2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Guinea-Bissau

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2000:385,726
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:64.2
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:64.4
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:64.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:12
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2001:69.7
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2001:45.1
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:37.3
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:8/26/2008
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Most working children in Guinea-Bissau are involved in family enterprises. The rate of child work is higher in rural than urban areas. In rural areas, children perform farming and cattle herding. For 4 months each year, during the annual cashew harvest, some children are partially or completely withdrawn from school to work in the fields.

In urban areas, many children work as street vendors, spending hours in the streets shining shoes, washing cars, and selling various items. The Child Protection Office of the Police Department of Bissau, the capital, estimated that approximately 1,000 children were living on the streets of the city during 2008.

Children also work as apprentices in activities such as metalworking, mechanics, and carpentry. Some children live with other families as unpaid domestic servants.

Girls are sometimes exploited as prostitutes in Guinea-Bissau, but the extent of this problem is unknown. Children, primarily boys, are trafficked for begging and agricultural labor, including on cotton plantations. Many children from the Bafata and Gabu regions are trafficked to Senegal, but some children are trafficked to Mali and Guinea. The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Guinea-Bissau. While some boys receive lessons, many are forced by their teachers to beg for money and food. Each child must present the teacher an established amount and may be beaten if he fails to do so. Some children choose to live and beg on the streets rather than return to abusive teachers. Children also attend Koranic schools and engage in begging within Guinea-Bissau. Some girls may be trafficked for domestic service, but reliable evidence is lacking.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for employment is 14 years. For heavy or dangerous labor, including work in mines, the minimum age is 18 years. Working minors may not work overtime and must have fulfilled the compulsory education requirements, except in areas where no schools are available. Fines are established for violations of Labor Code provisions involving children. However, the Code applies only to certain kinds of work that involve wage payments and does not apply to many types of work performed by children, such as domestic and agricultural work.

Forced child labor is prohibited. Prostitution is illegal, and the activities of brothel owners, pimps, customers, and prostitutes are criminalized. Laws against kidnapping and the removal of minors, sexual exploitation, and abuse may be used to prosecute trafficking cases; kidnapping is punishable by imprisonment for 2 to10 years. The Government has also instituted a policy that provides for imprisonment for parents who collude with traffickers and requires parents to sign a contract acknowledging this policy when trafficked children are returned to them. The compulsory military recruitment age is 18 years; however, boys under 16 years may volunteer for the armed forces with the consent of their parents or tutors.

Guinea-Bissau 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.

According to USDOS, although minimum age requirements are generally respected in the small formal sector, these requirements were not enforced by the Ministries of Justice or Civil Service and Labor in the informal sector. Also according to USDOS, the Government's response to child labor is hampered by a lack of resources and political instability. Child labor violations are not prosecuted in courts, as there is a general lack of awareness regarding relevant laws. Perpetrators often flee before court hearings, and the families of many victims believe that they will incur related financial costs, although the Public Prosecution Service may provide a lawyer at no cost for those who cannot afford one. According to USDOS, a number of factors inhibit the investigation and prosecution of trafficking. Local law enforcement lacks the resources to patrol the country's borders; police and border guards are often not paid for months at a time, creating an incentive to accept bribes; and the country has no functioning prisons. During 2008, there were some trafficking-related arrests but no prosecutions. Local law enforcement did, however, investigate parents suspected of collusion with traffickers.

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

The Government of Guinea-Bissau's 2006-2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper included among its goals the construction of welcome centers to assist street and working children. As of the writing of this report, however, the status of these centers was unclear. In August 2008, the Government ratified ILO Convention 182.

The Government provides funding of approximately USD 16,000 per year to a local NGO that manages a shelter for child trafficking victims, and police actively refer victims to the shelter. Local governments and police in victim-sending areas work with UNICEF, NGOs, and community members in surveillance committees to report on suspected cases of trafficking. The Embassy of Guinea-Bissau in Senegal, along with the Ministry of Interior, raises awareness of child trafficking in both sending areas and Senegal, including by encouraging the establishment of centers for Koranic study in local villages to discourage parents from sending children far away to study. During 2008, the Embassy assisted with the repatriation of 63 children to Guinea-Bissau. Police and the courts work with a local NGO to educate parents on the dangers of trafficking and their responsibilities to protect their children. UNICEF likewise supports Government efforts to combat trafficking, providing training to Government officials.


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