Libya

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions. It provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively and conduct legal strikes, with significant restrictions. The law neither prohibits antiunion discrimination nor requires the reinstatement of workers for union activity. By law workers in the formal sector are automatically members of the General Trade Union Federation of Workers, although they may elect to withdraw from the union. Only citizens may be union members, and regulations do not permit foreign workers to organize. According to Freedom House, some trade unions formed after the 2011 revolution, but they remained in their infancy, and collective-bargaining activity was severely limited due to the continuing hostilities and weak rule of law.

The GNU was limited in its ability to enforce applicable labor laws. The requirement that all collective agreements conform to the “national economic interest” restricted collective bargaining. Workers may call strikes only after exhausting all conciliation and arbitration procedures. The government or one of the parties may demand compulsory arbitration, thus severely restricting strikes. The government has the right to set and cut salaries without consulting workers. State penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

Employees organized spontaneous strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins in a number of workplaces, generally to protest delays in salary payments.

The law did not prohibit or criminalize all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The penal code criminalizes slavery and prescribes penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment. It also criminalizes the buying and selling of slaves and prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Other forms of forced labor are not criminalized. The GNU did not fully enforce the law, however. The resources, inspections, and penalties for abuses were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

There were numerous anecdotal reports of migrants and IDPs being subjected to forced labor by human traffickers. According to numerous press reports, individuals were compelled to support the armed groups that enslaved them, including by preparing and transporting weapons. Others were forced under threat of violence to perform manual labor on farms, at industrial and construction facilities, and in homes.

Private employers sometimes used detained migrants from prisons and detention centers as forced labor on farms or construction sites; when the work was completed or the employers no longer required the migrants’ labor, employers returned them to detention facilities.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits and criminalizes the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from employment, except in a form of apprenticeship. The law stipulates employees may not work more than 48 hours per week or more than 10 hours in a single day. The law sets occupational safety and health (OSH) restrictions for children. The government lacked the capacity to enforce the law. No information was available to determine whether abuses of child labor laws incur penalties commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. There were reports of children forced into labor or military service by nonstate armed groups. These accounts were difficult to verify due to the absence of independent monitoring organizations and the continuing hostilities.

See also the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The 2011 Constitutional Declaration provides for a right to work for every citizen and prohibits any form of discrimination based on religion, race, political opinion, language, wealth, kinship, social status, and tribal, regional, or familial loyalty. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, social status, HIV-positive status, or having other communicable diseases. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s employment or occupation. The limitations of the central government restricted its ability to enforce applicable laws. Penalties for abuses were not commensurate with other laws on civil rights, such as election interference.

Women faced discrimination in the workplace. The law prohibits women from working in jobs deemed “morally inappropriate.” Regulations issued by the General People’s Committee prohibit women from working in roles “unsuited to their nature as women” and permit women’s work hours to be reduced for certain professions and occupations as a function of the work’s requirements and the proportion of male and female workers. Observers reported that authorities precluded hiring women for positions in the civil service. They also reported social pressure on women to leave the workplace, especially in high-profile professions such as journalism and law enforcement. In rural areas societal discrimination restricted women’s freedom of movement, including to local destinations, and impaired their ability to play an active role in the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The Ministry of Labor and Rehabilitation’s Department of Labor Inspection and Occupational Safety is responsible for enforcing the national monthly minimum wage. There is no set official poverty income level. The law stipulates a workweek of 40 hours, standard working hours, night shift regulations, dismissal procedures, and training requirements. The law does not specifically prohibit excessive compulsory overtime. Penalties for abuses were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: OSH standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country. The government generally did not enforce them. Certain industries, such as the petroleum sector, attempted to maintain standards set by foreign companies. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with OSH experts and not the worker. The law provides OSH standards and grants workers the right to court hearings regarding abuses of these standards. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment. The limitations of the GNU restricted its ability to enforce wage laws and OSH standards. Penalties for abuses of the law were not commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

The Ministry of Labor and Rehabilitation is responsible for OSH concerns, but no information was available on enforcement and compliance.

Informal Sector: No accurate data on the size of the informal economy were available. The law does not provide for OSH standards for workers in the informal economy.

Liechtenstein

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of all workers to form and join independent unions of their choice and to bargain collectively. The law provides for freedom of assembly but is silent on the right to strike. The law neither prohibits antiunion discrimination nor requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government adequately enforced applicable laws, and the government and employers respected freedom of association and collective bargaining in practice. Penalties in the form of fines were commensurate with those for similar crimes, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for violations were criminal and commensurate with those for similar crimes. The government effectively enforced the law.

The LHRA reported no incidents involving forced or compulsory labor, including incidents involving children. In 2020 the Liechtenstein Institute published a study on employment relationships in the private home-care sector, where work was often performed by migrant women. The study made no allegations of compulsory labor but noted that employment relationships in home care are not subject to a compulsory standard employment contract and that provisions such as maximum working hours may not be respected. The LHRA, the women’s resource and counseling NGO Infra, and the labor union Liechtenstein Workers Association have called for parliament to bring home care under the jurisdiction of national labor law.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and sets the minimum age for employment at 16, with exceptions for limited employment of children between the ages of 14 and 16. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 may engage in certain categories of light work, but those of compulsory school age (through age 15) may work no more than nine hours per week during the school year and 35 hours per week during school vacations. Children younger than 15 may be employed for the purposes of cultural, artistic, athletic, and advertising events. Working hours for youths between the ages of 15 and 18 are not to exceed 40 hours a week. The law prohibits children younger than 17 from working overtime and prohibits children through age 18 from engaging in night work or Sunday shifts. The law stipulates that an employer must consider the health of minors and provide them a proper moral environment within the workplace. The law also stipulates that employers may not overexert minors and that employers must protect the child from “negative influences” within the workplace.

The Office for Worker Safety of the Department of National Economy effectively enforced child labor laws and devoted adequate resources and oversight to child labor policies. Legal penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, and inspections by trained inspectors were adequate to enforce compliance. The LHRA did not report any violations of the prohibition on child labor or minimum working age during the year.

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on gender and disability. The law does not specifically prohibit employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, color, ethnicity, age, gender identity, HIV/AIDS, or refugee status. Violations may result in the award of compensation to a prospective or dismissed employee equal to at least three months’ salary in the case of gender discrimination, and unspecified civil damages in the case of discrimination against persons with disabilities.

The government generally enforced the law. The country’s labor inspectorate was sufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar civil rights violations. According to statements by the Liechtenstein Institute and the LAPD, women, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ individuals experienced discrimination in the labor market. In 2018 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance expressed concerns that members of the LGBTQI+ community encountered prejudice and employment discrimination.

According to the 2020 Human Rights Report of the Liechtenstein Institute, women in the country earned a median income 15 percent lower than that of men. In its Agenda 2030 program, the government noted that a large part of the difference was explained by factors such as education level, and that the unexplained wage difference between genders was “very small.” The Women’s Network also noted a marked difference between men and women persisted in professional promotions; the government’s Agenda 2030 program noted that 5 percent of male employees held top-level management positions, but this was true for only 1 percent of female employees. A May 2020 analysis by the Swiss Center of Expertise on Human Rights found that immigrant workers experienced workplace discrimination, including based on gender, race, nationality, and religion.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not provide for a national minimum wage. The Liechtenstein Workers Association, a labor union, negotiates voluntary collective bargaining agreements with the Chamber of Commerce on a sector-by-sector basis. Minimum wages are reset annually in a wage and protocol agreement. Collective bargaining and wage agreements were effectively enforced, and wages exceeded the poverty level.

The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for professional workers, employees of industrial firms, and sales personnel and 48 hours for other workers. Separate provisions apply to minors (see section 7.c.). Overtime may not exceed an average workweek of 48 hours over a period of four consecutive months. Some exceptions to overtime limits were authorized, for example, in the area of medical treatment.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law sets occupational safety and health standards that were appropriate for the main industries in the country. The labor standards also cover the thousands of workers who commuted daily from neighboring countries. There are additional safeguards for youths, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and employees with children. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with occupational safety and health experts, not with workers.

The Office of Labor Inspection, a part of the Department of National Economy, effectively enforced labor laws on working conditions. The agency had a sufficient number of inspectors authorized to make unannounced inspections and levy sanctions to enforce the law effectively. The Country’s Labor Inspectorate carried out 297 inspections in 2020, up from 109 in 2019, and 25 inspections resulted in recommendations to employers regarding health and safety measures or regulations governing working hours. The Labor Inspectorate issued 18 reports to the National Police based on investigations of workplace accidents. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Infra noted the working conditions of domestic workers and nurses employed in private homes were not subject to inspections or official labor contracts, which made the sectors vulnerable to exploitation.

Lithuania

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers, except the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits employer discrimination against union organizers and members and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. These provisions also apply to migrant workers.

There were some specific legal limits to these rights. The law bans sympathy strikes. It also prohibits law enforcement officials, first-aid medical workers, and other security-related personnel from collective bargaining and striking, although they may join unions. The law does not afford workers in essential services, whose right to strike is restricted or prohibited, alternative procedures for impartial and rapid settlement of their claims or a voice in developing such procedures.

