2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Lesotho

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2000:443,297
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:28.1
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:31.3
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:25.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:114.4
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:72.4
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:80.7
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:73.7
ILO Convention 138:6/14/2001
ILO Convention 182:6/14/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Lesotho, boys as young as 5 years of age herd livestock, either for their families or through an arrangement in which they are hired out by their parents. Boys also work as load bearers, car washers, and taxi fare collectors. Some girls also engage in herding. They are also employed as domestic servants, in some cases working up to 16 hours daily. According to a 2006 report jointly published by the ILO and the Government of Lesotho's Ministry of Employment and Labor, domestic servants are sexually exploited. Children work as street vendors, where they are exposed to inclement weather, long hours, and pressure to participate in illegal activities. Children are also involved in commercial sexual exploitation.

Children in Lesotho are trafficked internationally to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia for sexual exploitation. Children are also trafficked internally to work as herders. Boys are trafficked internally to work as street vendors, and girls for domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation. South African boys are also trafficked to Lesotho to work as herders.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years, although children 13 to 15 years may perform light work in a home-based environment, technical school, or other institution approved by the Government. Children of any age may work for their family in a private undertaking, provided there are no more than five other employees and all are members of the child's family. Persons under 16 years may not work for more than 4 consecutive hours without a break of at least 1 hour and may not work more than 8 hours in any 1 day. Working children, with the exception of domestic laborers, have a right to return to their homes at night. Each employer in an industrial undertaking is required to keep a register of all employees under 18 years of age. The law identifies the protection of children and young persons as a principle of state policy. The law prohibits the employment of children in hazardous work. Work prohibited for children includes working in or with mines, quarries, underwater, dangerous heights, confined spaces, dangerous machinery, and heavy equipment.

The law sets a penalty of up to 3 months in prison and/or a fine for an employer in the industrial sector who employs an underage child or for an employer who fails to keep a register of all employees under 18 years of age. The law also dictates imprisonment of up to 6 months and/or a fine for persons who employ a child in violation of restrictions related to dangerous work, required rest periods, parental rights to refuse work for their children, and children's rights to return each night to the home of their parents or guardians.

Violation of the minimum age for work carries a penalty of 3 months in prison and/or a fine.

The Constitution defines and prohibits forced labor and slavery; punishment includes fines and 1 year of imprisonment. Lesotho does not have laws specifically prohibiting trafficking in children for either sexual exploitation or labor. However, violators can be prosecuted under the Child Protection Act of 1980, Sexual Offenses Act of 2003, kidnapping, which is an offense under Common Law, and the Labor Code Order of 1981 as amended. Military service is not compulsory, and the minimum age for voluntary enlistment is 18 years. The law defines and prohibits child prostitution. The procurement of a girl for prostitution is punishable by a maximum penalty of up to 6 years in prison. It is illegal to procure or attempt to procure a women or girl to become a prostitute within Lesotho, or to leave Lesotho so that she may be a prostitute elsewhere. Lesotho has an extradition treaty with South Africa so that Lesotho nationals committing crimes against Lesotho children in South Africa can be extradited to Lesotho for prosecution.

The law provides broad powers for the Labor Commissioner and staff to perform workplace inspections, but only in the commercial sector. The Ministry of Employment and Labor has three inspectors for each district and seven for the capital to conduct randomly selected samples of enterprises each week for general inspection, including child labor code inspections. According to a 2007 ILO Committee of Experts session, the last such assessment year, government inspections are difficult to execute due to a lack of resources and absence in oversight in the informal sector. Current labor laws do not apply to child labor in the informal sector, subsistence agriculture, or self-employment. According to a 2007 UNESCO report, the last year for which such data are available, the Child and Gender Protection Unit lacks funding and trained personnel.

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

In April 2008, the Government, with support from UNICEF, established a national, toll-free helpline for children. This helpline offers counseling and referral services to address a variety of issues, including child labor. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Child and Gender Protection Unit works with UNICEF to prevent children from involvement in prostitution.

The Government participated in a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 9 million regional project implemented by the American Institutes for Research that ended in August 2008. Over the life of the project, 2,247 children were withdrawn from exploitive labor and provided education or training opportunities in five countries.

In January 2009, several Government ministries, NGOs, and diplomats participated in a counter-trafficking and child sexual abuse seminar conducted by the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, which was also featured on local television. In collaboration with UNICEF, the Government established a toll-free helpline for children to report abuse, including child prostitution.


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