Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Uganda

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 - Uganda, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 22 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.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2005-2006:8,749,882
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:31.1
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:32.4
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:29.8
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:
     – Agriculture95.5
     – Manufacturing1.3
     – Services3.0
     – Other0.2
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:12
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:116.7
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:84.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:48.7
ILO Convention 138:3/25/2003
ILO Convention 182:6/21/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

According to the 2005-2006 Understanding Children's Work Study in Uganda implemented by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics with support from ILO-IPEC, children in rural areas are three times more likely to work than children in urban areas and child participation in work is highest in the eastern and central geographical regions.

In Uganda, children are commonly engaged in crop farming and in commercial agriculture, including in the production of tea, sugarcane, tobacco, rice, and coffee. Children also cut and burn trees to produce charcoal. Children care for livestock. Children between 5 to 15 years work in fishing, including casting nets and processing fish. Some children who work in agriculture-related sectors work long hours and carry heavy loads.

In the urban informal sector, children sell small items on the streets and work in shops, garages, bars, restaurants, and in brick making and laying. Children work in cross-border trade with counterparts in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya most often undertaking activities in the transportation and loading of goods. Children engage in domestic work; salt and mineral mining; and stone quarrying and crushing. Children are also engaged in pornography and some children as young as 10 years are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. According to the Government of Uganda, the number of children engaged in commercial sexual exploitation has increased. Also, there were reports of ritual sacrifice of children.

Uganda is a source and destination country for the trafficking of children. Children are trafficked internally for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Karamojong children are sold at cattle markets or by intermediaries for forced labor, including for domestic service and herding. Children are largely recruited through offers of food and money. Ugandan children are trafficked to Canada, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. In addition, there are reports that Ugandan children are trafficked to Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq for labor exploitation. Children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi are trafficked to Uganda for commercial sexual exploitation and agricultural work. Indian children are also trafficked to Uganda for commercial sexual exploitation.

There were no reports of abduction or recruitment of new child soldiers in Uganda by the Government of Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) or the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). However, it is unclear whether or not the LRA have released all of the Ugandan children within their ranks and whether or not they have completely ceased using children in a combat capacity. In addition, evidence suggests that the LRA engaged in the recruitment of children from the countries of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and southern Sudan.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for admission to work in Uganda is 14 years. Children between 12 and 14 years may engage in light work that does not hinder their education and is supervised by an adult over 18 years. Children under 12 years are prohibited from working in any business or workplace. The law states that no child under 18 years may be employed in hazardous work or between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The law prohibits slavery and forced labor. While trafficking in persons is not a specific violation under Ugandan law, related offenses such as abduction and detention of a person for sexual intent are punishable by up to 7 years of imprisonment; trading in slaves up to 15 years of imprisonment; and "defilement," defined as having sex with a girl under 18 years, can receive the death penalty. The minimum age for voluntary military service in Uganda is 18 years. In addition, there is no conscription

The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD) is the lead agency for combating child labor and trafficking. MGLSD has 39 child labor inspectors. According to USDOS, child labor inspections were hampered by lack of funding, especially for the informal sector where the majority of child labor occurs. The Child and Family Protection Unit, under the Uganda Police Force, is responsible for investigating child abuses, including child prostitution and trafficking. According to USDOS, the Government monitored flights for child trafficking. The Uganda Human Rights Commission is responsible for monitoring children's engagement in the armed forces. According to the UN, with assistance support from NGOs, the Government continued to provide support to returning children who had been abducted by armed forces.

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

The Government of Uganda continued to participate in a 2-year USD 460,000 regional anti-trafficking technical assistance project implemented by the UNODC's Regional Office for Eastern Africa and funded by Norway and Sweden. The project ending in December of 2009, aims to bolster coordination among the 11 EAPCCO countries through the Regional Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Eastern Africa, and harmonize national legislation with the Palermo Protocol.

According to USDOS, the Governments of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and southern Sudan coordinated join military operations to rescue abductees by the LRA. With funding from the World Bank's Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration program, the Government supports the Amnesty Commission to resettle children who had formerly been abducted. The Amnesty Commission also refers children who had experienced violence as part of the armed conflict to trauma counseling centers for rehabilitation prior to reintegration. The Government continues to support programs that help Karamojong children, including removing them from the streets of Kampala and placing them in shelters in Karamoja. The Government continued its support for NGO-run shelters that provided food, medical care, education, and other services to vulnerable children.

With support from the Government of Uganda, the Federation of Uganda Employers along with the labor unions developed guidelines to reduce child labor in various businesses. The Uganda Tea Association developed a code of conduct to prevent child labor in the tea sector. The Government's labor inspectors participated in trainings on trafficking. The Government also continued awareness raising activities on trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation through radio, billboards, and other programs.

The Government of Uganda is participating in a 4-year USD 4.79 million Project of Support for the Preparatory Phase of the Uganda National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labor. This project, funded in 2008 by USDOL and implemented by ILO-IPEC, aims to withdraw 2,712 and prevent 5,426 children from exploitive child labor in agriculture, commercial sexual exploitation, fishing, domestic work, construction, mining, quarrying, and the urban informal sector. The project will also contribute to the development of "child labor-free zones" in Wakiso, Rakai, and Mbale Districts. The Government also participated in the USDOL-funded USD 3 million ILO-IPEC project to combat HIV/AIDS-induced child labor in Uganda and Zambia, which ended in December 2008. The project withdrew 2,642 and prevented an additional 2,072 children from exploitive child labor through the provision of education in both counties. During the reporting period, the Government worked with the ILO-IPEC and local NGOs to enhance awareness of child labor issues, contributing over USD 21,000 to these activities. ILO-IPEC also distributed over 500 Supporting Children's Rights through Education, the Arts, and the Media (SCREAM) modules intended to train teachers on child labor, as well as HIV/AIDSinduced child labor.

The Government continues to participate in the 4-year USD 5.5 million project funded by USDOL and implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Italian Association for Volunteers in International Service titled Livelihoods, Education and Protection to End Child labor (LEAP). The LEAP project aims to contribute to the prevention and elimination of child labor in Northern Uganda and the Karamoja region through awareness raising and improving access to and quality of education. The project aims to withdraw a total of 2,825 children and prevent another 8,450 children from exploitive labor. During the reporting period, the Government participated in numerous LEAP project lead talk shows and radio sessions dedicated to child labor.

The Government of Uganda participated in the 4-year Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia Together (KURET) project, which was funded by USDOL at USD 14.5 million and WV at USD 5.9 million through March 2009. Implemented by WV, in partnership with the IRC and the Academy for Educational Development, the project withdrew and prevented a total of 32,823 children from exploitive labor in HIV/AIDS-affected areas of these four countries through the provision of educational services.

The Government continued to participate in the 7-year project started in 2001 funded by the Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco-growing Sector Foundation. The project aims to eliminate child labor in the tobacco-growing sector in Uganda.

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