Labor-management disputes are settled by a labor arbitration board formed under the jurisdiction of the district court where the registered office of the enterprise or entity involved in the collective dispute is located. Although the law establishes the binding character of the decision upon the parties, the decisions cannot lay down rights or obligations of individuals and are not enforceable by the courts. Labor-code procedures make it difficult for some workers to exercise the right to strike. The law allows an employer to hire replacement workers in certain sectors to provide for minimum services during strikes.

The government generally respected freedom of association but did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and penalties are not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, the judicial system was slow to respond to cases of unfair dismissal, and no employer faced penal sanctions for antiunion discrimination as envisaged in the law. No courts or judges specialized in labor disputes.

Employers did not always respect collective bargaining rights, and managers often determined wages without regard to union preferences, except in large factories with well-organized unions.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. Penalties are commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

There were instances of forced labor, most of which involved local men subjected to forced labor abroad. Foreign workers from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine were at risk of labor trafficking as long-haul truck drivers, builders, ship hull assemblers, and welders.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all of the worst forms of child labor and provides for the protection of children from exploitation in the workplace, including limitations on working hours, occupational safety, and health restrictions. The law sets the minimum age for most employment at 16 but allows the employment of children as young as 14 for light work with the written consent of the child’s parents or guardians and school. The government has not created a list of jobs considered “light work.” The law mandates reduced work hours for children, allowing up to two hours per day or 12 hours per week during the school year and up to seven hours per day or 32 hours per week when school is not in session. According to the law, hazardous work is any environment that may cause disease or pose a danger to the employee’s life, such as heavy construction or working with industrial chemicals. Under the law children younger than 18 may not perform hazardous work. Penalties for violations of child labor laws were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The State Labor Inspectorate is responsible for receiving complaints related to employment of persons younger than 18. The government effectively enforced the law. In the first eight months of the year, the inspectorate identified 19 cases in which children were working illegally in the agriculture, retail, manufacturing, construction, and service sectors.

The law prohibits employment discrimination but does not specifically address HIV-positive or other communicable disease status, or gender identity. The law obliges the employer to implement the principles of gender equality and nondiscrimination, which prohibit direct and indirect discrimination, and psychological and sexual harassment. The employer must apply the same selection criteria and conditions when hiring new employees; provide equal working conditions, opportunities for professional development, and benefits; apply equal and uniform criteria for dismissal; pay equal wages for the same work and for work of equal value; and take measures to prevent psychological and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The government effectively enforced the law, and penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

The law stipulates that discrimination based on sex should also cover discrimination related to pregnancy and maternity (childbirth and breastfeeding). A pay gap between men and women continued to exist. In addition, government social payments were not equal for men and women, contributing to a higher poverty rate among elderly women.

The EOO monitored the implementation of discrimination laws. As of September 1, the EOO received 32 complaints related to employment. To address the gender equality problem, the EOO worked with the governmental Family Policy Commission, which ensures cooperation between state and municipal institutions that formulate family policy and related legislation. The EOO prepared a gender equality self-assessment tool for employers and conducted a series of targeted training sessions on gender equality. Under the law the age requirements for women and men to retire with full or partial pension benefits are not equal.

NGOs reported that workers in the Romani, LGBTQI+, and HIV-positive communities faced social and employment discrimination (see section 6). Non-Lithuanian speakers and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and workplace access.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The labor law limits annual maximum overtime to 180 hours and establishes different categories of work contracts, such as for permanent, fixed-term, temporary agency, apprenticeship, project, job-sharing, employee-sharing, and seasonal work. Employers and employees may mutually agree to a higher amount of maximum overtime through the collective bargaining process.

According to the National Department of Statistics, as of January 1, the minimum monthly wage increased by 6 percent and was above the poverty line. The Statistics Department reported that 585,000 persons in the country lived below the poverty risk line in 2020. The poverty risk level stood at 20.9 percent in the country, up by 0.3 percent from 2019.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country, such as petroleum refining, food processing, energy supplies, chemicals, furniture, wood products, textiles, and clothing. The law applies to both national and foreign workers. The government effectively enforced OSH laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

The State Labor Inspectorate (SLI), which is responsible for implementing labor laws, had a staff sufficient to enforce compliance. During the first eight months of the year, the inspectorate conducted 2,449 inspections at companies and other institutions. Of these cases, 80 percent were related to underpayment of wages, late payment of wages, or worker safety. Workers dissatisfied with the results of an investigation may appeal to the court system. According to the SLI, violations of wage, overtime, and OSH laws occurred primarily in the construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors. The inspectorate received complaints concerning hazardous conditions from workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

As of September 13, the SLI recorded 2,930 accidents at work, including 22 fatal accidents, compared with 2,533 and 22, respectively, in 2020. Most accidents occurred in the transport, construction, processing, and agricultural sectors. To address the problem, the inspectorate continued conducting a series of training seminars for inspectors on technical labor inspection.

The SLI also issued reports on downtime arrangements, recommendations and regulations on labor relations during emergency situations and quarantines, and support to workers and employers available during a pandemic. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment. Workers have the legal right to request compensation for health concerns arising from dangerous working conditions. Health-care workers were overloaded and at the greatest risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The SLI organized 218 consultations and educational events on occupational safety and health, which were attended by more than 4,800 persons. It also organized a virtual quiz entitled “Future without Shadow” for high school students.

Informal Sector: The informal economy accounted for an estimated 25 percent of the economy. Refugee employment opportunities were primarily concentrated in construction, hospitality (restaurants), manufacturing, and housekeeping. The lack of language skills, job search assistance, education, and qualifications were major barriers to the employment of refugees.

Luxembourg

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers, including foreign workers and workers in the informal sector, to form and join independent unions of their choice, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. Workers exercised these rights freely, and the government protected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The right to strike excludes government workers who provide essential services. Legal strikes may occur only after a lengthy conciliation procedure between the parties. For a strike to be legal, the government’s national conciliation office must certify that conciliation efforts have ended.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government pursued suspected cases and effectively enforced the law. Although NGOs reported it to be understaffed, the Labor Inspectorate increased recruitment efforts during the year to allow it to conduct timely inspections to enforce compliance. Penalties for violations included imprisonment under criminal law and were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

There were reports that foreign men and women were engaged in forced labor, chiefly in the construction and restaurant sectors. Some children were engaged in forced begging (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and the employment of children younger than 16. Trainees younger than 16 must attend school in addition to their job training. The law also prohibits the employment of workers younger than 18 in hazardous work environments, on Sundays and official holidays, and for nighttime work. The Ministries of Labor and Education effectively enforced the child labor laws.

Romani children from neighboring countries were sometimes brought into the country during the day and trafficked for the purpose of forced begging (see section 7.b.).

By law persons who employ children younger than 16 may be subject to a fine and prison sentence. The penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, national extraction, social origin, religion, political opinion, sex, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or refugee or social status. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other crimes related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Employers occasionally discriminated against persons with disabilities in employment (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). The law establishes quotas that require businesses employing more than 25 persons to hire certain percentages of workers with disabilities and to pay them prevailing wages. InfoHandicap noted that the government failed to enforce this law consistently.

The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including rights under labor law and in the judicial system. The law mandates equal pay for equal work. According to information provided by the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men, during the year employers paid women 5.5 percent less on average than men for comparable work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law sets a national minimum wage for a worker older than age 18. Collective bargaining agreements established eight hours as a standard workday, with a 40-hour week and provision for 26 days leave and overtime.

The health and safety inspection agency ITM, the Social Security Ministry, and the Superior Court of Justice are responsible for enforcing laws governing maximum hours of work and mandatory holidays. The labor inspection ITM was understaffed but was making efforts to recruit more individuals in order to come into compliance. ITM inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The majority of alleged violations occurred in the construction sector. The agencies effectively enforced the law, when notified. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. In 2020 the ITM carried out 7,419 inspections and levied almost 8.945 million euros ($10.57 million) in fines.

According to the latest ITM report, the labor inspection organization carried out 2,102 health security checks in the country’s private sector to curb the spread of COVID-19. Between March 18, 2020 (start of the COVID-19 pandemic) and December 31, 2020, ITM issued 13 administrative fines for not respecting health regulations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law mandates a safe working environment and occupational safety and health standards are current and appropriate. Authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Penalties were commensurate with similar violations.

The ITM and the accident insurance agency of the Social Security Ministry are responsible for inspecting workplaces. Although NGOs reported the Labor Inspectorate to be understaffed, the Labor Inspectorate increased recruitment efforts in 2020 to enforce compliance sufficiently. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections, except in private homes, and to order emergency measures for the regularization or cessation of labor law violations. They can seek assistance from the police should they meet opposition to the fulfillment of their duties. Inspectors can issue fines and establish reports documenting the infringements of the laws, which are forwarded by the director to the prosecutor’s office for further action if needed. Workers have the right to ask the Labor Inspectorate to make a determination regarding workplace safety. Penalties for violations were commensurate with other similar crimes. Accidents occurred most frequently in the construction, commerce, industry, and catering sectors. In 2020 the ITM recorded 581 accidents (versus 466 accidents in 2019), including four fatalities.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal sector are covered by wage, hour, and OSH laws as well as inspections. The country’s informal sector was not large.

