Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 April 2004
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea, 29 April 2004, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
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.

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

The Government of the State of Eritrea, through its Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare (MLHW), has been carrying out community awareness raising activities in the area of children's rights as well as implementing educational access and vocational training programs.[1601] The 2000 National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Commercial Sex Workers in Eritrea outlines awareness raising, teacher training, vocational education, counseling, and inspection strategies that the government is pursuing to prevent child prostitution.[1602] The Ministry of Education works in partnership with Mercy Corps on a USDA-funded school feeding program aimed at improving school enrollment, attendance, and performance and has hired and trained two field monitors to assist in program monitoring and evaluation.[1603]

The government has initiated programs to construct new schools in remote villages, increase the number of teachers, and raise the enrollment and retention level of girls.[1604] In 2003, under a USAID-funded girls' scholarship pilot project, 80 middle school girls in two regions of Eritrea received financial support, materials, and tutoring services. In addition, a community awareness campaign was undertaken in several communities to promote the importance of girls' education.[1605] The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been translated into several local languages and has been circulated it widely.[1606] The government has provided training to social workers working with vulnerable children, provided rehabilitation and counseling programs for children affected by war, and initiated a program to reintegrate vulnerable children and orphans into their extended families.[1607]

The government is implementing the "Integrated Early Childhood Development Project" with USD 4 million of its own money, a USD 40 million loan from the World Bank, and a USD 5 million grant from the Government of Italy. The project is designed to improve childcare and education, address child health issues, and provide support for children in need of special care and protection.[1608] UNICEF is promoting access to education in war-affected areas by rehabilitating schools, providing learning materials to displaced children, establishing makeshift classrooms, facilitating school feeding programs, and training teachers.[1609] UNICEF also promotes girls education through awareness-raising activities, gender-sensitive curriculum development, capacity building, improving school infrastructure, and training for female teachers.[1610]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2001, the ILO estimated that 38.2 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Eritrea were working.[1611] Children work as street vendors, traders, in domestic services, in small-scale manufacturing, and on family farms.[1612] Some children have been reported to be involved in small-scale gold mining.[1613]

Children as young as 12 years of age are reportedly involved in prostitution on the streets of Massawa and Asmara, as well as in hotels and bars.[1614] A 1999 MLHW survey on commercial sex workers revealed that 5 percent of prostitutes surveyed in Eritrea were between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. The presence of troops and peacekeepers associated with the UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) has reportedly increased children's participation in commercial sexual exploitation in Eritrea.[1615] In addition, due to insufficient birth registrations, children reportedly fought as soldiers with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front during the war for independence and the recent conflict from 1998 to 2000.[1616] However, there were no reports in 2002 that the government had recruited children under the age of 18 as soldiers.[1617]

Education is free and compulsory through grade seven.[1618] In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 59.5 percent; 65.3 percent for boys and 53.6 percent for girls. The net primary enrollment rate was 41.0 percent.[1619] The Ministry of Education estimated that only 38 percent of children attend school.[1620]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Transitional Labor Law No. 8/91 sets the minimum age for employment at 18 years, and allows for the employment of apprentices starting at the age of 14 years.[1621] The Labor Proclamation of Eritrea (Proclamation No. 118) provides that no person under the age of 14 may be employed, that young employees may not work between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and that young employees may not work more than 7 hours per day.[1622] Apprentices under 18 years of age are prohibited from performing dangerous and abusive labor.[1623] Proclamation No. 118 bars children, young workers and apprentices from working in transport industries, including warehouses or docks where heavy lifting, pushing or pulling is required; in jobs involving toxic chemicals, dangerous machines or power generation and transmission; or in underground work, including mines, sewers and tunnels.[1624]

The 1996 Constitution prohibits forced labor. Articles 8 and 9 in the National Service Proclamation (No.83/95, 23 October 1995) sets the minimum age for military service at 18 years and requires 18 months of duty.[1625] The Penal Code prohibits the procurement, seduction, or trafficking of children under the age of 18, and also bans sexual relations with children under 18 years.[1626] Labor inspectors in the MLHW are charged with enforcing the child labor laws, but inspections are infrequent due to the small number of inspectors.[1627]

The Government of Eritrea ratified ILO Convention 138 on February 22, 2000, but has not ratified ILO Convention 182.[1628]

[1601] ECPAT International, Eritrea, ECPAT International, [database online] [cited June 18, 2003]; available from

[1602] Ibid.

