Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 13:56 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Uganda

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 - Uganda, 29 August 2006, available at: [accessed 16 January 2018]
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     3/25/2003
Ratified Convention 182     6/21/2001
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

The Ugandan Bureau of Statistics estimated that 33.9 percent of children in Uganda ages 5 to 14 years were working in 2000-01.4781 Child work is common, especially in the informal sector. In urban areas, children sell small items on the streets, work in shops, beg for money, or are involved in the commercial sex industry. In rural areas, children work in agriculture, including the harvesting of tea.4782 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 1999, the most recent year for which data are available, 84.9 percent of the population of Uganda were living on less than USD 1 a day.4783

According to the U.S. Department of State, trafficking in persons is a serious problem in Uganda, particularly the trafficking of children by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Upon being abducted by the LRA, children are forced to become soldiers, porters, or sex slaves.4784 The war in Northern Uganda, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and population dislocations have left 2 million children under the age of 18 orphaned and thus, vulnerable to the worst forms child labor.4785

Children participate in the armed conflict in Uganda. Since the beginning of the 18-year war in Northern Uganda, it is estimated that the LRA has abducted an estimated 20,000 children.4786 During the first half of 2005, 300 of these children were rescued and returned to rehabilitation centers by Uganda's armed forces, the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF).4787 However, it is reported that children have enlisted in the UPDF by falsifying their age. The official age in which a person may enlist or be conscripted into the UPDF is 18 years of age.4788 There is no evidence that the UPDF actively recruits underage soldiers;4789 the UPDF contends that children serving in the security forces may be enrolled either through deception or oversight.4790 In 2004, the most recent timeframe for which such information is available, the UPDF collaborated with UNICEF to identify and remove 300 to 400 under-age soldiers from Uganda's 60,000 person army.4791

The Constitution states that a child is entitled to basic education, which is the responsibility of the State and the child's parents. The Government of Uganda provides free education through grade seven. In fiscal year 2004-2005, 31 percent of the government's general budget was allocated to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) for education. Of this amount, 66 percent was allocated to primary education and 16.7 percent to secondary education.4792 However, education is not compulsory.4793 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 141 percent.4794 Gross enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Primary school attendance statistics are not available for Uganda.4795 As of 2001, 64 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.4796

In 2003, 80 percent of the students taking their primary leaving examinations passed, but there are differences in achievement that appear to be influenced by geography. Children in stable areas of the country were more likely to pass the examination, while barely 20 percent passed in "the remote, troubled districts."4797 In addition, there are gender differences in achievement: boys perform better in and are more likely to finish primary school than girls.4798

The U.S. Department of State reports that corruption, instability in some areas of the country, and inadequate teacher preparation prevented full implementation of universal primary education initiatives despite increases in educational resources and educational improvements.4799 Reports indicate that almost 90 percent of children aged 5 to 17 who work do not attend school: 78 percent have left school and 10 percent have never been to school.4800

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The revised Employment Decree of 1975 sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years and prohibits persons below the age of 18 from engaging in hazardous labor.4801 Article 34 (4) of the Constitution of Uganda states that children under 16 years have the right to be protected from social and economic exploitation and should not be employed in hazardous work; work that would otherwise endanger their health, physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development; or work that would interfere with their education.4802

Legislation is in draft that if adopted will expand the laws to address additional forms of child labor. The legislation will define "worst forms of child labor", many in accordance with ILO Convention 182. While current child labor laws only apply to the formal sector, the new legislation could expand enforcement to the informal sector as well where working children are common.4803

Currently, the worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Uganda. The Constitution prohibits servitude and forced labor.4804 While trafficking in persons is not a specific violation under Ugandan law, related offenses are, which taken together cover the full scope of trafficking in persons. For instance, detaining a person with sexual intent is punishable up to 7 years of imprisonment, and the penalty for trading in slaves is punishable by up to10 years of imprisonment. "Defilement," defined as having sex with a minor, is a punishable offense with a range of sentences leading up to the death penalty.4805 In 2005, the government actively applied its law to the latter offense, arresting 4,756 people.4806

The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD), charged with enforcing child labor laws, investigates child labor complaints through district labor officers. In addition, local governments are also empowered to investigate child labor complaints. However, until a child labor complaint monitoring system is developed, comprehensive statistics regarding child labor violations and investigations of such complaints are not available.4807

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

The MGLSD houses the Child Labor Unit and implements the "National Plan of Action to Eliminate Child Labor." However, according to the U.S. Department of State, limited resources prevent the National Plan from being carried out to the extent that was envisioned.4808 The MGLSD also coordinates the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Policy, which extends social services to groups that include children who participate in the worst forms of labor.4809

In partnership with USDOL, NGOs and the ILO, the Government of Uganda participates in the implementation of various projects that aim to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.4810 ILO-IPEC implements a USD 5.3 million regional capacity building project funded by USDOL. The project, "Building the Foundations for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Anglophone Africa," is being implemented from September 2002 until June 2006.4811 "Opportunities for Reducing Adolescent and Child labor through Education (ORACLE)" is a USD 3 million project funded by USDOL and implemented by the International Rescue Committee and the Italian Association for Volunteers in International Service. ORACLE is a 4-year project begun in August 2003. The project contributes to the prevention and elimination of the worst forms of child labor amongst conflict-affected children in Northern Uganda through the provision of transitional and non-formal education and family-based poverty reduction strategies.4812

