The law prohibits the employment of children under age 15 in any enterprise or type of work and children under age 18 from working at night. It requires a daily rest period of at least 12 hours for all working children. However, the law does not include corresponding penalties. For some types of industrial and technical employment, the minimum age is 18. The law prohibits the employment of children in the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and the use of children in armed conflict. However, the law authorizes the employment of children age 16 and older in other sectors likely to harm their health, safety, or morals.
The MSANS is responsible for enforcing the prohibition against the worst forms of child labor. However, the government did not effectively enforce child labor laws due to limited resources. In addition, legal penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Ministry inspectors enforced age requirements only in the formal sector in urban areas. The ministry funded a center for abandoned children and worked with NGOs to combat child trafficking. The ministry frequently held workshops in collaboration with UNICEF, the International Labor Organization, NGOs, labor unions, and other partners to raise awareness of child labor in general and forced labor in particular.
Child labor was a problem. According to UNICEF, 29 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 worked. Some children started work at age five and typically did not attend school for most of the school year. Children worked in both rural and urban areas, particularly in family-based farming and small-scale trading, and as porters and domestic servants. In some cases, children worked in factories. In the agricultural sector, children assisted their parents with the harvesting of cotton, cocoa, and coffee. Children were involved in the production of foodstuffs for consumption by the family such as beans and corn.
The most dangerous activity involving child labor was in the quarries, where children assisted their parents in crushing rock by hand and carrying buckets of gravel on their heads. Such labor was not sanctioned by the government and occurred only in small, privately owned quarries. Reputable local NGOs reported that while quarry work was strictly a weekend and holiday activity for most children, others dropped out of school to work full time in the quarries.
In both urban and rural areas, particularly in farming and small-scale trading, very young children traditionally assisted their families. In rural areas parents sometimes placed young children into domestic work in other households in exchange for one-time fees as low as 12,500 to 17,500 CFA francs ($25 to $35).
Children sometimes were subjected to forced labor, primarily as domestic servants, porters, and roadside sellers. Children were also forced to beg. Children were trafficked into indentured servitude.
During the year the government, in collaboration with international organizations, conducted training and awareness activities with various officials, such as police and customs inspectors as well as private businesses. In June the International Bureau for Children’s Rights trained police officers in children’s rights. In November the Ministry of Security, working with four international groups, held a three-day training session with police from 24 countries on the same subject. In addition, work increased with local committees that served both to raise awareness of trafficking and forced labor and to report instances of either. With help from UNICEF, during the year the government provided funds to poor families with very young children considered at risk for trafficking.
Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/tda.htm.