Madagascar

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides that public- and private-sector workers may establish and join labor unions of their choice without prior authorization or excessive requirements. Civil servants and maritime workers have separate labor codes. Essential workers, including police, military, and firefighters, may not form unions. Seafarers are covered by the maritime code, which does not specifically provide the right to form unions.

The law generally allows for union activities and provides most workers the right to strike, including workers in export processing zones (EPZs). Authorities prohibit strikes, however, if there is a possibility of “disruption of public order” or if the strike would endanger the life, safety, or health of the population. Workers must first exhaust conciliation, mediation, and compulsory arbitration remedies, which may take eight months to two and one-half years. Magistrates and workers in “essential services” (not defined by law) have a recognized but more restricted right to strike. The law requires them to maintain a basic level of service and to give prior notice to their employer. The law also provides for a fine, imprisonment, or both for the “instigators and leaders of illegal strikes.”

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers. In the event of antiunion activity, unions or their members may file suit against the employer in civil court. The law does not accord civil servants and other public-sector employees legal protection against antiunion discrimination and interference. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with other laws involving denials of civil rights such as discrimination.

The law provides workers in the private sector, except seafarers, the right to bargain collectively. Public-sector employees not engaged in the administration of the state, such as teachers hired under the auspices of donor organizations or parent associations in public schools, do not have the right to bargain collectively. Authorities did not always enforce applicable laws, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Larger international firms, such as in the telecommunications and banking sectors, more readily exercised and respected collective bargaining rights. These rights, however, were reportedly more difficult to exercise in EPZs and in smaller local companies. Union representatives reported workers in such companies often were reluctant to make demands due to fear of reprisal.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The law requires that unions operate independently of the government and political parties. Union representatives indicated employers attempted to dissuade, influence, or otherwise interfere with unions, which often prevented workers from organizing or advocating for better working conditions. Unions reported that many employers hindered their employees’ ability to form or join labor unions through intimidation and threats of dismissal for professional misconduct. Due to pervasive corruption, labor inspectors, bribed by some employers, usually approved dismissal of union leaders. As a result, workers were reluctant to join or lead unions.

Strikes occurred throughout the year, including by public school and university teachers, national company employees, and public-health workers. During a May Labor Day television debate union leaders complained they continued to be victims of discrimination, harassment, and intimidation within the public and private sectors. They accused government officials of threatening union leaders or claiming union leaders’ statements regarding labor topics were politically motivated. Some union leaders admitted that some of them were indeed politically engaged and used their positions as political springboards.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced labor, but penalties were not commensurate with other serious crimes such as kidnapping. Forced child labor was a significant problem in the informal sector (see section 7.c.). Forced labor also persisted in dina judgments (see section 1.e.). In some communities local dinas imposed forced labor to resolve conflicts or pay debt. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

The government has a national service requirement law, under which all citizens are required to perform two years of military service or other work, which the International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized as a potential means of mobilizing compulsory labor for economic development. The national service requirement, however, was not enforced, because those wishing to enlist exceeded the available spaces and funding.

Union representatives charged that working conditions in some garment factories were akin to forced labor. Setting production targets instead of paying overtime allowances became a general practice among EPZ companies. Workers were assigned higher targets each time they reached the previous goals, obliging them to work more hours to avoid sanctions like salary withholding or even dismissal for low performance. Media and union representatives reported additional abuses perpetrated in call centers run by offshore companies and reported that managers required employees to work overtime beyond legal limits.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law establishes a legal minimum working age of 16, with various restrictions. The law also regulates working conditions of children, prohibits all the worst forms of child labor, identifies penalties for employers, and establishes the institutional framework for implementation. The law allows children to work a maximum of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week with no overtime and prohibits persons younger than 18 from working at night or where there is an imminent danger to health, safety, or morals. The law prohibits hazardous occupations and activities for children. The law requires working children to undergo a semiannual medical checkup performed by the company’s doctor or an authorized doctor at the expense of the employer.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with other serious crimes such as kidnapping. The Ministry of Civil Services, Administrative Reform, Labor, and Social Laws was responsible for enforcing child labor laws.

Child labor was a widespread problem. Children in rural areas worked mostly in agriculture, fishing, and livestock herding, while those in urban areas worked in domestic labor, transport of goods by cart, petty trading, stone quarrying, artisanal mining for gemstones such as sapphires, in bars, and as beggars. Mica mining and sorting was an industry rife with child labor abuses. Children also worked in the vanilla sector, salt production, deep-sea diving, and the shrimp industry. Some children were victims of human trafficking. Forced child labor occurred, including child sex trafficking and forced labor in mining, quarrying, begging, and domestic work. The results of the 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicated 47 percent of children were involved in child labor, including 36 percent of those ages five to 11. In addition 32 percent of children between ages five and 17 worked in dangerous environments or occupations.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

Labor laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, origin, or disability. A special decree on HIV in the workplace bans discrimination based on serology status. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, age, color, ethnicity or refugee and statelessness status. The government did not effectively enforce the law and penalties were not commensurate with those for other violations of civil rights. Discrimination remained a problem. Employers subjected persons with disabilities and LGBTQI+ individuals to hiring discrimination. Stateless persons had difficulty accessing employment, and refugees and asylum seekers were barred from employment. Members of some evangelical churches reported limited access to employment if their Sabbath was not on Sunday.

In rural areas where most of the population engaged in subsistence farming, traditional social structures tended to favor entrenched gender roles, leading to a pattern of discrimination against women. While there was little discrimination in access to employment and credit, women often did not receive equal pay for substantially similar work. The law does not permit women to work in positions that might endanger their health, safety, or morals. According to the labor and social protection codes, such positions included night shifts in the manufacturing sector and certain positions in the mining, metallurgy, and chemical industries.

Sexual harassment prevailed in many sectors, especially in manufacturing companies and public education (see section 6, Women – Sexual Harassment).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In 2019 the government raised the minimum wage to an amount slightly above the poverty level as defined by the World Bank. The standard workweek was 40 hours in nonagricultural and service industries and 42.5 hours in the agricultural sector. The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, and the penalties were not commensurate with other similar crimes.

The law limits workers to 20 hours of overtime per week and requires two and one-half days of paid annual leave per month. The law requires overtime pay, generally for more than 40 hours work in one week, but the exact circumstances requiring such pay are unclear. If the hours worked exceed the legal limits for working hours (2,200 hours per year in agriculture and 173.33 hours per month in other sectors), employers are legally required to pay overtime in accordance with a labor council decree that also denotes the required amount of overtime pay.

The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Laws was responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. The number of labor inspectors working nationwide was insufficient, according to Ministry of Labor officials, since it could not even cover entirely the formal sector while the informal sector was much larger. All labor inspections were unannounced. The labor code provides that labor inspectors have the right to enter at any time and with no prior notice any site subject to labor inspection. Labor inspectors do not have legal law enforcement status and as a result may not issue sanctions. When they observe a labor law violation, labor inspectors only remind employers regarding the applicable legal provisions and related penalties, and they make recommendations to the court, which has the authority to assess penalties. Except in cases of serious threats to worker safety or health, the labor inspectorate submits its report to justice for action once an allotted time to correct the situation has passed. Labor inspectors started a strike in November 2020 to claim payment of unpaid allowances since 2016 and called on the government to adopt legislation amending their status. In April leaders or their union announced that their strike movement continued. As of September there was no official announcement on the end of the strike, but labor inspectors had almost fully resumed their activities.

The government did not always enforce the law. The penalties for labor violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. No report on government efforts to prevent violations during the year was available.

Violations of wage, overtime, or occupational safety and health standards were common in the informal sector and in domestic work, where many worked long hours for less than minimum wage. Workers in EPZ factories reported during the year that many employers advertised positions under the minimum wage and few applicants refused due to the high unemployment rate resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. In May labor unions stated to the press that enforcement of minimum wage laws was nonexistent since the beginning of the labor inspectors’ strike.

In March the government required companies with more than 500 employees to limit on-site presence to 50 percent in response to a severe second wave of COVID-19. In May labor unions stated that because of this measure, employers paid only half salary to their employees.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards for workers and workplaces. Workers, including foreign or migrant workers, have an explicit right to remove themselves from unsafe situations without jeopardizing their employment if they inform their supervisors. Employers did not always respect this right. Labor activists noted that standards, dating to the country’s independence in some cases, were severely outdated. The ILO observed gaps between labor code provisions and international OSH standards. Inspectors for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as wage and hours. The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Laws is responsible for enforcing OSH standards but did not effectively enforce the law. There were no prosecutions, and penalties were not commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. During the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that began in the spring of 2020, workers from various sectors complained regarding a lack of protection and disrespect of sanitary rules in the workplace. Employees of private companies, such as call centers, continued to report their employers failed to provide appropriate face masks and hand sanitizer while many of them were working in crowded conditions, making social distancing impossible.

