2003 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Zimbabwe

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

The Government of Zimbabwe is an associated country of ILO-IPEC.[4746] The Government of Zimbabwe has created a Child Labor Task Force Committee to define child labor, identify child exploitation, recognize problem areas and propose legislation to resolve these problems.[4747] The government has solicited assistance from workers, employers and NGOs to formulate country-specific approaches and strategies to eliminate child labor,[4748] and is making efforts to incorporate child labor issues into the plans and policies of several government ministries, such as the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the Ministry of Education, Sport, and Culture,[4749] and the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare.[4750] Social Welfare programs have included initiatives to support orphans, who are particularly vulnerable to engaging in child labor.[4751] The government has also been engaged in anti-trafficking efforts and programs to combat sexual exploitation of children.[4752]

In 1999, the Central Statistical Office of the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare, in cooperation with ILO-IPEC, published the results of a national child labor survey.[4753] Recent ILO technical assistance to Zimbabwe has supported a children's play intended to raise awareness about the dangers of child labor among parents and the community. The ILO has also facilitated workshops with trade unions to raise awareness on the issue of child labor.[4754]

Enrollment has suffered over the last decade due to the reintroduction of school fees.[4755] As of 2000, the government planned to build more schools and expand existing schools to take on more students, train staff, improve school facilities, provide scholarships and cover education costs for poor children through the Social Development Fund, the Basic Education Assistance Module, and develop other social safety nets.[4756] UNICEF and other international organizations are assisting with the government's education efforts and have been particularly involved in school feeding programs during the recent food crisis.[4757] Between the years of 1990 to 1999, the number of training centers for out-of-school youth increased from 3 to 15 nationwide.[4758]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, the Zimbabwe Central Statistics Office estimated that 33.2 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years in Zimbabwe were working.[4759] Children work in traditional and commercial farming, forestry and fishing, domestic service, small-scale mining, gold panning, quarrying, construction, micro industries, manufacturing, trade, restaurants, and begging.[4760] Over 90 percent of working children aged 5 to 17 reside in rural areas.[4761] Many of these children work for long hours in the fields, often in exchange for education at farm boarding schools.[4762] However, there is evidence that the incidence of child labor in farming has decreased as adults and children are being dispossessed through the fast track land redistribution program.[4763] As the unemployment rate grows, fewer children are employed in the formal industry.[4764] More have joined the informal sector, often exposing them to other serious hazards.[4765] The government currently requires young people to perform compulsory youth service at government-sponsored training camps rumored to prepare young people for service in youth militias.[4766]

In 1999, there were reportedly 12,000 street children in Zimbabwe, and their number is estimated to have increased steadily since that time.[4767] As of 2001, a growing number of children under 17 years were reportedly engaged in prostitution.[4768] The traditional practice of offering a young girl as payment in an inter-family feud continues to occur in Zimbabwe, as does early marriage of young girls.[4769] There are anecdotal reports of cross-border trafficking of children for farm labor and commercial sexual exploitation.[4770] Within Zimbabwe, children from rural areas are often recruited to work as domestics in the houses of distant kin or unrelated employers for long hours with little free time.[4771] The child labor situation is compounded by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which, in Zimbabwe alone, has left close to one million children orphaned, reliant on informal work to supplement lost family income and forced some to work as caregivers for sick adults.[4772] As a result of the pandemic, Zimbabwe is currently experiencing an increase in child headed households.[4773]

