Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cameroon

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cameroon, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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
Population, children, 10-14 years, 2001:2,056,541
Working children, 10-14 years (%), 2001:15.9
Working boys, 10-14 years (%), 2001:14.5
Working girls, 10-14 years (%), 2001:17.4
Working children by sector, 10-14 years (%), 2001:
     – Agriculture88.2
     – Manufacturing2.1
     – Services7.1
     – Other2.6
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:109.6
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 10-14 years (%), 2001:84.6
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:84.3
ILO Convention 138:8/13/2001
ILO Convention 182:6/5/2002
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Cameroon work on family farms and on tea, banana, rubber, and palm oil plantations. Children also fish and raise livestock. The majority of working children are found in the urban informal sector. Some of these children are displaced or street children who live in cities such as Yaoundé and Douala. These children work as street vendors (selling goods such as tissues and water), car washers, luggage carriers, and domestic servants.

Many children work in hazardous labor conditions on cocoa farms, including handling pesticides and sharp tools; tilling soil; and harvesting and transporting cocoa beans. These children report working long hours and illness due to the activities they perform. Children also work in mines and quarries, carrying sand and breaking stones.

The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Cameroon and especially the north. While some boys receive lessons, many are forced to beg and surrender the money that they have earned. Girls are engaged in forced domestic labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Some children are also exploited in the production of pornography or commercial sex tourism. Reports indicate that hereditary servitude persists in Northern regions of Cameroon.

Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked children for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Most of the trafficking in Cameroon occurs internally. Children are trafficked from northern regions to central, southwestern, and other regions to work on cocoa farms and work on the streets. Children are also trafficked internally for forced labor in restaurants and bars and on tea plantations. Girls are trafficked from the provinces of Adamawa, North, Far North, and Northwest to the cities of Yaoundé and Douala for domestic labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

Children are also trafficked to Cameroon from Benin, Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo, and Niger, for forced labor in agriculture, fishing, street vending, and spare-parts shops. Cameroon also serves as a transit country for children trafficked between Gabon and Nigeria, and from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for admission to work in Cameroon is 14 years, which is the same minimum age for entering into an apprenticeship. Children are prohibited from working longer than 8 hours a day in the industrial sector. The Labor Code specifies that children cannot work in any job that exceeds their physical capacity, and the labor inspectors can require child laborers to take a medical exam to determine if such a situation exists. Further, the law stipulates the weight a child can carry by age and by activity. Children are prohibited from working underground, including in mines and quarries. Work in restaurants, hotels, and bars is also forbidden. Violations of child labor provisions are punishable by fines.

Cameroonian law prohibits procuring prostitutes or sharing the profits from another person's prostitution and sets the penalty as a fine and imprisonment for 6 months to 5 years, which may double if the crime involves a person less than 21 years.

The law also prohibits slavery and servitude. The penalty for a person who subjects a child to debt bondage is 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine. Cameroon's anti-trafficking law defines child trafficking as the act of moving or helping to move a child within or outside Cameroon to reap financial or material benefit. The law requires authorization from a parent in order for a child to travel. Under the law, individuals who traffic or enslave a child are subject to a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years and a fine; if the child is under 15 years or if the offender is the victim's parent, the penalty increases to 15 to 20 years of imprisonment. Military service is not compulsory in Cameroon. While the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 18 years, children under 18 years can participate in military service with parental consent.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and the Ministry of Social Insurance are responsible for enforcing the child labor laws, through their 58 labor inspectors. However, according to USDOS, resources were insufficient to carryout effective inspections. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms is charged with investigating human rights abuses and the Minors Brigade is responsible for investigating child trafficking cases. During the reporting period, the police arrested three traffickers attempting to traffic seven children for the purpose of labor exploitation. According to USDOS, the Government of Cameroon has made an effort to monitor its borders for trafficking.

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

During the reporting period, the Government of Cameroon cooperated with other governments, including the Governments of Gabon, Nigeria, Togo, and Benin to combat trafficking. For the first time, the Government granted the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms a budget of its own, worth USD 1 million. In September 2008, a prefecture passed a law forbidding the production, sale, and distribution of literature, film and other pornographic materials. The Government appoints Child Parliamentarians to provide recommendations on issues related to children. While resolutions by the Child Parliamentarians are not legally binding, during the reporting period the Child Parliamentarians passed resolutions to protect children from trafficking.

The Government of Cameroon and UNICEF continued to implement their 2008 to 2012 cooperation agreement that includes the protection and provision of services to child trafficking victims. In addition, the Government continued to support shelters that received trafficked children. With support from the Red Cross, the Government also provided assistance to victims of commercial sexual exploitation, focusing its efforts on the cities of Yaoundé and Douala.

During the reporting period, the Ministry of Social Affairs expanded a program that provided shelter, psycho-social care, and other services to street children. The Ministry opened additional programs for street children in the Far North and South West Provinces.

During the reporting period, 600 Cameroonian peacekeeping soldiers participated in a USG-funded training that included topics on combating commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Government law enforcement officers and magistrates also participated in training sessions on how to investigate and prosecute traffickers. The training sessions were held by the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms and American Bar Association. In addition, the Minors Brigade continued to maintain a 24-hour hotline service.

With support from UNICEF, Plan International, and the ILO, the Government of Cameroon continued its awareness-raising activities to prevent child labor and trafficking, which included broadcasting messages on the radio and television. For example, the Government, with support from ILO continued its "Red Card" campaign against child labor, which included advertisements by popular soccer players.

The Government of Cameroon continues to participate in the 4-year Phase II Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), funded by USAID, the World Cocoa Foundation, and the international cocoa industry. The STCP is a public-private partnership that promotes sustainable tree crop systems including coffee, cocoa, and cashews, and contains a component to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor on farms. During the reporting period, the Government also distributed vocational tool kits to children who had been withdrawn from exploitive labor in the cocoa sector and placed in rehabilitation centers.

The Government participates in a 2-year regional project funded by Italy at USD 1 million and implemented by ILO-IPEC. The project aims to support the development of national action plans.

The Government of Cameroon is also participating in a 4-year USDOL-funded USD 6.8 million ILO-IPEC project to conduct data collection on child labor.

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