Media and labor unions repeatedly raised the problem that employers were increasingly violating labor rights during the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis. During suspension of public transportation, some employers failed to provide transportation services as instructed by the government. Employees who did not have personal means to commute to work had to walk long distances.

In early April the president required vulnerable workers to stay home and recommended employers to allow telework as part of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response. In May representatives of workers within the public administration reported to the press several deaths among their colleagues due to coronavirus as their employers failed to comply with the president’s recommendation and continued to require vulnerable workers to report to work.

Statistics on work accidents were unavailable. On January 27, a building under construction in Anosizato Antananarivo collapsed killing two workers and injuring nine others. As of early February, the owner of the building had compensated the neighboring inhabitants who had moved elsewhere, but there was no report of compensation for the victims of the accident. On January 28, an employee of an EPZ factory in Anosiala Ambohidratrimo died from electrocution on the factory’s roof after encountering a high voltage wire.

The ILO has supported the government since 2017 through its Vision Zero Fund Program designed to build the capacity of national actors on occupational safety and health. During the year labor inspectors, labor controllers, occupational health doctors, labor unions, and representatives of workers received training. Ministry of Labor officials, including the minister, used the training sessions to promote a culture of accident prevention. The program targeted the garment and construction industries in addition to the litchi production chain initially covered by the project.

Informal Sector: The informal sector made up 95.1 percent of employment in the country, according to available data, with most persons self-employed in fishing, forestry, and agriculture at the subsistence level. Although the law is meant to cover all types of working contracts including the informal sector, labor inspection did not cover the informal sector due to insufficient staffing. In May the director general of ENAM, the professional civil service academy in the country, announced during a graduation ceremony that 50 labor inspectors would be assigned to the agricultural sector because that sector constituted the largest part of the informal economy. CNAPS, the National Social Protection Fund, has for many years provided social protection to domestic workers when their employers pay regular contributions to the fund. The benefits include retirement allowances, family allocations, maternity leave allowances, and annuities in case of a work accident. During the year the national fund started including drivers among their beneficiaries, but there were no reports on the employers’ willingness to contribute.

Malawi

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law allows workers, except for military personnel and police, to form and join trade unions of their choice without previous authorization. Unions must register with the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations in the Ministry of Labor; registration requirements are not onerous, but failure to meet annual reporting requirements may result in cancellation of a union’s registration. The law places some restrictions on the right to collectively bargain, including requirements of prior authorization by authorities, and bargaining status. The law provides for unions to conduct their activities without government interference. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for remedial measures in cases of dismissal for union activity. The law does not specifically prohibit retaliation against strikers or actions against unions that are not registered.

The law requires that at least 20 percent of employees (excluding senior managerial staff) belong to a union before it may engage in collective bargaining at the enterprise (factory) level, and at least 15 percent of employees must be union members for collective bargaining at the sector (industry) level. The law provides for the establishment of industrial councils in the absence of collective agreements for sector-level bargaining. Industrial council functions include wage negotiation, dispute resolution, and industry-specific labor policy development.

The law allows members of a registered union to strike after going through a mandatory mediation process overseen by the Ministry of Labor. A strike may take place only after failure of a lengthy settlement procedure, including seven days’ notice of a strike and a 21-day conciliation process as set out in the Labor Relations Act. An amendment to the Employment Act and Labor Relations Act enacted in October allows employers to deduct wages from striking employees if they strike for more than three days per year. The law also requires the labor minister to apply to the Industrial Relations Court to determine whether a strike involves an “essential service,” the interruption of which would endanger the life, health, or personal safety of part of the population. The law does not provide a specific list of essential services, but the amendment to the Labor Relations Act enacted during the year authorizes the minister of labor to designate categories of workers deemed essential who are not allowed to strike. Before the amendment, members of a registered union in essential services had only a limited right to strike. There are no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in export-processing zones. The law does not apply to most workers who are in the informal sector without work contracts.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. As was true of all cases entering the justice system, lack of capacity resulted in delays of some labor cases. Small fines for most violations were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. Provisions exist for punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment, but no convictions were reported.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were adequately respected for those in the formal sector. Union membership among workers was low due to the small percentage of the workforce in the formal sector.

Arbitration rulings were legally enforceable; however, the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) did not monitor cases or adequately enforce the laws. The amendment to the Labor Relations Act restructured the Industrial Relations Court to eliminate the requirement of employer and employee panelists. Furthermore, the IRC is required to have permanent staff only.

The Ministry of Labor launched the Malawi Decent Country Programme II in September, modeled on the International Labor Organization (ILO) Decent Work Agenda, to improve worker rights and protections through support from the ILO and other development partners.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes. The amendment to the Employment Act during the year prohibits unlawful labor, including forced and tenancy labor. Violations of the act can incur a fine of up to five million kwacha ($5,830) and five years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of exacting, imposing, causing, or permitting forced or tenancy labor.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and forced labor occurred during the year, especially in agriculture (predominantly the tobacco industry), goat and cattle herding, and brickmaking. Child forced labor also occurred (see section 7.c.). Under the tenancy system, estate owners recruited farmers from distant districts to grow tobacco for them on their estates. The tenants were often promised such services as accommodation and food rations as well as a share of the earnings from sales. Tenant farmers included men and women, usually accompanied by their children and dependents. Most tenants were from the southern region of the country and worked in the central or northern region. Employers loaned tenant farmers money to buy agricultural inputs during the growing season, which could turn into situations of debt bondage if they were unable to repay the loans. An amendment to the Employment Act during the year outlawed tenancy labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14, and children between ages 14 and 18 may not work in hazardous jobs or jobs that interfere with their education. The prohibition of child labor does not apply to work done in homes, noncommercial farms, vocational technical schools, or other training institutions. The law provides a list of hazardous work for children and specifies a fine or imprisonment for conviction of violations. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

Police and Ministry of Labor officials were responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and child labor occurred.

Child labor, including the worst forms of child labor, remained a serious and widespread problem. In December the National Statistics Office released the Malawi Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicating that 14 percent of children between age five and 17 years engage in child labor, with 22 percent working in hazardous conditions. Child labor was most prevalent in agriculture, especially tea, tobacco, and livestock herding, brickmaking and construction, and domestic service. Forced child labor also occurred, particularly in agriculture, construction, forced begging and street work, in illicit activities, and commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Children often worked 12-hour days, frequently for little or no pay. Many boys worked as vendors, and young girls in urban areas often worked outside their families as domestic servants, receiving low or no wages. Children who worked in the tobacco industry risked working with hazardous chemicals and sometimes suffered from nicotine poisoning. The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic led more children into situations of child labor, especially in rural areas.

In 2019 the Tobacco Industry Act came into force, requiring tobacco growers to report on efforts to eliminate child labor in tobacco farming. As a result of the law, most major tobacco companies put in place systems to address child and forced labor in their supply chain, and the Tobacco Commission engaged in awareness-raising activities.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The employment law prohibits discrimination against any employee or prospective employee but does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity, and the government in general did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for laws related to civil rights.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender and disability (see section 6). Despite the law against discrimination based on gender or marital status, discrimination against women was pervasive, and women did not have opportunities equal to those available to men. Women had significantly lower levels of literacy, education, and formal and informal employment opportunities. Few women participated in the limited formal labor market, and underrepresentation in the employment of women in managerial and administrative jobs was especially poor. Households headed by women were overrepresented in the lowest quarter of income distribution. In October 2020 protesters criticized the government’s failure to comply with the law’s requirement to include no less than 40 percent of either men or women in public appointments.

LGBTQI+ individuals faced discrimination in hiring and harassment, and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minister of labor sets the minimum wage rate based on recommendations of the Tripartite Wage Advisory Board composed of representatives of labor, government, and employers. The minimum wage was set below the World Bank’s poverty income level. The government reported during the year that 51 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line.

Migrant workers are entitled to the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens if they comply with immigration laws. Those persons not in compliance, however, lacked these protections and were subject to deportation.

The legal workweek is 48 hours, with a mandatory weekly 24-hour rest period. The law requires premium payment for overtime work and prohibits compulsory overtime. The law provides for a period of annual leave of no less than 15 working days.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Under the law labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but lack the authority to initiate sanctions. The government did not provide information on the number of labor inspectors nor on government actions during the year to prevent violations, particularly for vulnerable groups.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that are appropriate for the main industries in the country. The Ministry of Labor houses a Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health responsible for minimum standards, but the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law effectively. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Workers, particularly in industrial jobs, often worked without basic safety clothing and equipment. Workers harvesting tobacco leaves generally did not wear protective clothing and absorbed up to 54 milligrams of dissolved nicotine daily through their skin, the equivalent of 50 cigarettes.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. Workers dismissed for filing complaints regarding workplace conditions have the right to file a complaint at the labor office or sue the employer for wrongful dismissal; however, these processes were not widely publicized, and workers were unlikely to exercise these rights. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

The government did not effectively enforce laws related to OSH, wages, or overtime. Workweek and annual leave standards were not effectively enforced, and employers frequently violated statuary time restrictions. Alleged violations of wage, hour, and overtime laws were believed to be widespread and, according to a 2017 Ministry of Labor report, were common across both the private and public sectors. The Ministry of Labor’s enforcement of health and safety standards was also poor. The law specifies fines and imprisonment for violations, but these penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, and no reports of jail terms were ever reported.