Education is neither free nor compulsory.[4774] Enrollment is at its lowest in 10 years. In 2000, the gross primary enrollment rate was 95 percent. The net primary enrollment rate was 79.6 percent.[4775] Recent attendance rates for Zimbabwe are not available, but in 1994, the gross and net primary attendance rates were 108.9 and 84.6 percent respectively.[4776] Certain segments of the educational system are particularly weak. Few commercial farms have schools and landowners who do provide schools have allegedly suspended children from attending classes if they refuse to work in the fields.[4777] The impact of the recent political turmoil, fast track land redistribution program, drought and impending famine in Zimbabwe has yet to be determined but has already had a negative effect on school enrollment and attendance.[4778] Already, several schools have closed as a result of political violence and land redistribution.[4779] Due to HIV/AIDS, remaining schools face a shortage of teachers.[4780]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Relations Amendment Act recently raised the minimum age for employment from 12 to 13 years, specifying that children between the ages of 13 and 15 can only be employed as apprentices and onlyunder special training conditions.[4781] Under the law, young persons under the age of 18 years are prohibited from performing work that might jeopardize their health, safety or morals and 15 years is the minimum age at which children may perform light work.[4782] Although, the Child Adoption and Protection Amendment Act (prohibiting the involvement of children in hazardous labor) was passed in 2001, implementation has been slow to follow.[4783] The Act defines hazardous labor as any work likely to interfere with the education of children, expose children to hazardous substances, involve underground mining, require the use of electronically powered hand tools, cutting or grinding blades, expose children to extreme conditions, or to occur during a night shift.[4784] The Labor Relations Amendment Act also prohibits forced labor yet makes an exception for labor required from a member of a disciplined force, presumably allowing for compulsory service in the National Youth Service.[4785]

According to the amended Labor Act, violators of Section 11, Employment of Young Persons, are subject to fines not exceeding ZWD 30,000 (USD 8) and/or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years.[4786] Persons violating Section 4A, Prohibition of Forced Labor are also liable for fines and imprisonment.[4787] Pursuant to the Sexual Offenses Act of 2001, a person convicted of prostituting a child under the age of 12 is subject to a fine of up to ZWD 35,000 (USD 9) or imprisonment of up to 7 years.[4788] No laws specifically address trafficking in persons.[4789] However, the Act also establishes a maximum fine of ZWD 50,000 (USD 13) and a maximum sentence of 10 years for procuring another person for prostitution or sex inside and outside of the country.[4790] The Immigration Act prohibits prostitutes and persons benefiting from the earnings of prostitution from entering the country.[4791] Common law also criminalizes the removal of a child without the consent of the child's parent or guardian.[4792] The Sexual Offenses Act has led to little improvement in the lives of children due to magistrates' unfamiliarity with the law.[4793] Although the government has established Victim Friendly Courts in Harare, these are understaffed as a result of magistrates' preference for more lucrative employment.[4794]

Labor regulations, including child labor laws, are poorly enforced because of weak interpretations of the laws themselves, a lack of labor inspectors, and a poor understanding among affected workers of basic legal rights.[4795]

The Government of Zimbabwe ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on June 6, 2000, and ILO Convention No. 182 on December 11, 2000.[4796]

[4746] ILO-IPEC, All About IPEC Programme Countries, [online] August 13, 2001 [cited June 12, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/about/countries/t_coun….

[4747] The Committee is composed of the Ministries of Education, Sport and Culture; National Affairs; Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation; Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare; Health and Child Welfare; Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Resettlement; and Local Government, Public Works and National Housing. See Education to Combat Abusive Child Labor Activity, Child Labor Country Brief: Zimbabwe, [online] September 12, 2002 [cited September 20, 2002]; available from http://www.beps.net/Child Labor/Database.htm.

[4748] ILO, "Child Labour in Africa: Targeting the Intolerable" (paper presented at the African Regional Tripartite Meeting on Child Labour, Kampala, Uganda, February 5-7 1998).

[4749] ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Commercial Agriculture in Africa, technical workshop; Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, August 27-30, 1996, RAF/95/05/050, Geneva, 1997; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/publ/policy/papers/afr….

[4750] The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare established a Child Welfare Forum that meets four times annually with other government agencies to discuss child welfare issues. See Ibid. In response to the growing number of children living and working in the streets of large cities, the Department of Social Welfare has initiated a "Children in Difficult Circumstances" program. As of 2000, the Department of Social Welfare has been in the process of decentralizing childcare services to local authorities. According to officials at Social Welfare, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing already has responsibility for many of these services. See ILO-IPEC, Child Labour in Commercial Agriculture, technical workshop. See Tendai Mangoma, "More Children Forced to Beg", allAfrica.com, [online], May 29, 2002; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200205290632.html.

