2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Zimbabwe

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years:
Working children, 5-14 years (%):
Working boys, 5-14 years (%):
Working girls, 5-14 years (%):
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:No
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:101.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:87.8
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2002:69.7
ILO Convention 138:6/6/2000
ILO Convention 182:12/11/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

During the reporting period, Zimbabwe continued to suffer from humanitarian and economic crises with high rates of inflation and unemployment; severe shortages of food and other basic necessities; widespread cholera outbreaks and continued effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; political violence carried out by state-sponsored groups, including the youth militia, in the wake of the March 2008 presidential elections; and the internal displacement of thousands, including many children. The economic crisis, coupled with the erosion of the educational system, has led to an increase in the number of children working in the country. The number of street children has increased, as has the number of children working in the informal sector as more children struggle to fill the income gap left by relatives who are unemployed, ill, or deceased.

In Zimbabwe, most working children are engaged in agriculture, hunting, and fishing. In agriculture, children work on coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, sugar, and timber plantations. On tea, tobacco, cotton, and timber plantations, children work long hours for little pay and sometimes handle hazardous chemicals. Children work in the production of maize. They also engage in herding cattle.

To a lesser extent, Zimbabwean children work in domestic service, the restaurant and hotel industries, mining, quarrying, manufacturing, construction, and other types of work. Children engage in domestic work for third-party households, and are sometimes not paid by their employers. Children engage in the mining of diamonds, gold, chrome, and tin, as well as illegal gold panning with their families. In the capital of Harare, children work as street vendors, selling phone cards, fruit, and foodstuffs. Street children are sometimes rounded up by police and taken to farms, where they are made to work as unpaid laborers.

Girls continue to be exploited in prostitution, including in rural Matabeleland South Province. Poverty, high food prices, and lack of funds to pay school fees are all factors contributing to the prostitution of girls, including girls as young as 13 years. The belief that sex with a virgin can cure sexually transmitted infections contributes to the sexual exploitation of children and the spread of disease.

Within Zimbabwe, rural children are trafficked to farms for agricultural work and domestic service, and to urban areas for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic service. A limited number of South African girls are trafficked into the country for forced labor in domestic service. There are reports that children left in Zimbabwe by emigrating parents have been exploited by traffickers offering to transport the children to their parents' countries of resettlement.

A large number of Zimbabweans have migrated to other countries as a result of the deteriorating economic and social conditions, including some children. One study indicated that Zimbabwean children migrate due to the combined effects of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and lack of educational opportunities in the country. Children are known to migrate to South Africa where they engage in street vending, domestic service, hairdressing, washing cars, and unloading goods. Some reports indicate that children are sexually exploited by taxi and truck drivers in exchange for passage across the border to South Africa. Children are also known to cross the border into Mozambique in search of work. Zimbabwean children engage in market vending, selling firewood, and harvesting crops in Mozambique. Zimbabwean girls as young as 12 years are known to engage in prostitution along the transport corridor between Zimbabwe and the Mozambican port of Beira in Sofala Province and in Central Mozambique along the Zambezi River. Zimbabwean girls also work in Mozambique in bars and restaurants.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for employment in Zimbabwe is 15 years. Children 13 to 15 years may be employed, but only as apprentices with permission from their parents or guardians or if their work is an integral part of a technical or vocational training program. Children under 18 years are prohibited from performing work that might jeopardize their health, safety, or morals. Employers violating these provisions of the labor code can be punished by a fine, imprisonment of up to 2 years, or both. The Children's Protection and Adoption Amendment Act further specifies that children under 18 years are prohibited from performing work that is likely to interfere with their education; expose them to hazardous substances; involve underground mining; expose them to electronically-powered hand tools, cutting, or grinding blades; subject them to extreme conditions; or occur during a night shift.

The law prohibits forced labor, servitude, and slavery but provides exceptions in cases where such labor is required by a member of a "disciplined force," such as the National Youth Service, or parents. The law provides penalties of 2 years of imprisonment, a fine, or both, for forced labor violations. There are no laws specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons in Zimbabwe; however, the law prohibits procuring individuals for prostitution either inside the country or internationally. The law also prohibits procuring individuals to leave Zimbabwe with the intention of engaging them in prostitution. The law provides penalties of a fine and up to 10 years of imprisonment for those convicted of procuring children for prostitution. Sexual relations with children under 16 years are prohibited and rape is punishable by life imprisonment.

The minimum age for both military conscription and for voluntary recruitment into the Armed Forces is 18 years. The minimum age for joining the National Youth Service training is 16 years.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was the lead government agency responsible for human trafficking; its Victim Friendly Units investigate cases of child trafficking. Officers of the ZRP comprised Interpol Zimbabwe's anti-trafficking desk and assisted with international investigations in 2008. During the reporting period, Zimbabwean police arrested a number of adults on charges of procuring children for prostitution and referred the child victims for counseling. The Ministry of Home Affairs' Department of Immigration is responsible for monitoring border areas and ports for signs of human trafficking.

According to USDOS, a lack of resources limited the ability of the Ministry of Labor's Department of Social Welfare to conduct inspections or enforce child labor laws. Similarly, USDOS has indicated that Zimbabwe's efforts to investigate and combat trafficking were hindered by hyperinflationary conditions and a lack of resources, including personnel and fuel.

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

The Government of Zimbabwe's UN Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) 2007-2011 incorporates child labor issues. ZUNDAF specifically includes the number of districts holding monthly meetings to discuss child labor issues as an indicator for measuring improved capacity of the education system to retain students at all levels.

The Government of Zimbabwe continued to collaborate with the ILO, UNICEF, IOM, and UNESCO for a program to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the country. During the program's first phase, the Government worked with the ILO to define the worst forms of labor in Zimbabwe and conduct a national survey on the extent of child labor. While the Government lacks resources to assist trafficking victims, it has referred some victims to NGOs and international organizations for assistance. In collaboration with Save the Children-Norway, the Government provided assistance to children at an IOM Child Care Center in Beitbridge along the South African border. This center served 2,087 children in 2008. Between June and December 2008, 766 children were assisted at the new IOM center for unaccompanied children and child trafficking victims in Plumtree, on Zimbabwe's border with Botswana. The Government provided the land to the IOM for this center, which was opened in May 2008. The Government continued to take part in anti-trafficking awareness campaigns implemented by the IOM and Interpol, and worked with the IOM to educate government officials on trafficking issues.


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