Informal Sector: More than 88 percent of Malawi’s working population worked in the informal sector. Informal workers included street and market vendors, artisans, small veranda (khondes) businesses, cross-border traders, and smallholder tea farmers. A study by the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions found that informal workers endured unsafe and unhealthy working conditions; the law does not protect workers outside the formal sector.

Approximately 15,000 of two million informal workers were organized in the Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS), which is affiliated with the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions. MUFIS worked with district councils to address matters affecting informal workers due in part to a Ministry of Labor decision that MUFIS did not have sufficient standing to bargain collectively with employers.

Malaysia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for limited freedom of association and for certain categories of workers to form and join trade unions, subject to a variety of legal and practical restrictions. The law provides for the rights to strike and to bargain collectively, but both were severely restricted. The law prohibits employers from interfering with trade union activities, including union formation. It prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for legal union activities and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The nationwide January-August state of emergency restricted freedom of assembly and prohibited worker strikes and protests.

The law prohibits defense and police officials and retired or dismissed workers from joining a union. The law also restricts the formation of unions of workers in similar trades, occupations, or industries. Foreign workers may join a trade union but may not hold union office unless they obtain permission from the Ministry of Human Resources. In view of the absence of a direct employment relationship with owners of a workplace, subcontracted workers may not form a union and may not negotiate or benefit from collective bargaining agreements.

The director general of trade unions and the minister of human resources may refuse to register or withdraw registration from some unions without judicial oversight. The time needed for a union to be recognized remained long and unpredictable. Union officials expressed frustration about delays. If a union’s recognition request was approved, the employer sometimes challenged the decision in court, leading to multiyear delays in recognizing unions.

Most private-sector workers have the right to bargain collectively, although these negotiations may not include matters of transfer, promotion, appointments, dismissal, or reinstatement. The law restricts collective bargaining in “pioneer” industries the government has identified as growth priorities, including various high-technology fields. Trade unions in companies granted pioneer status may not negotiate terms and conditions that are more favorable than the provisions stipulated in labor law unless approved by the minister of human resources. Public-sector workers have some collective bargaining rights, although some could only express opinions on wages and working conditions instead of actively negotiating. Long delays continued in the treatment of union claims to obtain recognition for collective bargaining purposes. The government also had the right to compel arbitration in the case of failed collective bargaining negotiations.

Private-sector strikes were severely restricted. The law requires two-thirds of the members of a registered trade union to vote for a strike through a secret ballot, and a report must be submitted to the director general of trade unions to approve the strike as legal. Workers who strike without the consent of the director general of trade unions are liable to a fine of 2,000 ringgit ($480), imprisonment for up to one year, or both. The law prohibits general strikes, and trade unions may not strike over disputes related to trade-union registration or illegal dismissals. Workers may not strike in a broad range of industries deemed “essential,” nor may they hold strikes when a dispute is under consideration by the Industrial Court. Union officials claimed legal requirements for strikes were almost impossible to meet; the last major strike occurred in 1962.

The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting employers from seeking retribution for legal union activities and requiring reinstatement of workers fired for trade union activity. Penalties included fines but were seldom assessed and were not commensurate with those under other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

In July police opened investigations into a protest by contract doctors demanding better job security. The protest took place amid threats of disciplinary action by hospital administrations and heavy police presence at several major hospitals nationwide. Doctors at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang COVID-19 Center canceled their walkout after police allegedly threatened them with arrest. Opposition lawmakers slammed then minister of health Adham Baba for breaking his promise that no action would be taken against doctors who participated in the strike. Member of parliament Saifuddin Nasution Ismail stated on July 28, “the doctors were questioned from midnight till 4 a.m., this is a form of intimidation” and added that the physicians’ lawyer had been prevented from representing his clients.

Freedom of association and collective bargaining were not fully respected. National-level unions are prohibited; the government allows three regional territorial federations of unions – for peninsular Malaysia, and for the states of Sabah and Sarawak – to operate. They exercised many of the responsibilities of national-level labor unions, although they could not bargain on behalf of local unions. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress is a registered “society” of trade unions in both the private and government sectors that does not have the right to bargain collectively or strike but may provide technical support to affiliated members.

Some workers’ organizations were independent of government, political parties, and employers, but employer-dominated or “yellow” unions were reportedly a concern.

In some instances companies reportedly harassed leaders of unions that sought recognition. Some trade unions reported the government detained or restricted the movement of some union members under laws allowing temporary detention without charging the detainee with a crime. Trade unions asserted some workers had wages withheld or were terminated because of union-related activity.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Five agencies, including the Department of Labor of the Ministry of Human Resources, have enforcement powers under the law, but their officers performed a variety of functions and did not always actively search for indications of forced labor. NGOs continued to criticize the lack of resources dedicated to enforcement of the law.

The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting forced labor in some cases, and large fines as penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

In February General Mills issued global “no buy orders” from palm oil producers FGV and Sime Darby Plantation due to forced labor claims. Other buyers requested suppliers to reduce or exclude FGV and Sime Darby products for supplies entering numerous countries.

In June the Malaysia Stock Exchange removed Top Glove from its responsible investment indexes based on allegations of forced labor. Observers reported occurrences of forced labor or conditions indicative of forced labor in plantation agriculture, electronics factories, garment production, rubber-product industries, and domestic service among both adults and children (also see section 7.c.).

Employers, employment agents, and labor recruiters subjected some migrants to forced labor or debt bondage. Many companies hired foreign workers using recruiting or outsourcing companies, creating uncertainty about the legal relationship between the worker, the outsourcing company, and the owner of the workplace, making workers more vulnerable to exploitation and complicating dispute resolution. Labor union representatives noted that recruiting agents in the countries of origin and locally sometimes imposed high fees, making migrant workers vulnerable to debt bondage. A July study by Newcastle University of 1,500 mainly migrant workers found that the following forced labor indicators in the country had worsened during the pandemic: restrictions on movement, isolation, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime. Other indicators, such as abuse of vulnerability, deception, physical and sexual violence, intimidation, and retention of identity documents, had remained at the same level as before the pandemic.

The Newcastle research found that 85 percent of workers reported paying recruitment fees and 43 percent reported taking out loans averaging more than $2,000 to cover the costs, which took nearly a year on average to repay. Nearly a third reported that their recruitment agency threatened them not to speak about being charged the fees.

During the year several medical glove manufacturers announced repayments to workers based on forced labor practices. By April, Top Glove had reimbursed 150 million ringgit ($36 million) to approximately 13,000 existing and eligible former workers. Kossan completed repaying more than 5,500 workers a total 54 million ringgit ($13 million) with a final transfer of 24 million ringgit ($5.8 million) at the end of June. Hartalega finished its reimbursements process of 41 million ringgit ($9.8 million) to existing workers who joined the firm prior to April 2019. A Hartalega spokesperson announced in August the firm had fully reimbursed all migrant workers who were then employed at Hartalega and was continuing to reimburse eligible former workers. Supermax had repaid nearly 1,750 workers by June and stated it had allocated 23 million ringgit ($5.5 million), including remediation payment to contract workers.

The trial of former deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi for his role in a fraudulent scheme involving hundreds of thousands of Nepali workers seeking jobs in the country continued as of September. Zahid faced charges filed in 2018 of corruption, money laundering, and taking bribes totaling three million ringgit ($720,000) from a company that ran a visa center for the workers, who paid tenfold higher costs for visa services and medical tests over a five-year period without receiving additional protections or benefits.

Nonpayment of wages remained a concern. Passport confiscation by employers increased migrant workers’ vulnerability to forced labor; the practice was illegal but widespread and generally went unpunished. Migrant workers without access to their passports were more vulnerable to harsh working conditions, lower wages than promised, unexpected wage deductions, and poor housing. NGOs reported that agents or employers in some cases drafted contracts that included a provision for employees to sign over the right to hold their passports to the employer or an agent. Some employers and migrant workers reported that workers sometimes requested employers keep their passports, since replacing lost or stolen passports could cost several months’ wages and leave foreign workers open to questions about their legal status.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 15 but permits some exceptions, such as light work in a family enterprise, work in public entertainment, work performed for the government in a school or in training institutions, or work as an approved apprentice. There is no minimum age for engaging in light work. For children between ages 14 and 18, there was no list clarifying specific occupations or sectors considered hazardous and therefore prohibited.

The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting child labor. Those found contravening child labor laws faced penalties that were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Child labor occurred in some family businesses. Child labor in urban areas was common in the informal economy, including family food businesses and night markets, and in small-scale industry. Child labor was also evident among migrant domestic workers.

