2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Niger

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2000:3,140,254
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:66.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:71.8
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:60.6
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:12
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:50.6
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:43.4
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:31.1
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:56.2
ILO Convention 138:12/4/1978
ILO Convention 182:10/23/200 0
CRCOPSC:10/26/200 4
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Niger, children work in the agricultural, commercial, and artisanal sectors, often in family businesses. In rural areas, children work on family farms, including gathering water or firewood, pounding grain, and raising animals. Children work in manufacturing and maintenance, including welding, carpentry, and metal work. Children also work in tanneries and slaughterhouses. Girls especially work as domestic servants and as vendors, risking harassment and sexual abuse. Street children, who beg or perform tasks such as dishwashing or portering, are prevalent in the capital, Niamey, as well as in Dosso, Maradi, Zinder, and Tahoua.

The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Niger. While some boys receive lessons, others are forced by their teachers to beg and surrender the money that they have earned or perform manual labor.

Children work in hazardous conditions in mines and quarries, including salt quarries in Tounouga; trona mines in the Boboye region; gypsum mines in Madaoua; and gold mines in Liptako-Gourma, Komabangou, M'banga, and the area near the border with Burkina Faso. In mining and quarrying, children participate in many hazardous activities, such as breaking rocks; extracting, processing, and hoisting up ore; and transporting heavy loads. Gold mining is particularly hazardous because gold-washing may expose children to mercury. Children are also victimized in prostitution, especially along the highway between Zinder and Birni n'Konni.

Traditional forms of caste-based servitude, including that of children, still exist in parts of Niger. This practice is more prevalent among the nomadic populations. Slaves often work as shepherds, agricultural workers, or domestic servants.

Niger serves as a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Children are trafficked internally for forced labor in mines, agricultural labor, and domestic service, as well as for commercial sexual exploitation and begging.

Children from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo are trafficked to Niger for exploitive labor, including working in mines, on farms, and on the streets as menial laborers. Children from Mali are trafficked to the rice fields in the Tillabery region of Niger, as well as in transit to Europe or North Africa. Nigerien children are trafficked to work as beggars or manual laborers in Mali and Nigeria. Children from Niger are trafficked to Cameroon for forced labor in agriculture, vending, and fishing.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years, including for apprenticeships. Children under 18 years must have at least a 12-hour break and may not be employed at night, except in certain special circumstances that are subject to decree. The law also requires that no child or apprentice be employed in work that exceeds his or her strength and that employers guarantee certain minimum sanitary conditions.

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor, except for work by legally convicted prisoners. Nigerien law criminalizes slavery, specifically noting that this includes children under 18 years, who might be put into such a situation by parents or guardians, and provides for a prison sentence of up to 30 years for enslaving a person. The law criminalizes prostitution. Nigerien law also prohibits forcing a person to beg, including a parent causing a child to beg. The minimum age for recruitment into the military is 18 years.

Niger was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperative Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Joint Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, in West and Central African Regions. As part of the regional Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Government of Niger agreed to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; to rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficking victims; and to assist fellow signatory countries to implement these measures under the Agreement.

The Ministry of Labor is charged with enforcing labor laws and has approximately 100 inspectors who are responsible for investigating and enforcing all elements of the Labor Code, including child labor. According to USDOS, the labor inspectorate is reported to be acutely lacking in both human and material resources, which hampers inspections, and there were no labor inspections in 2008. The Ministries of Interior, Justice, and the Promotion of Women and the Protection of Children share the responsibility for taking measures against trafficking, and law enforcement officials arrested some traffickers during 2008. Also, in collaboration with UNICEF, Niger established regional committees to address child trafficking in several regions, including Agadez, Niamey, and Zinder. Law enforcement authorities rescued at least 58 children from traffickers near the border with Benin in Niger and in the Agadez region.

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

During 2008, the Government of Niger continued to target child labor through the framework established by its Poverty Reduction Strategy Document. Under this framework, the Government supports three technical and vocational training centers in Zinder, Maradi, and Tahoua. Also, the Government provides services to street children via the National Committee for Combating the Phenomena of Street Children, under leadership of the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children. As part of this effort, the Ministry of Labor launched a vocational training program for street children rescued by an NGO. UNICEF is also working with the Government to reduce the number of children working on the street by providing non-formal education to former street vendors.

The Government of Niger continues to support research efforts aimed at determining the extent of child labor in the county. As such, the Ministry of Labor and National Institute of Statistics are working with ILO-IPEC and UNICEF to conduct surveys on child labor, while the National Commission for Human Rights and Civil Liberties is conducting a survey of customary slavery in Niger, including that of children.

In 2008, the Government conducted awareness-raising events on child labor. As part of this effort, the Ministry of Labor organized a celebration for the World Day Against Child Labor. Niger also continued to rescue and provide rehabilitation services to children who were victims of trafficking.

The Government of Niger is participating in a 3-year, USDOL-funded USD 3 million regional project, implemented by ILO-IPEC, that runs until July 2009, to withdraw 1,500 children and prevent 2,500 children from hazardous artisanal gold mining in Niger and Burkina Faso.

The Government of Niger participated through September 2008 in a 4-year, USDOL-funded USD 2 million Child Labor Education Initiative, implemented by Catholic Relief Services, to combat child labor through education. The project withdrew 804 and prevented 6,347 children from exploitive work in mining, hazardous forms of agriculture, and cattle-raising by providing access to formal education or vocational training. Additionally, the project raised awareness of the worst forms of child labor, strengthened the capacity of local NGOs, and improved existing school infrastructure.

The Government of Niger is participating in a 3-year USD 4.8 million regional ILO-IPEC project, funded by the Government of France, which runs until December 31, 2009, and includes vocational training and apprenticeship programs.


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