Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 11:48 GMT

2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tunisia

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 - Tunisia, 29 April 2004, available at: [accessed 19 October 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

In 1992, the Government of Tunisia established a multi-sectoral National Plan of Action for the Survival, Protection, and Development of the Child.[4378] The Ministry of Youth and Children, Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity, Ministry of Education and Training, and the National Institution for the Protection of Children were among the participants in the development of the plan.[4379] In April 2002, a law completing the Child Protection Code was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, creating a "Parliament of the Child" that teaches children civic responsibility.[4380] In September of the same year, the Cabinet was reorganized, and two ministries were given responsibility for children's rights, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood Affairs, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Leisure.[4381]

In 2000, the World Bank approved a USD 99 million loan for an Education Quality Improvement Project designed to facilitate the Ministry of Education's efforts to promote primary and secondary education. This project targets students at these levels who are at risk of dropping out of school or repeating classes.[4382] UNICEF is working with the government to implement educational projects, including gender-based initiatives, and promote children's rights.[4383] UNICEF is also coordinating with the World Bank and the European Union to promote quality education and support priority education zones.[4384]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, UNICEF estimated that 2.1 percent of the children ages 5 to 15 years in Tunisia were working.[4385] Slightly more boys than girls were working, and the incidence of children who worked in the rural areas was also higher than in urban areas.[4386] Approximately 71.4 percent of working children worked more than 4 hours perday, and over half worked during school hours, which was found to increase the risk of dropout from or failure in school. Nearly half of working children who were paid for their services spent their salaries on family necessities.[4387] Children work in rural agriculture and as vendors in urban areas, mainly during school vacations.[4388] There are also reports of child labor in the handicraft industry disguised as apprenticeships, and of families placing teenage girls as household domestics in order to collect their wages.[4389]

Education is compulsory and free between the ages of 6 and 16.[4390] In 2000, approximately 96 percent of 6 year old children were enrolled in school.[4391] In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 117.3 percent (114.7 percent for girls and 119.8 percent for boys) and the net primary enrollment rate was 99.2 percent.[4392] In 2000, 94.4 percent of children ages 6 to 12 attended school. Attendance in urban areas is higher than in rural areas (97.2 percent and 90.5 percent respectively).[4393] The attendance rate for adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 years was 66.1 percent.[4394] In 1999, 93.1 percent of children enrolled in primary school reached grade 5.[4395]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code of 1966 sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years with a number of exceptions.[4396] The age of 13 years is set for light agricultural and light non-industrial work, provided that the work does not pose a health hazard or interfere with the child's development or education.[4397] Under the Labor Code, children may work as apprentices or through vocational training programs at age 14.[4398] In addition, children under 16 years of age may work in family-run businesses as long as the work does not interfere with school or pose a threat to the child's health.[4399] The age of 18 years is established for hazardous work.[4400] The hours that children below the age of 18 are permitted to work are regulated by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity.[4401] In 1995, the Government of Tunisia passed the Child Protection Code, which protects children under 18 years from abuse and exploitation, including participation in wars or armed conflicts, prostitution, and hazardous labor conditions.[4402] Labor inspectors from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity are responsible for enforcing labor laws, including child labor laws.[4403] Forced and bonded labor by children is prohibited by law, and the prohibition is generally effectively enforced.[4404]

The Government of Tunisia ratified ILO Convention 138 on October 19, 1995 and ILO Convention 182 on February 28, 2000.[4405]

[4378] Government of Tunisia, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) Report: Tunisia, UNICEF, 2000, 7 [cited August 11, 2003]; available from

[4379] Ibid., 7-8.

[4380] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Tunisia, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 5; available from

[4381] A secretary of state in each ministry is responsible for guaranteeing children's rights. See Ibid.

[4382] World Bank, Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Loan in the Amount of US $99 Million to the Republic of Tunisia for the First Phase of the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQIP), [online] 2000 [cited August 11, 2003]; available from See also World Bank, Education Quality Improvement Project, November 5, 2003 [cited November 5, 2003]; available from

[4383] UNICEF's 1997-2001 Programme of Cooperation includes health, education, and children's rights components. See UNICEF, UNICEF in Tunisia, [online] 2001 [cited August 29, 2002]; available from UNICEF Global Girls' Education Program is implemented in specific regions of Tunisia to assist teachers to reduce gender disparities in learning achievement. See UNICEF, Global Girl's Education Programme: Country Highlights, [previously online] 2000 [cited August 29, 2002]; available from [hard copy on file].

[4384] UNICEF, At a glance: Tunisia, [online] August 10, 2003 [cited August 11, 2003]; available from

[4385] Children who are working in some capacity include children who have performed any paid or unpaid work for someone who is not a member of the household, who have performed more than four hours of housekeeping chores in the household, or who have performed other family work. See Government of Tunisia, MICS Report: Tunisia, 83.

[4386] Ibid.

[4387] Ibid., 89-90.

[4388] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Tunisia, Section 6d.

[4389] Ibid.

[4390] Ibid., Section 5. See also UN, Country Profiles on the Situation of Youth: Tunisia, [database online] [cited June 19, 2003]; available from

[4391] Government of Tunisia, MICS Report: Tunisia, 67.

[4392] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[4393] Government of Tunisia, MICS Report: Tunisia, 69.

[4394] Ibid., 70.

[4395] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003.

[4396] Code du Travail, 1966, Loi no. 66-27, (April 30, 1966), Article 53 [cited August 12, 2003]; available from

[4397] Children under 16 years my not engage in light non-industrial and light non-agricultural work for more than two hours per day, and the combined time spent in school and at work cannot exceed seven hours per day. See Ibid., Articles 55-56.

[4398] Ibid., Articles 52-53.

[4399] Ibid., Article 54.

[4400] Ibid., Article 58. This article prohibits work that is a danger to the health, safety, or morality of children, and authorizes the Ministry of Social Affairs to determine the jobs that fall in this category. See also U.S. Embassy-Tunis, unclassified telegram no. 2138, August 2003.

[4401] Code du Travail, Article 65. Article 65 prohibits children under 14 years of age from working in nonagricultural jobs between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Article 66 prohibits children between 14 and 18 years of age from working in non-agricultural jobs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. For agricultural work, Article 74 states that children under 18 years must have fixed rest periods and cannot work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

[4402] Loi No. 95-92, 1995, Relative a la publication du code de la protection de l'enfant, (November 9, 1995), Articles 2, 18, 20, 25, and 26 [cited December 18, 2002]; available from See also U.S. Embassy-Tunis, unclassified telegram no. 2138.

[4403] Code du Travail, Articles 170-71.

[4404] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Tunisia, Section 6d.

[4405] ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited July 1, 2003]; available from

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