[4751] The government approved a National Policy on the Care and Protection of Orphans in 1999. See UNAIDS, Children Orphaned by AIDS: Front-line Responses from Eastern and Southern Africa, UNAIDS, December 1999, 21-23; available from http://www.unaids.org/publications/documents/children/young/orphrepteng…. The government is in the process of developing a National Plan of Action to ensure that orphans receive essential government services and to combat discrimination against orphans. See The Herald, "240,000 Children Living With HIV, Says Minister of Health", allafrica.com, [online], June 11, 2003; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200306110261.html. Funds collected from an AIDS levy on formal sector wage earners and distributed by the National AIDS Council have also been used to provide support to orphans in the form of education assistance, income generation projects, and research to identify the needs of HIV/AIDS orphans. See U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669, August 2003.

[4752] The Department of Social Welfare has worked with UNICEF to raise awareness and conduct research around the problem of sexual exploitation. See "Analysis of the Situation of Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region" (paper presented at the 2nd World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Nairobi, Kenya, October 2001); available from http://www.unicef.org/events/yokohama/csec-east-southern-africa-draft.h…. The government is also working with INTERPOL and immigration authorities from neighboring countries to prevent child trafficking. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Zimbabwe, online, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., June 11, 2003; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/21277.htm.

[4753] Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, National Child Labour Survey: Country Report – Zimbabwe, online, Government of Zimbabwe, Central Statistical Office, Harare, 1999, viii; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/simpoc/zimbabwe/report….

[4754] ILO, Zimbabwe: Multidisciplinary Advisory Team for Southern Africa in Harare, [online] August 20, 2002 [cited June 13, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/afpro/mdtharare/country/zimbab….

[4755] Line Eldring, Sabata Nakanyane, and Malehoko Tshoaedi, "Child Labor in the Tobacco Growing Sector in Africa" (paper presented at the IUF/ITGA/BAT Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor, Nairobi, October 8-9, 2000), 84. School fees were reintroduced under the country's Economic Structural Adjustment Program of 1991. See World Bank, Structural Adjustment and Zimbabwe's Poor, Operations Evaluation Department, [online] 2001 [cited August 26, 2002]; available from http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/oed/oeddoclib.nsf/e90210f184a4481b8525688… 15a937f6b215a053852567f5005d8b06?OpenDocument.

[4756] UNESCO, The Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports – Zimbabwe, prepared by Ministry of Education, Sport, and Culture, pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 52/84; available from http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/zimbabwe/contents.html. BEAM provides waivers for both school fees and levies to children identified by community members as vulnerable and at risk of dropping out. See World Bank, A directory of early child development projects in Africa, working paper, August 31, 2001.

[4757] UNICEF, Zimbabwe, [online] April 3, 2003 [cited June 12, 2003]; available from http://www.unicef.org/noteworthy/safricacrisis/zimbabwe.html. See also Vongai Makamure, "Zimbabwe – WV is assisting communities," World Vision – Africa in Harmony (October 23, 2002). See also CAFOD, South Africa Crisis Appeal: Facing hunger at school in Zimbabwe, [online] 2003 [cited August 29, 2003]; available from http://www.cafod.org.uk/southernafrica/zimempandenisch.shtml. See also Oxfam, "Zimbabwe Short of Food," Oxfam News (April 3, 2003); available from http://www.oxfam.ca/news/Zimbabwe/April3_update.htm. See also Christian Aid News, School feeding in Zimbabwe helps children to survive the drought, in Christian Aid,, [online] September 13, 2002 [cited August 29, 2003]; available from http://www.christian-aid.org.uk/news/features/0209zimb1.htm.

[4758] UNESCO, EFA 2000 Report: Zimbabwe.

[4759] Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, National Child Labour Survey, 53.

[4760] Ibid., 45, 60. See also Eldring, Nakanyane, and Tshoaedi, "Child Labor in the Tobacco Growing Sector", 87.

[4761] In both rural and urban areas the percentages of working boys and working girls are relatively the same. See Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, National Child Labour Survey, xii-xvi. A survey conducted by the Employer's Confederation of Zimbabwe revealed that over than 84% of underage workers are employed in commercial agriculture. See Financial Gazette, "Tea, tobacco, cotton growers main culprits on child labour," Panafrica News Agency, Africa News Online, November 11, 1999; available from http://lists.essential.org/intl-tobacco/msg00298.html.

