Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 18 April 2003
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2002 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea, 18 April 2003, available at: [accessed 12 December 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 Eritrea's Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare (MLHW) is working in cooperation with UNICEF to implement community sensitization activities on children's rights.1339 Another MLHW program, designed to prevent and rehabilitate commercial sex workers, includes a component that assists in advocacy for the eradication of commercial sexual exploitation of children, and helps to reintegrate and rehabilitate victims and provide them with self-help opportunities.1340

The government has also initiated programs to construct new schools in remote villages, increase the number of teachers, and increase the enrollment and retention of girls.1341 UNICEF is promoting access to education in war-affected areas by rehabilitating schools, providing learning materials to displaced children, establishing makeshift classrooms, facilitating school lunch programs, and training teachers.1342 The government, in conjunction with the World Bank, is implementing a five-year, USD 49 million "Integrated Early Childhood Development Project" designed to improve childhood care and education, address child health issues, and provide support for children in need of special care and protection.1343

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, the ILO estimated that 38.4 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Eritrea were working.1344 Children work as street vendors, traders, in domestic services, in small-scale manufacturing, and on family farms.1345 Some children are involved in small-scale gold mining.1346

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.1347 A 1999 MLHW survey on commercial sex workers revealed that 5 percent of prostitutes surveyed in Eritrea were aged 14 to 17 years.1348 Eritrean children are reportedly trafficked to Saudi Arabia to work as domestic servants and menial laborers.1349 In addition, children reportedly fought as soldiers with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front. Insufficient birth registrations make it difficult to verify the ages of recruited soldiers.1350

Education is free and compulsory through grade seven.1351 In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 53.2 percent; 58.3 percent of boys and 48.1 percent of girls. The net primary enrollment rate was 33.9 percent.1352 The Ministry of Education estimates that only 37 to 38 percent of children attend school.1353

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Transitional Labor Law No. 8/91 sets the minimum age for employment at 18 years, but allows for the employment of apprentices starting at the age of 14 years.1354 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 seven hours per day.1355 Apprentices under 18 years of age are prohibited from performing dangerous and abusive labor.1356 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.1357

The 1996 Constitution prohibits forced labor, but the National Service Proclamation obligates that all citizens complete compulsory service in the national armed forces.1358 The National Service Proclamation sets the minimum age for military service at 18 years and requires 18 months of duty.1359 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 old.1360 Labor inspectors in the MLHW are charged with enforcing the child labor laws, but inspections are infrequent due to the small number of inspectors.1361

The Government of Eritrea ratified ILO Convention 138 on February 22, 2000, but has not ratified ILO Convention 182.1362

1339 Coalition to End the Use of Child Soldiers, "Eritrea," in Global Report 2001, "Prevention" [cited December 20, 2002]; available from

1340 Ibid.

1341 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, [cited December 12, 2002]; available from

1342 UNICEF, Donor Update: Eritrea, June 20, 2002.

1343 World Bank, Eritrea: Integrated Early Childhood Development Project, January 10, 2000, [cited December 12, 2002]; available from

1344 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2002.

1345 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001: Eritrea, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2002, 248-49, Section 6d [cited December 12, 2002]; available from 8370.htm.

1346 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 [cited September 24, 2002]; available from 717680F5A685BC89C12569F500391EAC/$file/SCF-Situation+of+Separated+Chil.pdf.

1347 Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Eritrea: Sex Case With Military Prosecutor's Office",, [online], August 29, 2001 [cited November 28, 2001]; available from

1348 ECPAT International, Eritrea, in ECPAT International, [database online] [cited September 3, 2002], "Child Prostitution"; available from

1349 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2002: Saudi Arabia, Washington, D.C., June 5, 2002, [cited December 12, 2002]; available from

1350 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 border conflict in recent years, hundreds of children were used as soldiers ("Red Flags") during the 30-year war for independence. Coalition to End the Use of Child Soldiers, "Eritrea." See also Integrated Regional Information Network, "Ethiopia-Eritrea: End to Use of Child Soldiers Urged",, July 11, 2000, [cited December 27, 2002]; available from report.asp?ReportID=2837&SelectRegion=Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=ETHIOPIA-ERITREA.

1351 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2001: Eritrea, 247-48, Section 5. See also Youth at the United Nations, Country Profiles on the Situation of Youth: Eritrea, [cited November 28, 2001]; available from socdev/unyin/countrya.asp?countrycode=er. See also UNESCO, Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports-Eritrea, prepared by Ministry of Education, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 52/84, September 1999, [cited December 12, 2002]; available from

1352 The net primary enrollment rate was 31.4 percent for girls and 36.4 percent for boys. See World Bank, World Development Indicators 2002.

1353 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2001: Eritrea, 247-48, Section 5.

1354 Government of Eritrea, Transitional Labour Law No. 8/91, Articles 2, 27, 30, 32, as cited in Veronica Rentmeesters, Information Officer, Embassy of Eritrea, letter to USDOL official, August 23, 1996.

1355 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, unclassified telegram no. 1447, October 2, 2002.

1356 Ibid.

1357 Ibid.

1358 Government of Eritrea, Constitution of Eritrea, 1996, [cited September 24, 2002]; available from

1359 Government of Eritrea, National Service Proclamation No. 82/95, (October 23, 1995), Articles 8, 9 as cited in Global Report 2001: Eritrea.

1360 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. ECPAT International, Eritrea, "Protection".

1361 U.S. Embassy – Asmara, unclassified telegram no. 1447. Laws on commercial sexual exploitation are also reported to be poorly enforced and inadequate. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 2001: Eritrea, 248-49, Section 6d. See also ECPAT International, Eritrea, "Protection".

1362 ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited September 3, 2002]; available from

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