NGOs reported that stateless children in Sabah State were especially vulnerable to labor exploitation in palm oil production, forced begging, and work in service industries, including restaurants. Although the National Union of Plantation Workers reported it was rare to find children involved in plantation work in peninsular Malaysia, others reported instances of child labor on palm oil plantations across the country. Child sex trafficking also occurred (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The law does not prohibit discrimination with respect to race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, HIV or AIDS status, or refugee status in employment and hiring; the director general of labor may investigate discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment for both foreign and local employees. The law prohibits women from working underground, such as in mines, and restricts employers from requiring female employees to work in industrial or agricultural work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. or to commence work for the day without having 11 consecutive hours of rest since the end of the last work period.

The director general may issue necessary directives to an employer to resolve allegations of discrimination in employment, although there were no penalties under the law for such discrimination and thus penalties were not commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Employers are obligated to inquire into most sexual harassment complaints in a prescribed manner. Advocacy groups such as the Association of Women Lawyers stated these provisions were not comprehensive enough to provide adequate help to victims.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women; members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities; and persons with disabilities. A code of practice guides all government agencies, employers, employee associations, employees, and others with respect to placement of persons with disabilities in private-sector jobs. Disability-rights NGOs reported that employers were reluctant to hire persons with disabilities. A regulation reserves 1 percent of public-sector jobs for persons with disabilities.

Migrant workers must undergo mandatory testing for more than 16 illnesses as well as pregnancy. Employers may immediately deport pregnant or ill workers. Migrant workers also faced employment discrimination (see sections 7.b. and 7.e.). Employers were unilaterally able to terminate work permits, subjecting migrant workers to immediate deportation.

Women experienced some economic discrimination in access to employment. Employers routinely asked women their marital status during job interviews. The Association of Women Lawyers advocated for passage of a separate sexual harassment bill requiring employers to formulate sexual harassment policies.

The government reserved large quotas for the bumiputra majority for positions in the federal civil service as well as for vocational permits and licenses in a wide range of industries, which greatly reduced economic opportunity for minority groups (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage applied to both citizen and foreign workers, except for those in domestic service and the gig economy (see section 7.e., Informal Sector). Minimum wage rates varied according to location and were less than Ministry of Finance-published poverty income levels in Sabah and Sarawak states.

Working hours may not exceed eight hours per day or 48 hours per week, unless workers receive overtime pay. The director general of the Ministry of Labor may grant exceptions if there are special circumstances making the extra hours necessary.

The law protects foreign domestic workers only regarding wages and contract termination. The law excludes them from provisions that stipulate one rest day per week, an eight-hour workday, and a 48-hour workweek. Instead, bilateral agreements or memoranda of understanding between the government and some source countries for migrant workers include provisions for rest periods, compensation, and other conditions of employment for migrant domestic workers, including prohibitions on passport retention.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational health and safety laws cover all sectors of the economy except the maritime sector and the armed forces. The law requires workers to use safety equipment and cooperate with employers to create a safe, healthy workplace, but it does not specify a right to remove oneself from a hazardous or dangerous situation without penalty. Laws on worker’s compensation cover both local and migrant workers. In June the government expanded social security coverage to local and migrant domestic workers.

The National Occupational Safety and Health Council – composed of workers, employers, and government representatives – creates and coordinates implementation of occupational health and safety measures. It requires employers to identify risks and take precautions, including providing safety training to workers, and compels companies with more than 40 workers to establish joint management-employee safety committees.

According to Department of Occupational Safety and Health statistics, as of July, 111 workers died, 3,668 acquired a nonpermanent disability, and 140 acquired permanent disability in work-related incidents.

The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Human Resources enforces wage, working condition, and occupational safety and health standards. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The number of labor enforcement officers was insufficient to enforce compliance. Department of Labor officials reported they sought to conduct labor inspections as frequently as possible. Nevertheless, many businesses could operate for years without an inspection. Inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

Penalties for employers who fail to follow the law begin with a fine assessed per employee and may rise to imprisonment. Employers may be required to pay back wages plus the fine. If they refuse to comply, employers face additional fines for each day that wages are not paid. Employers or employees who violate occupational health and safety laws are subject to fines, imprisonment, or both. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Employers did not respect laws on wages and working hours. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress reported that 12-, 14-, and 18-hour days were common in food and other service industries. In June a court ordered Goodyear Malaysia Berhad to provide 185 migrant workers more than 5 million ringgit ($1.2 million) in unpaid wages, shift allowances, annual bonuses, and pay increases. The lawyer representing the migrant workers submitted pay slips to the court showing some migrants worked up to 229 hours a month in overtime, exceeding the legal limit of 104 hours.

In February the government introduced the Worker’s Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act as an emergency ordinance during the state of emergency compelling employers and centralized accommodation providers to provide lodging with sufficient living space and amenities for migrant workers to effectively control the spread of COVID-19. The legislation expanded this authority to include housing and local government agencies, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs in order to enforce fines and penalties up to 200,000 ringgit ($48,000), three years’ jail time, or both, against employers that failed to adhere to regulations.

In September Minister of Human Resources Saravanan announced that the government had found 49 workers’ hostels “unfit for human habitation” and ordered them closed, causing the relocation of 2,942 workers. As of August 24, the ministry had inspected 23,993 employers and 129,668 staff quarters covering the accommodation of 804,204 migrant workers and close to 1.2 million workers. The violations included “failure to comply with building capacity, operating without permission, failure to provide entry and exit route and nonadherence to social distancing.”

Migrant workers often worked in sectors where violations were common. They performed hazardous duties and had no meaningful access to legal counsel in cases of contract violations and abuse. Some workers alleged their employers subjected them to inhuman living conditions and physically assaulted them. Employers of domestic workers sometimes failed to honor the terms of employment and subjected workers to abuse. Employers reportedly restricted workers’ movement and use of mobile telephones; provided substandard food; did not provide sufficient time off; sexually assaulted workers; and harassed and threatened workers, including with deportation.

Informal Sector: As of 2019 more than one million workers were considered to be in the nonagricultural informal sector. This included any enterprise not registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia or other professional body and included more than one million self-employed or micro businesses, such as in-home workers, street vendors, and small workshops. More than half of informal workers were male, and more than three-quarters were in the cities.

Reports indicated that COVID-19 led to an increase in the number of self-employed “gig” employees. Estimates were as high as 30 percent of the workforce. There are no specific regulations, laws, or guidelines to protect the welfare of gig workers, except for the provisions under the Self-Employment Social Security Act 2017 that require self-employed individuals to register and contribute.

Maldives

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution provides for workers’ freedom of association; however, there is no specific law protecting the right to freedom of association, which is required to allow unions to register and operate without interference and discrimination. As a result, the court system refused to officially recognize trade unions. Worker organizations were usually treated as civil society organizations or associations without the right to engage in collective bargaining. Police and armed forces do not have the right to form unions. The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act effectively prohibits strikes by workers in the resort sector, the country’s largest money earner. Employees in the following services are also prohibited from striking hospitals and health centers, electricity companies, water providers, telecommunications providers, prison guards, and air traffic controllers. The Home Ministry enforces the act by arresting workers who go on strike, but there were no such arrests during the year.

The government did not always enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation remained inadequate, and penalties were not commensurate with other laws involving the denial of civil rights. The Labor Relations Authority (LRA) is mandated to oversee compliance of the Employment Act and its related regulations. The Employment Tribunal examines and adjudicates legal matters arising between employers and employees and other employment problems, but its processes remained cumbersome and complicated. In addition, because the LRA does not regularly screen labor violations such as nonpayment of wages for elements of trafficking, the Employment Tribunal adjudicates some potential trafficking cases. The LRA requested the Ministry of Economic Development to blacklist violators who refused to correct violations or pay fines, but as of September the ministry had only blacklisted one-half of the violators requested by the LRA. Employment Tribunal cases are heard in the Dhivehi language, which few foreign workers understood. Foreign workers may not file a case with the tribunal unless they appoint a representative to communicate for them in the local language. If an employer fails to comply with a decision of the tribunal, the case must be submitted to the Civil Court, which often delays decisions. The Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) reported the judicial system continued to delay final decisions on numerous such cases, some older than six years. The Employment Tribunal only hears cases submitted within three months for cases involving unfair dismissals and within six months of the alleged offense for all other violations of the Employment Act. The law states that dismissed or withdrawn appeals may only be resubmitted once, after paying a monetary fine. Under the law some workers’ organizations were established as civil society organizations, including in the tourism, fisheries, education, health, and shipping (seafarers’) sectors, although these functioned more as cooperative associations and had very limited roles in labor advocacy. The Teachers Association of the Maldives (TAM), TEAM, and the Maldives Trade Union Congress, an umbrella organization formed by TEAM, Maldivian Ports Workers, and Maldives Health Professionals Union were among the more active workers’ organizations.

All forms of forced or compulsory labor are prohibited, but the government did not effectively enforce applicable laws.