[4762] Children work after school during the planting and harvesting seasons and full time during holidays. Special boarding schools on the farms allow children to work during busy seasons. See Eldring, Nakanyane, and Tshoaedi, "Child Labor in the Tobacco Growing Sector", 84.

[4763] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Zimbabwe, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18234.htm.

[4764] Ibid.

[4765] Ibid. In 2002, several officials noted a surge in illegal gold panning among children. Some are reported to be as young as eleven years old. See Tsitsi Matope, "Rushinga Faces Food Shortage", allAfrica.com, [online], August 16, 2002; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200208160250.html.

[4766] The government has threatened to bar those who do not participate in the training from civil service jobs, and government-sponsored university studies. Youth militias known as the Green Bombers are said to be responsible for much of the violence observed during the 2002 Presidential elections. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 6c.

[4767] Street children are found begging, watching parked cars, and doing other odd jobs. See Ibid., Section 5.

[4768] U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669. There have been instances of children being sexually exploited by humanitarian workers in exchange for food. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Zimbabwe. See also The Herald, "Region Needs to Curb Child Sexual abuse", allafrica.com, [online], January 11, 2003; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200301130562.html.

[4769] Polygyny and early marriages is generally accepted among Indigenous African churches. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 5.

[4770] Zimbabwe is considered a source country for children trafficked for prostitution to South Africa and a transit country for trafficking from Asia, Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2003: Zimbabwe. There are indications that children from Zimbabwe have been recruited to work on farms in the northern province of South Africa. See African Eye News Service, "Over 200,000 children used as child labour on farms", allAfrica.com, [online], June 2, 1998, [cited December 19, 2002]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/199806020159.html. See also Congress of South Africa Trade Unions, COSATU/SAAPAWU Media Statement on the SAHRC Investigation Into Human Rights Violations in Farming Communities, press release, Johannesburg, July 16, 2002, [cited August 14, 2003]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200207160635.html.

[4771] These children have been known to be as young as ten years old. See Micheal Bourdillion, "Working Children in Zimbabwe" (paper presented at the Conference on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Africa, Uppsala, September 13-16, 2001); available from http://www.nai.uu.se/sem/conf/orphans/bourdillon.pdf.

[4772] ILO-IPEC Director General, "A Future without Child Labour: Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights to Work" (paper presented at the International Labour Conference, 90th Session 2002, Geneva, 2002), 41-43; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/decl/download/global3/part1…. One source estimates 780,000 orphans under age 14 have lost parents to HIV/AIDS. See Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, Epidemiological Fact Sheets on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections: Zimbabwe, in UNAIDS, [online database] 2002 [cited August 29, 2003]; available from http://www.unaids.org/hivaidsinfo/statistics/fact_sheets/pdfs/Zimbabwe_…. Others estimate there will be roughly one million children below the age of 15 orphaned by 2005. See The Herald, "240,000 children Living With HIV".

[4773] According to a 1997 survey, over 35,000 heads of households are under the age of 20 and 3000 are under 15 years. Estimates suggest that 24,000 orphans are likely to be homeless as a result of the fast track land redistribution program. See Bourdillion, "Working Children in Zimbabwe".

[4774] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 5.

[4775] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2003 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2003.

[4776] Ibid. For an explanation of gross primary enrollment and/or attendance rates that are greater than 100 percent, please see the definitions of gross primary enrollment rate and gross primary attendance rate in the glossary of this report.

[4777] According to an April 2001 report in the Daily News, 125,000 children living on farms in Zimbabwe do not attend classes because there are no schools. See Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Zimbabwe: 125,000 Children on Farms Not Attending School", IRINnews.org, [online], April 18, 2001 [cited December 19, 2002]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=5390&SelectRegion=Southern_….

[4778] Due to the high rate of inflation, school fees have risen sharply, forcing parents to pull their children from school. Selection committees designating social welfare grants to needy students have been known to deny assistance to members of the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), political party. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 5. See also See World Bank, Structural Adjustment, [cited August 14, 2003].

