2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

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:14
Compulsory education age:13 or 14
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:62.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:46.5
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:73.7
ILO Convention 138:2/22/2000
ILO Convention 182:No
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Eritrea work in agriculture, on the streets, and as domestic servants. Children in rural areas of Eritrea work on farms and in fields gathering firewood, hauling water, and herding livestock. In urban areas, they work as vendors selling items such as cigarettes, newspapers, and chewing gum. Children under the legal age work in towns as apprentices in shops, workshops, and garages. Children are also involved in commercial sexual exploitation.

In order to graduate, all secondary school students are required to complete their final, 12th year of schooling at a facility adjacent to the Sawa Military Training Camp (Sawa) in remote western Eritrea. Students who do not attend Sawa are not eligible to take their final examinations or to graduate. According to USDOS, students receive initial military training at Sawa. There is no specific age required to complete the final year of school and thus children as young as 14 may be trained.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Eritrean law sets the minimum age of employment and apprenticeship at 14 years. Young persons between 14 and 18 years may not work between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. or more than 7 hours per day. Children under 18 years cannot engage in hazardous work, including transporting goods/passengers; heavy lifting; working with toxic chemicals, and dangerous machines; and working underground such as in mines, quarries, sewers, and tunnel digging. The First Instance Labor Court hears and determines violations of the law.

Forced labor is prohibited by the Constitution. The recruitment of children under 18 years into the armed forces is prohibited; however, at age 17 the law requires them to register for mandatory military or civilian service. Child prostitution is prohibited and punishable by a fine and up to 5 years imprisonment. Trafficking in persons is prohibited with penalties of fines and up to 10 years in prison. Information on trafficking, including child trafficking is limited, and there were no reports of trafficking in 2008. The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare (MLHW) is responsible for enforcing child labor and trafficking laws. Due to limited resources, labor inspectors from the MLHW conduct infrequent inspections.

Current Government Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Eritrea, in collaboration with UNICEF, has a national plan of action focused on reintegrating child workers into families and communities. The Government also runs awareness campaigns concerning child labor and sexual exploitation of children.

The Government of Eritrea continues to participate in the 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 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.


This 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.