2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Congo, Democratic Republic of

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 10-14 years, 2000:7,098,056
Working children, 10-14 years (%), 2000:39.8
Working boys, 10-14 years (%), 2000:39.9
Working girls, 10-14 years (%), 2000:39.8
Working children by sector, 10-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:No
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2003:60.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 10-14 years (%), 2000:65.0
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO Convention 138:6/20/2001
ILO Convention 182:6/20/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) work in subsistence agriculture and artisanal mining. In mining areas, children sift, clean, sort, transport, and dig for minerals under hazardous conditions. Children are used to extract copper, cobalt, diamonds, and gold. In the eastern DRC, Congolese and foreign armed groups force children to mine coltan, tungsten ore, and cassiterite. In urban centers and other parts of the country, Congolese children sell food, carry packages, unload buses, work in restaurants, and break stones into gravel for a small wage. Some children also market drugs and alcohol, serve as security guards, dig graves, and engage in prostitution.

Armed groups outside of Government control continue to forcibly recruit and use children in armed conflict. Throughout 2008, intense fighting between rebel groups and the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in the eastern DRC, particularly in North Kivu Province, reportedly led to an increase in child recruitment. Children associated with armed groups were sexually exploited and forced to work as combatants, porters, guards, spies, and domestic servants. Some of these children were released and subsequently re-recruited for armed conflict. Amnesty International notes that for every two children demobilized in the DRC, five more are re-recruited by armed groups.

According to the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, FARDC did not make a systematic effort to recruit children. Some brigades, however, continued to maintain children in their ranks.

Children are abducted within the DRC for forced labor, child soldiering, and sexual exploitation. Foreign armed groups, including the Uganda-linked Lord's Resistance Army, abduct children from Rwanda and Uganda for domestic service, hauling, forced labor, child soldiering, and sexual exploitation in the DRC. Children are also reportedly trafficked from the DRC to South Africa for sexual exploitation.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years. Children between 15 and 18 years may be employed with the permission of a parent or guardian. Children under 16 years, however, may work no more than 4 hours per day. According to a Ministry of Labor decree signed in August 2008, children between 16 and 18 years may not work more than 8 hours per day, at night or on weekends, or under hazardous conditions. The August 2008 decree defines the worst forms of child labor as the following: all forms of slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, forced labor, and forced recruitment by armed groups; use and recruitment of children for prostitution, obscene dancing, and pornography; use and recruitment of children for drug trafficking; and any form of employment that may be detrimental to a child's health and well-being. The penalty for violating child labor provisions in the law is imprisonment for 6 months and a fine. The law bans forced or bonded labor, the recruitment of anyone under 18 years into the Armed Forces, and the use of children in hostilities. The law also makes illegal the use of children as a means for trafficking drugs or engaging in other illicit activities such as prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. The law prohibits trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, and pimping. The prescribed penalty for these crimes is 10 to 20 years in prison.

The DRC was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperation 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 Multilateral Cooperation Agreement, the Government of the DRC 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 in the DRC is responsible for investigating child labor violations and has deployed 10 inspectors to the mining areas of the Katanga province. According to USDOS, the Government does not have the resources to enforce child labor laws and combat human trafficking. In 2008, the Government did not complete any child labor investigations.

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

In 2008, the Government continued to implement a national disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration plan for combatants, including children. Under this plan, former child soldiers received temporary housing and vocational training from NGO-managed centers. With the support of UNICEF and the UN Mission in the DRC, the Government conducted a national public awareness campaign to promote the release of all children under the control of armed groups. The Government continues to participate in a USDOL-funded 4-year USD 5.5 million project implemented by Save the Children UK and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity. The project targets 8,000 children for withdrawal and 4,000 children for prevention from entering exploitive child labor though the provision of educational services. The Government also participated in a USD 1.3 million project implemented by ILO-IPEC and funded by the Government of Norway to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict and support the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in the DRC and Burundi.


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