2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Malawi

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2004:3,657,292
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2004:35.9
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2004:38.0
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2004:34.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:116.5
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:87.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2004:77.0
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:43.4
ILO Convention 138:11/19/1999
ILO Convention 182:11/19/1999
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Malawi, children work in the agriculture, industrial, and service sectors. In agriculture, children work on smallholder farms, including commercial tea and tobacco farms. Some children are engaged in forced and bonded labor on tobacco plantations, alongside their families. Children, particularly boys, are found in the cattle herding and fishing industry sectors. Children also work in the informal sector as street vendors, porters for merchants, and brick makers. Children, especially boys, break rocks and haul sand in the construction sector. Girls work in domestic service for long hours, where they are often unpaid and abused.

Malawi is a source, destination, and transit country for children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, as well as for forced labor. Reports indicate that most trafficking occurs within Malawi and that children are most commonly trafficked for agriculture labor. Children are trafficked to areas such as Kasungu, Salima, Thyolo, Mulanje, and Chikwawa for labor on tobacco and tea estates. Boys are trafficked internally for animal herding. Girls are trafficked internally for labor in restaurants and bars, as domestic laborers, and for commercial sexual exploitation. Some impoverished families resort to selling girls into sexual slavery in the northern region of Malawi, including districts such as Karonga and Chitipa. Children are also trafficked to the lake shore areas such as Chilumba, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Monkey Bay, Salima, and Mangochi for sex tourism.

Children are trafficked along trucking routes in Malawi to South Africa for commercial sexual exploitation. Malawian children are also trafficked to Zambia and Tanzania for cattle herding. Boys as young as 9 years are trafficked from Zambia and Mozambique to Malawi by plantation owners and are engaged in hazardous agricultural work.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years. Exceptions are made for certain work in vocational technical schools, other training institutions, and homes. The law also prohibits children between 14 and 18 years from being employed in work that could harm their health, safety, development, education, or morals, or in work that could interfere with their attendance at school or any vocational or training program. The law protects children under 16 years against economic exploitation and hazardous work. The law prohibits any treatment, work, or punishment that is harmful to a child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, or social development, and any work that interferes with a child's education.

Employers are required to keep a register of all employees under the age of 18 years. Violation of the provisions under the Labor Code can result in a fine and 5 years of imprisonment.

The law prohibits slavery and servitude, as well as any forms of bonded, forced, or compulsory labor. Violators are subject to a monetary fine and 2 years of imprisonment. The law prohibits the procurement of any girl under 21 years for the purpose of unlawful sexual relations, either in Malawi or elsewhere. Abduction, the procuring of a person for prostitution or work in a brothel, and involuntary detention for sexual purposes are all prohibited by law. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the military is 18 years, although those younger may enlist with parental consent.

The Ministry of Labor and the police are responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws and policies. The Ministry and police investigate complaints and tips through their 150 labor officers. However, according to USDOS, the child labor enforcement efforts of the labor inspectors and police were hindered by the lack of resources. The Ministry of Women and Child Development is the lead ministry for combating child trafficking. In addition, the police have 34 support units that focus on managing trafficking cases. According to USDOS, the Government of Malawi cooperated with the Government of Zambia regarding cross-border child trafficking cases.

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

The Government of Malawi included an indicator for combating child labor in its 2006 to 2011 Development and Growth Strategy. The Ministry of Labor budgeted USD 2.47 million for the 2008-2009 fiscal year for its program to combat child labor, which includes labor inspections, community awareness activities, support to families, agricultural tools, money transfers, and education. The Government and ILO continued to work with businesses to eliminate child labor in sectors such as tea and tobacco. The Government runs a shelter for child trafficking victims and street children in the nation's capital. In addition, the Government provides counseling, rehabilitation, and repatriation services to trafficking victims.

The Government of Malawi provided training on child protection and trafficking to its peacekeepers that were deployed abroad. The Government also developed a Law Enforcement Training Manual that was designed to teach police and magistrates how to manage child labor cases. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Labor provided child labor training courses to its labor officers, police, social welfare officers, and magistrates. UNICEF, ILO, the Norwegian Church Aid, and other NGOs provided support for these trainings. According to USDOS, the Government of Malawi continued its strong efforts to raise public awareness on child labor and trafficking.

The Government of Malawi participated in a USDOL-funded 3-year USD 2.1 million ILO-IPEC project that ended in December 2008 and withdrew 2,353 and prevented 3,942 children from entering exploitive labor in agriculture and domestic labor. In addition, the Government of Malawi, in partnership with the Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco Growing Foundation, continued to implement the Integrated Child Labor Elimination Program. The Program is a 4-year USD 4 million project that aims to reduce child labor through awareness-raising and improving the living conditions of children and their families.


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