[4779] Several schools were shut down, in addition to teachers being tortured for their support of the MDC opposition party and prevented from working unless they supported the ZANU-PF ruling party. Some schools were reportedly used as torture centers. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 1c, 5. See also Amnesty International, Zimbabwe, [online] December 2003 [cited August 29, 2003]; available from http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/Zwe-summary-eng. The closing of more than 500 schools on formerly white owned farms in 2002, has left over 250,000 children unable to attend classes. Two hundred thousand of the children who attended the closed schools were primary school students. See Itai Dzamara, "Land-Grab Deprives 250,000 Pupils of Education", allAfrica.com, [online], July 22, 2002, [cited August 14, 2002]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200207220629.html.

[4780] The ILO estimates that Zimbabwe may lose a further 16,200 teachers to HIV/AIDS over the next decade. See Desmond Cohen, Human capital and the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, Working Paper 2, ILO Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work, Geneva, June 2002; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/trav/aids/publ/wp2_humanca….

[4781] The Labour Relations Amendment Act was enacted in March 2003. It replaces the earlier Labor Relations Regulation of 1997, which set 12 years as the minimum age for general employment but prohibited children under 16 years of age from engaging in activities other than light work, apprenticeships, or vocational training. See Republic of Zimbabwe, Labour Relations Amendment Act, (2002); available from http://ilis.ilo.org/cgi-bin/gpte/stbna/natlexe?wq_fld=B380&wq_val=Zimba… =Labour+Relations+Act&wq_rel=AND&wq_fld=B520&wq_val=&wq_rel=AND& wq_fld=B500&wq_val=&wq_rel=AND&wq_fld=B380&wq_val=. See also The Republic of Zimbabwe, Labour Relations Regulations: Employment of Children and Young Persons, (1997); available from http://ilis.ilo.org/cgi-bin/gpte/stbna/natlexe/46825. See also U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669.

[4782] U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669. Light work is defined as anything that will not threaten a child's education, health, safety, rest, or social, physical, or mental development. See U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669.

[4783] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 6d. See also The Republic of Zimbabwe, Children's Protection and Adoption Amendment Act, (2001); available from http://ilis.ilo.org/cgi-bin/gpte/stbna/natlexe?wq_fld=B380&wq_val=Zimba… Children&wq_rel=AND&wq_fld=B520&wq_val=&wq_rel=AND&wq_fld=B500&wq_val= &wq_rel=AND&wq_fld=B380&wq_val=.

[4784] Children Protection and Adoption Amendment Act.

[4785] Labour Relations Amendment Act, 2002. The Act's definition of forced labor also excludes labor required by way of parental discipline. See U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669.

[4786] U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669. For currency conversion see U.S. Embassy-Harare official, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 18, 2004.

[4787] U.S. Embassy-Harare, unclassified telegram no. 1669.

[4788] Ibid. The Child Protection and Adoption Act also prohibits children from living in or frequenting a brothel or engaging children in prostitution or immoral acts. See ILO, "Child Labour in Africa". See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial reports of States parties due in 1992, CRC/C/3/Add.35, prepared by Government of Zimbabwe, pursuant to Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, December 10, 1995, para. 260; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/385c2add1632f4a8c12565a9004dc311/b82db….

[4789] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 6f. For currency conversion see U.S. Embassy-Harare official, electronic communication, February 18, 2004.

[4790] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 5, 6f. For currency conversion see U.S. Embassy-Harare official, electronic communication, February 18, 2004.

[4791] The Republic of Zimbabwe, Immigration Act, (December 31, 1995), Part III, section 14. See also The Protection Project, "Zimbabwe," in Human Rights Report on Trafficking of Persons, Especially Women and Children: A Country-by-Country Report on a Contemporary Form of Slavery, March 2002; available from

[4792] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties: Zimbabwe, para. 265.

[4793] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2002: Zimbabwe, Section 5.

[4794] Ibid. The development of VFCs has led to child friendly legal facilities and collaborations with police stations, hospitals, social welfare, families, communities and prosecutors' offices. See "Analysis of the Situation of Sexual Exploitation", Section 6.10.

[4795] Eldring, Nakanyane, and Tshoaedi, "Child Labor in the Tobacco Growing Sector", 85-86.

[4796] ILO, Ratifications by Country, in ILOLEX, [database online] [cited August 14, 2003]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.


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