8-9. Forced child labor does occur. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 6d.

3438 Du crime d'esclavage, Special No 4, (April 7, 2004).

3439 US Embassy Niamey, email communication, October 4, 2005.

3440 The penalty for procuring a minor is two to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 5,000,000 francs (USD 91.05 to 9,105.03). See Government of Niger, Criminal Code: Chapter VIII – Offenses Against Public Morals, as cited in The Protection Project Legal Library, [database online], Articles 291 and 292; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/statutesPDF/NigerF.pdf. Universal Currency Converter, in XE.com, [online] [cited October 4, 2005]; available from http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi.

3441 ILO-IPEC official, email communication to USDOL official, November 14, 2005.

3442 As of August 2003, there were only 8 labor inspectors in the country, one for each region. U.S. Embassy – Niamey, reporting.

3443 U.S. Embassy Niamey, reporting.

3444 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Niger, Section 6d.

3445 ILO-IPEC, Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour in Mining in West Africa Project Document, Geneva, September 20, 2005 2005.

3446 U.S. Embassy Niamey, reporting.

3447 Combating Exploitive Child Labor through Education in Niger, 2.

3448 Ibid.

3449 U.S. Embassy – Niamey, reporting, November 2005.

3450 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Niger.

3451 Republic of Niger, Full Poverty Reduction Strategy, Niamey, January 2002, 62. See also U.S. Embassy – Niamey, reporting, October 2001.

3452 Republic of Niger, Poverty Reduction Strategy, 62.

3453 UNICEF, UNICEF – At a Glance: Niger – The Big Picture, [online] [cited May 27, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/niger.html.

3454 WFP, World Hunger – Niger, [online] [cited June 17, 2004]; available from http://www.wfp.org/country_brief/indexcountry.asp?country=562.

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