2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Mali

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2005:3,664,237
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005:65.8
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005:66.6
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005:64.9
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2005:
     – Agriculture58.2
     – Manufacturing1.9
     – Services39.5
     – Other0.4
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:For 9 years*
Free public education:Yes**
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:83.1
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:63.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2005:44.8
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:81.2
ILO Convention 138:3/11/2002
ILO Convention 182:7/14/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* According to the law, children are required to attend 9 years of school

** In practice, must pay for various school expenses

*** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Mali, 60 percent of children in rural areas are economically active, compared with 36 percent of children in urban zones, according to a report prepared by UCW. Most working children are employed in agriculture, including in hazardous activities such as mixing chemicals to prepare pesticides, spraying pesticides, and carrying heavy loads. Children, including street children, work within the informal urban sector, in activities such as begging, vending goods, portering, and garbage scavenging.

Children work in hazardous conditions in garages, workshops, quarries, and gold mines, which include working underground and being exposed to chemicals such as mercury. Children, especially girls, work as domestic servants, sometimes suffering physical abuse by their employers; a Government study found that such children are at increased risk of sexual exploitation. There are also reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially girls, who work as venders in hotels, restaurants, bars, mines and quarries, and near construction fields and transportation hubs such as bus stations. The commercial sexual exploitation of children is particularly prevalent in the capital of Bamako as well as in the regions of Kayes and Sikasso.

The practice of sending boys, called talibe, to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Mali. While some boys receive lessons, many are forced by their teachers to beg or work in fields and surrender the money that they have earned. Children as young as 4 years are reported working as talibes in Mali and may be punished if they do not remit enough money. Talibe from Mali and from bordering countries, such as Burkina Faso, are also exploited in rice fields where some farmers pay teachers directly for the boys' labor.

Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Boys have been trafficked within Mali to work in agriculture, gold mining, and begging. Children have also been trafficked internally to the central regions to work in rice fields. Likewise, children from other countries, especially Burkina Faso but also Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and Senegal, are trafficked for forced labor in rice fields. Burkinabe children are also trafficked to Mali for the purposes of mining, field work, and domestic servitude. Boys have also been trafficked to Senegal and Mali for the purposes of forced begging. Children, especially girls, are trafficked to Guinea to work in domestic service. Children are trafficked to Côte d'Ivoire to work as domestic servants, in mines, and on plantations, especially on coffee, cotton, and cocoa farms. Mali is reportedly a transit country for children being trafficked to Europe.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment and apprenticeship at 14 years. The Labor Code permits children 12 to 14 years to be employed in light domestic or seasonal work, such as on plantations, with the express authorization and in the presence of their parents or guardians. However, such children may not be employed for more than 4.5 hours per day or 2 hours per day if they are in school; these children are prohibited from working on Sundays or holidays. Children under 18 years are prohibited from work that threatens their safety or morals, exceeds 8 hours per day or their physical capacity, or occurs at night. In December 2008, Mali's High Council on Labor approved the updated hazardous labor list for children, which was instituted by the Ministry of Labor.

The law prohibits forced or obligatory labor. It also makes child trafficking punishable by 5 to 20 years of imprisonment. The Government requires that Malian children of under 18 years present travel documentation in an effort to reduce cross-border trafficking. The Penal Code establishes penalties of fines and prison sentences of up to 20 years for sexual exploitation, abuse, and carnal knowledge of any person under 15 years. The minimum age for both voluntary recruitment and military conscription is 18 years.

Mali 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 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.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Employment and Civil Service conduct complaint-based and surprise inspections in the formal sector, but according to USDOS, a lack of resources limits the frequency and effectiveness of monitoring and enforcement of child labor laws. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and Family is the lead ministry coordinating the fight against trafficking. In March 2008, police intercepted 26 trafficked children in Kita, whose ages ranged from 6 to 17 years. During 2008, three traffickers were also arrested and then released pending further investigation.

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

The Government of Mali continues to implement measures aimed against exploitive child labor from the 2007 Malian Government Plan of Action. To this end, the Ministry of Labor created a National Steering Committee via a decree and worked with this group to update the hazardous labor list. The National Documentation and Information Center on Women and Children also held a workshop to develop an action plan on the development of protection indicators related to child labor in July 2008. And, throughout the year, labor inspectors received training on preventing child labor abuses. During 2008, the Government provided temporary shelter and protection to trafficking victims at welcome centers in several cities and helped child trafficking victims return to their families. Malian officials also cooperated with government authorities from Guinea-Bissau to repatriate trafficked children.

Mali is participating in a USD 3.5 million ILO-IPEC Timebound Preparation project, funded by USDOL, that is working to withdraw 3,000 children and prevent 6,000 children from exploitive work in agriculture, mining, the informal urban sector, domestic service, and commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Mali also participates in a USAID project, for which Phase I was completed in December 2008 and Phase II runs through November 2009. This program is educating families in five villages, as well as truck, bus, and taxi drivers on the methods used by child traffickers.

Mali 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. The Government of Mali is also participating in a 4-year USD 23.8 million project funded by the EU and implemented by ILOIPEC to combat child labor through education in 11 countries.


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