Resources, inspections, and remediation remained generally inadequate, and penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. The foreign worker population, especially migrant workers from Bangladesh, were particularly vulnerable to forced labor or labor trafficking in the construction industry, as were Sri Lankan and Indian women engaged in domestic work. Authorities expanded programs allowing undocumented workers to become regularized or return to their home countries without penalty. In previous years undocumented workers were detained at Hulhumale Detention Center, an immigration-processing center near Male, until deportation or repatriation. The Ministry of Economic Development announced that more than 25,000 undocumented workers had been repatriated from April 2020 to September. There were continued reports of bureaucratic delays in receiving passports from foreign missions for foreign workers seeking to return to their home countries. Maldives Immigration did not have in place any mechanisms to screen workers for victims of labor trafficking prior to repatriation, and there were reports that some of the repatriated undocumented workers should have been identified as human trafficking victims.

Under the penal code, conviction of forced labor carries a penalty of up to eight years’ imprisonment. Under section 29 of the Maldives Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, confiscation, alteration, or withholding of identity and travel documents is a crime, and convicted perpetrators are subject to up to five years’ imprisonment. In 2015 parliament approved the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons for 2015-19. The penalty for conviction of human trafficking is a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. As of September, the MPS and Maldives Immigration reported they were continuing to investigate more than 35 labor recruiters or agencies allegedly engaged in fraudulent practices. In August human trafficking charges were raised against a sitting member of parliament, who was also managing director of a construction company investigated during the previous year. The investigation focused on suspicion the company “carried out forced labor and acts of exploitation against foreigners, acted in a manner that has led to human trafficking, failed to make payment of fees required to be paid to the government on behalf of these workers and violated the rights of these workers.” Preliminary hearings continued as of October. Employee associations continued to report concerns the alleged traffickers were deported with no further action or attempts to identify local traffickers who worked with them to traffic victims.

Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations by large companies and were not commensurate with other analogous serious crimes for which conviction carried sentences of imprisonment.

As of August, Maldives Immigration reported the number of documented foreign workers at approximately 112,085. It estimated an additional 63,000 undocumented foreign workers in the country, predominantly men from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. Some of the foreign workers in the country were subject to forced labor in the construction and tourism sectors. Both the LRA and NGOs noted a continuing trend of resorts hiring third-party subcontractors to work in departments such as maintenance, landscaping, and laundry services. These subcontractors reportedly hired undocumented migrant workers who received a lower salary, worked longer hours, and often experienced delays in payment of salaries and work without a legal employment contract. Most victims of forced labor continued to suffer the following practices: debt bondage, holding of passports by employers, fraudulent offers of employment, not being paid the promised salary, or not being paid at all. Domestic workers, especially migrant female domestic workers, were sometimes trapped in forced servitude, in which employers used threats, intimidation, and in some cases sexual violence to prevent them from leaving.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and sets the minimum age for employment at 16, with an exception for children who voluntarily participate in family businesses. The law prohibits employment of children younger than age 18 in “any work that may have a detrimental effect on health, education, safety, or conduct,” but there was no list of such activities. The law prescribes a monetary fine for infractions.

The Ministry of Gender, Family, and Social Services, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Family and Child Protection Unit of the MPS are tasked with receiving, investigating, and acting on complaints of child labor. According to the LRA, the MPS, and the Ministry of Gender, Family, and Social Services, none of the complaints received related to child labor or employment of minors. In September the Ministry of Health reported that recent assessments found children were regularly engaged in the transport of drugs for criminal gangs. NGOs reported children were also engaged in forced labor in domestic work. The LRA found no cases of child labor during its regular labor inspections during the year. Resources, inspections, and remediation remained inadequate because no additional resources were dedicated specifically to uncover additional child labor cases. The government did not effectively enforce child labor laws. The penalties for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, and the Child Rights Protection Act criminalizes the child exploitation, including the use of children to sell drugs with penalties for conviction of imprisonment.

Civil society groups continued to report concerns that some Bangladesh migrant workers in the construction and service sectors were younger than 18 but possessed passports stating they were older.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, political opinion, religion, social origin, marital status, family obligations, age or disability. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination for national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify, HIV or AIDS status or refugee status. The government generally enforced those laws and regulations, with some exceptions that included unequal pay for women and discrimination in working and living conditions of foreign migrant workers, especially from Bangladesh. Penalties for violations were commensurate with laws related to civil rights.

According to NGOs, no policies were in place to provide equal opportunities for women’s employment, despite provisions in the constitution and the law. The law and constitution prohibit discrimination against women for employment or for equal pay or equal income, but women tended to earn less than men for the same work and also tended to work in lower-paying industries. The absence of child-care facilities made it difficult for women with children to remain employed after they had children.

The Employment Act establishes the Employment Tribunal to examine and protect the rights of employers and employees in legal matters and other employment problems.

Discrimination against migrant workers was pervasive (see section 7.b.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour: The country does not have a national policy on minimum wage. Wages in the private sector were commonly set by contract between employers and employees and were based on rates for similar work in the public sector.

The law establishes maximum hours of work, overtime, annual and sick leave, maternity leave, and guidelines for workplace safety. Civil servants are allowed six months of maternity leave and one month’s paternity leave. The law provides for a 48-hour per week limit on work with a compulsory 24-hour break if employees work six days consecutively. Certain provisions in the law, such as overtime and public-holiday pay, do not apply to emergency workers, air and sea crews, executive staff of any company, and workers who are on call. Employee associations reported some government schools and hospitals placed a cap on overtime pay.

The LRA and Employment Tribunal are charged with implementing employment law, and the LRA conducted workplace investigations and provided dispute resolution mechanisms to address complaints from workers. The most common findings continued to be related to missing or problematic provisions included in employment contracts and job descriptions, overtime and other pay, and problems related to leave. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The LRA typically gave employers one to three months to correct problems but lacked sufficient labor inspectors and travel funding to enforce compliance. The government effectively enforced overtime laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The country does not have a general occupational health and safety law, but certain industries, including construction, health, aviation, and tourism, have compiled their own standards and regulations, which they enforce themselves. There were no reports the government took any action under health and safety regulations during the year. The law mandates implementation of a safe workplace, procurement of secure tools and machinery, verification of equipment safety, use of protective equipment to mitigate health hazards, employee training in the use of protective gear, and appropriate medical care, but there were no national standards for safety measures, and as a result such measures were at the discretion of employers. There were multiple reports of workers at the central port in Male sustaining injuries at work, including two deaths of port employees who were struck by a carpet roll and a glass pallet while unloading cargo. In March parliament’s State-Owned Enterprises Committee launched an inquiry into health and safety standards at the port but had not published its findings by year’s end. The LRA continued to report difficulties in assessing safety standards during inspections due to the lack of national standards. Safety regulations for the construction industry require employers to provide employees with safety equipment such as helmets, belts, and masks, but NGOs reported the government failed to monitor implementation of these standards. All employers are required to provide health insurance for foreign workers.

The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with laws for other similar crimes.

Informal Sector: According to the government, 19 percent of the total working population is engaged in informal employment, with 62 percent self-employed and not subject to wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. The proportion of workers in the informal sector is higher in the islands outside Male, with 31 percent of the total working population outside Male engaged in the informal sector compared with 9 percent in Male. Informal employment is higher among women, with 25 percent of women compared to 16 percent of men. Manufacturing is the leading industry of informal employment with most women engaged in home-based work producing thatches and rope weaves, followed by the services (including domestic workers), agriculture and fisheries sectors. The LRA is authorized to inspect any workspace with employees but reported they did not routinely inspect workspaces of domestic workers. They did investigate complaints filed by domestic workers.

Migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, worked in unacceptable conditions, and were frequently forced to accept low wages to repay their debts with employment agencies, especially within the construction sector. The LRA reported more than 40 percent of the complaints it received were submitted by foreign migrant workers.

Migrant workers were treated harshly, and the COVID-19 pandemic compounded this. Migrants experienced abuses from employers, including deceptive recruitment practices, wage theft, passport confiscation, unsafe living and working conditions, and excessive work demands, which indicate forced labor and violate domestic and international standards. The spread of COVID-19 and the lockdown to contain it exacerbated these conditions, as workers faced job loss, unpaid leave, reduced salaries, and forced work without pay.

NGOs expressed concern that senior government officials made statements characterizing the high number of undocumented workers present in the country as “a threat to national security,” indicating a lack of political will to address the exploitation of foreign migrant workers. Female migrant workers, especially in the domestic-service sector were especially vulnerable to exploitation. Employers in the construction and tourism industry often housed foreign workers at their worksites or in cramped labor quarters.

In 2020 the Maldivian Red Crescent reported their inspection of labor quarters in Male found each quarter housed approximately 200 workers, with six to seven individuals sharing rooms of 100 square feet. In some locations workers were forced to sleep in bathrooms or on balconies due to a lack of space. Most buildings also lacked adequate space for cooking and posed safety risks due to being structurally unsound. NGOs reported the government did not act to enforce regulations, which came into force in October 2020 setting standards for employer-provided accommodations for foreign migrant workers. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Some migrant workers were exposed to dangerous working conditions, especially in the construction industry, and worked in hazardous environments without proper ventilation. The Employment Act protects workers who remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Mali

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. There are restrictions which limit these rights, such as the requirement that workers must be employed in the relevant profession before they may form a union. A worker may remain a member of a trade union only for a year after leaving the relevant function or profession. Members responsible for the administration or management of a union must reside in the country and be free of any legal convictions that could suspend their right to vote in national elections. The process to register a union was cumbersome and time-consuming, and the government sometimes denied trade union registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds.