There are two additional regional projects funded by USDOL in which the Government of Uganda participates. ILO-IPEC is implementing a project funded at USD 3 million entitled "Combating and preventing HIV/AIDS-induced child labour in Sub-Saharan Africa: pilot action in Uganda and Zambia." To reduce their vulnerability to participation in child labor, the project provides vocational and basic education, psycho-social rehabilitation and social protection to children orphaned by the HIV/AIDs epidemic.4813 Another USD 14.5 million program is being implemented by World Vision in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. The program, "Combating Exploitative Child Labor through Education" also known as KURET, provides educational alternatives to children who are especially vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor because of HIV/AIDS.4814

Tobacco exporters and unions support a project that combats child labor in the tobacco growing industry. In 2003, the Eliminate Child Labour in Tobacco Foundation funded a three-year USD 516,560 project to reduce the incidence of child labor in the tobacco industry in the Masindi region of the country (west central Uganda). The goals of the project are to remove primary school age children working on tobacco farms and place them in primary schools, and provide assistance to ensure their retention in the educational system. The Government of Uganda is represented on a steering committee that coordinates the activities of the program and the Masindi District Local Council is slated to provide land for the construction of and provide management for a vocational school serving the project.4815

The government provides a variety of resettlement packages to former rebels returning to Uganda, some of which include educational benefits and vocational training.4816 At two locations in the country, military-operated programs assist the reintegration of returning child soldiers.4817 In addition to these programs, the government is involved in efforts to eliminate child labor through strategies to reduce poverty, specifically the Poverty Eradication Action Plan and the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture.4818

The MOES implements the policy of Universal Primary Education to encourage the enrollment and retention of primary students by improving access to education, enhancing the quality of education, and ensuring that education is affordable.4819 The MOES developed a "Basic Education Policy and Cost Framework for Educationally Disadvantaged Children" to increase access among children not served by the current education system, including street and working children and children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.4820

4781 ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda: a Report Based on the 2000/2001 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, Report, Uganda Bureau of Statistics and ILO-IPEC, Entebbe, 2002, ix, 23, 29, 30, 36.

4782 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Uganda, Washington, D.C., February 28, 2005; available from

4783 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2005.

4784 U.S. Department of State, Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C, June, 2005; available from

4785 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Uganda.

4786 U.S. Embassy – Kampala, reporting, September 02, 2005.

4787 Ibid.

4788 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, "The World Fact Book: Uganda," (October 20, 2005); available from

4789 U.S. Embassy – Kampala, e-mail communication to USDOL official, July 7, 2006.

4790 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Uganda.

4791 Ibid.

4792 Republic of Uganda Ministry of Education and Sports, The National Report on the Development of Education in Uganda at the Beginning of the 21st Century, Geneva, August 30, 2004; available from

4793 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Uganda.

4794 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005). For an explanation of gross primary enrollment rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definition of gross primary enrollment rates in the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

4795 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section for information about sources used.

4796 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, (School life expectancy, % of repeaters, survival rates; accessed December 2005).

4797 Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Uganda: Addressing the challenge of educating the disadvantaged", [online], February 3, 2004 [cited February 11, 2004]; available from

4798 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Uganda, Washington, February 28, 2004, Section 5; available from

4799 Ibid.

4800 Labour and Social Development ILO and Government of Uganda Ministry of Gender, "Child Labour and the Urban Informal Sector in Uganda," (June 2004), 6; available from +Sector+in+Uganda&hl=en&start=1, page 6. The majority of working children, 61 percent, are orphans, having lost at least one parent (30 percent) or both (31 percent).

4801 The Employment Decree of 1975, originally limited employment for children between the ages of 12 and 18 years and prohibited children under 12 from working. See ILO/IPEC and Uganda Bureau of Statistics, "Child Labour In Uganda: A Report Based On the 2000/2001 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey," (2001), 6-7; available from

4802 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Chapter 4; available from U.S. Embassy – Kampala, email communication, US Embassy, Kampala, January 20, 2006.

4804 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

4805 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Uganda, Section 5.

4806 U.S. Embassy – Kampala, email communication to USDOL official, August 11, 2006.

4807 Ibid.

4808 Ibid.

4809 Ibid.

4810 Ibid.

4811 ILO-IPEC, Building the Foundations for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Anglophone Africa: Uganda, Technical Progress Report, September 2005.

4812 International Rescue Committee, Technical Progress Report: Uganda Oracle Project, September, 2005. p. 2.

4813 International Labor Organization/IPEC, "Technical Performance Report for Combating and Preventing HIV induced Child Labour in Sub-Saharan Africa: pilot action in Uganda and Zambia," (September. 2005). pp. i – iv.

4814 Inc. World Vision, "Technical Progress Report Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia Together (KURET)," (September 2005), 3-18.

4815 Eliminate Child Labour in Tobacco Foundation, The Project for Elimination of Child Labour from Tobacco Farms in Masindi District, Uganda, November 14, 2003, 1-3.

4816 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Uganda, Section 5.

4817 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Uganda, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004; available from

4818 The Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) aims to reduce poverty levels to 10 percent by 2017. The Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA) constitutes an important sectoral policy framework within the PEAP. USAID/UGANDA, Overall Assistance Environment in Uganda, [online] August 3, 2004 [cited September 22, 2004]; available from

4819 Ministry of Education and Sports, The Ugandan Experience of Universal Primary Education (UPE), The Republic of Uganda, Kampala, July 1999, 10. See also Uganda Bureau of Statistics and ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Uganda: A Report Based on the 2000/2001 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, Entebbe, 2002, 7-8.

4820 The framework is part of Uganda's commitment to the international Millennium Development Goals which establish education goals to be met by 2015. The Republic of Uganda, Basic Education Policy and Costed Framework for Educationally Disadvantaged Children, 1st Draft, Ministry of Education and Sports, Kampala, October 31, 2002, 1-2 [hard copy on file].

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