[1603] U.S. Department of Agriculture, The Global Food for Education Pilot Program, Report to the United States Congress, February, 2003, Eritrea; available from See also Relief Web, Mercy Corps and AGECA team up to feed Eritrean school children, October 25, 2002 [cited June 16, 2003]; available from

[1604] Minister of Labour and Human Welfare of the State of Eritrea, H.E. Mrs. Askalu Mekerious, Statement at the United Nations Special Session on Children, May 9, 2002; available from

[1605] U.S. Embassy-Asmara, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 24, 2004.

[1606] Statement at the United Nations Special Session on Children. See also ECPAT International, Eritrea.

[1607] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports of States Parties, CRC/C/SR.866, United Nations, Geneva, June 2, 2003, para.2, 3.

[1608] World Bank, Eritrea: Integrated Early Childhood Development Project, January 10, 2000; available from See also Ephrem Habtetsion, Eritrea: Towards Enhanced Early Childhood Education, Shaebia, October 25, 2002 [cited March 5, 2003]; available from

[1609] UNICEF, Donor Update: Eritrea, June 20, 2002.

[1610] UNICEF, Girls Education in Eritrea, [online] 2003 [cited March 5, 2003]; available from

[1611] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[1612] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Eritrea, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 6d; available from See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Eritrea, United Nations, Geneva, June 6, 2003, para.55.

[1613] The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare, United Nations Children's Fund, and Save the Children (UK), The Situation of Separated Children in IDP Camps in Eritrea, July – September 2000, 22; available from$file/SCF-Situation+of+Separated+Chil.pdf.

[1614] Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Eritrea: Sex Case With Military Prosecutor's Office",, [online], August 29, 2001 [cited November 28, 2001]; available from See also ECPAT International, Eritrea.

[1615] ECPAT International, Eritrea.

[1616] Children as young as age 14 were reportedly used as Eritrean troop reinforcements to counter a May 2000 attack by Ethiopia. At the 1999 African Conference to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, the Ethiopian Government also circulated a list of Eritrean prisoners of war between ages 15 and 18. Prior to the conflict in 1998-2000, children were used as soldiers ("Red Flags") during the 30-year war for independence. See Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Eritrea," in Global Report 2001; available from See also Integrated Regional Information Network, "Ethiopia-Eritrea: End to Use of Child Soldiers Urged",, July 11, 2000 [cited April 18, 2003]; available from

[1617] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2002: Eritrea, Section 6d. This is the most recent year for which such information is available.

[1618] Ibid., Section 5. See also Youth at the United Nations, Country Profiles on the Situation of Youth: Eritrea, United Nations; available from See also U.S. Embassy-Asmara, unclassified telegram no. 1447, October 2, 2002.

[1619] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003.

[1620] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2002: Eritrea, Section 5.

[1621] Government of Eritrea, Transitional Labour Law No. 8/91, Articles 2, 27, 30, 32, as cited in U.S. Embassy-Asmara official, letter to USDOL official, August 23, 1996.

[1622] U.S. Embassy-Asmara, unclassified telegram no. 1447. See also The U.S. Commercial Service, ERITREA COUNTRY COMMERCIAL GUIDE FY2002, U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State, 2001, Chapter 7; available from

[1623] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2002: Eritrea, Section 6d.

[1624] U.S. Embassy-Asmara, unclassified telegram no. 1447.

[1625] Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Eritrea."

[1626] Committing indecent acts with a child under age 15 is a criminal offense punishable by five years of imprisonment. Sexual acts with children between ages 15 and 18 are also prohibited, although the penalty is less severe. See ECPAT International, Eritrea. See also The Protection Project, Human Rights Report: Eritrea, [online] 2003 [cited June 6, 2003], Law and Law Enforcement; available from

[1627] U.S. Embassy-Asmara, Eritrea.

[1628] ILOLEX, Ratifications of the Fundamental human rights Conventions by country in Africa, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited April 29, 2003]; available from

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