The minister of labor and public service has the sole authority to approve sectoral collective agreements and to decide which unions participate in sectoral collective bargaining. Employers have the discretion to refuse to bargain with representatives of trade unions. The law allows all types of strikes and prohibits retribution against strikers. Unions must exhaust the mandatory conciliation and arbitration procedures set out in the labor code before they may strike legally. Regulations require civil servants and workers in state-owned enterprises to give two weeks’ notice of a planned strike and to enter into mediation and negotiations with the employer and a third party, usually the Ministry of Labor and Public Service.

The law does not allow workers in “essential services” sectors to strike, and the minister of labor may order compulsory arbitration for such workers. The law defines “essential services” as services whose interruption would endanger the lives, personal safety, or health of persons; affect the normal operation of the national economy; or affect a vital industrial sector. For example, the law requires striking police to maintain a minimum presence in headquarters and on the street. The government, however, does not have a list of essential services.

Participation in an illegal strike is punishable by harsh penalties, including dismissal and loss of other rights except wages and leave. Civil servants exercised the right to strike. In May the large National Workers’ Union of Mali went on strike, demanding the equalization of salaries and benefits of all public workers. Teachers’ unions also went on strike in August, demanding a salary increase and calling for a boycott of end-of-year exams if the transition government failed to accede to union demands for better working and living conditions.

Although the law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, the government did not effectively enforce relevant laws. Penalties for violating antiunion discrimination provisions were commensurate with penalties for comparable offenses. The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not have adequate resources to conduct inspections or perform mediation. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Authorities did not consistently respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers generally exercised these rights. The government did not always respect unions’ right to conduct their activities without interference.

Although unions and worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties, they were closely aligned with various political parties or coalitions.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but forced labor occurred. The law prohibits the contractual use of persons without their consent, and conviction includes fines and imprisonment with compulsory hard labor. Penalties may be doubled if a person younger than 15 is involved. Penalties were seldom enforced and therefore were not sufficient to deter these crimes. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for comparable crimes. According to NGOs, the judiciary was reluctant to act in forced labor cases. The government made little effort to prevent or eliminate forced labor, although it did allocate funding to its antitrafficking action plan. Government officials reportedly interfered in hereditary slavery cases, threatening and intimidating individuals in an effort to have charges dismissed. Prosecutors charged most hereditary slavery cases as misdemeanor offenses under discrimination, destruction of crops, or burglary statutes, which prescribed significantly lower penalties than those available under the trafficking law.

Most adult forced labor occurred in the agricultural sector, especially rice, cotton, dry cereal, and corn cultivation, and in artisanal gold mining, domestic services, and in other sectors of the informal economy. Forced child labor occurred in the same sectors. Corrupt religious teachers compelled boys into begging and other types of forced labor or service (see also section 7.c.).

The salt mines of Taoudeni in the north subjected men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, to the longstanding practice of debt bondage. Employers subjected many Black Tuaregs to forced labor and hereditary slavery, particularly in the eastern and northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal (see also section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.

The law prohibits most of the worst forms of child labor and prescribes a minimum age of employment of 15, limitations on working hours, and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. No child may work more than eight hours per day under any circumstance. Girls between ages six and 18 may not work more than six hours per day. The government’s Hazardous Occupations List prohibits certain activities by children younger than 18. This law applies to all children, including those who work in the informal economy and those who are self-employed. Gaps exist in the legal framework to protect children adequately from the worst forms of child labor, and the law does not meet international standards regarding the prohibition of forced labor, the prohibition against using children in illicit activities, and the prohibition of military recruitment by nonstate armed groups.

Responsibility for enforcing child labor laws was shared among the Ministry for the Promotion of Children and Women, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Security, the National Social Security Institute through its health service, and the Ministry of Labor and Public Service. Interagency coordinating mechanisms were ineffective, inefficient, and cumbersome. Authorities often ignored child labor laws or did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation were not adequate. The penalties for violations were commensurate with penalties for similar crimes but were not applied in all sectors.

Child labor, particularly in its worst forms, was a serious problem. Child labor was concentrated in the agricultural sector, especially rice and cotton production, but it was also found in domestic services, gold mining, forced begging organized by Quranic schools, and other sectors of the informal economy. Insecurity forced many schools to close, particularly in the regions of Sikasso and Mopti. Children not attending school were more vulnerable to labor exploitation, and children orphaned or separated from their families sometimes became victims of forced labor.

Approximately 25 percent of children between ages five and 14 were economically active, and employers subjected more than 40 percent of economically active children to the worst forms of child labor. Many children were engaged in hazardous activities in agriculture. Armed groups used child soldiers in the northern and central parts of the country (see also section 1.g.). Child trafficking occurred. Employers used children, especially girls, for forced domestic labor. Employers forced Black Tuareg children to work as domestic and agricultural laborers.

Traffickers targeted unaccompanied children and poor families, promising work opportunities, then selling them as laborers for farm and domestic work. Traffickers transported children across the border to Cote d’Ivoire to work on cocoa farms. In October 2020 the University of Chicago released a report showing West African child labor in cocoa production had increased 13 percent during a 10-year period, coinciding with a 62 percent growth in cocoa production. Although child labor increased, the report indicated that some interventions against hazardous child labor may have worked because there was no corresponding increase in hazardous child labor incidents in cocoa production due to using sharp tools, undertaking land clearing, working long hours or at night, and exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Child labor in artisanal gold mining was a serious problem. According to a March 2020 report from the Ministry of Environment on a 2019 action plan to reduce and eliminate the use of mercury in the artisanal mining sector, approximately 45,700 children worked under extremely harsh and hazardous conditions in artisanal gold mines and represented 9 percent of the artisanal mining workforce. Many of these children worked with mercury, a toxic substance used in separating gold from its ore.

An unknown number of primary-school-age boys throughout the country, most of them younger than 10, attended part-time Quranic schools funded by students and their parents. Some marabouts often forced their garibouts or talibes (students) to beg for money on the streets or to work as laborers in the agricultural sector. Any money earned was usually returned to their teachers. In some cases talibes worked as domestic workers without receiving compensation.

Prosecutors in Bamako had several pending investigations of potential abuse charges against marabouts who used children solely for economic purposes.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, disability, social status, HIV-positive status, and skin color. The government’s Labor Inspection Agency is responsible for investigating and preventing discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, or ethnicity, but the law was not effectively enforced.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, sexual orientation, disability, and ethnicity (see also section 6). The government was the major formal-sector employer and ostensibly paid women the same as men for similar work, but differences in job descriptions permitted pay inequality. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in dangerous occupations and tasks, and in industries such as mining, construction, and factories. Women are legally prohibited from working on the creation or sale of writing and images considered contrary to good morals. There were cases where employers from southern ethnic groups discriminated against individuals from northern ethnic groups.

Gender-based violence and sexual harassment were prevalent in the workplace. Research published by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Institute found that gender-based violence was an everyday occurrence for women and girls. The pandemic situation and growing insecurity increased the intensity and frequency of violent acts against women. The institute reported that husbands, co-wives, customary chiefs, religious leaders, and female employers of domestic workers were the main perpetrators of violence against girls and women in the central region.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage of 28,465 CFA francs per month ($52) in all sectors of the formal economy. The minimum wage is above the World Bank’s poverty line for the country. Minimum wage requirements did not apply to workers in the informal and subsistence sectors, which included most workers. In addition to setting a minimum wage, the government mandates that employers have a mandatory benefit package including social security and health care.

The legal workweek is 40 hours, except in the agricultural sector, where the legal workweek ranges from 42 to 48 hours, depending on the season. The law requires a weekly 24-hour rest period, and employers must pay workers overtime for additional hours. The law limits overtime to eight hours per week. The law applies to all workers, including migrants and domestics, but it was routinely ignored in the informal sector, which included an estimated 93 percent of workers, according to a 2018 International Labor Organization (ILO) report.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service conducted few surprise or complaint-based inspections. Inspections conducted in August and October of oil companies Total, Oryx, and Vivo in Bamako found that salaries were below the legal minimum wage and that some workers were not registered with the national social security service. Following the inspections, the companies began implementing minimum wage policies and registered workers to receive social security benefits.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for a broad range of occupational safety and health standards in the workplace. Workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Workers also have the right to request an investigation by the Social Security Department, which is responsible for recommending remedial action when necessary. Authorities, however, did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Workers often were reluctant to report violations of occupational safety regulations due to fear of losing their jobs.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not effectively enforce these standards, did not employ enough labor inspectors, and the few inspectors it did employ lacked resources to conduct field investigations. Many employers did not comply with regulations regarding wages, hours, and social security benefits. The ministry conducted few inspections in the three northern regions where the government has suspended services since the 2012 occupation of those regions by armed groups and other organizations. No government agencies provided information on violations or penalties. Labor inspectors made unannounced visits and inspections to worksites mostly after labor unions filed complaints.

Labor organizations reported employers used cyanide and mercury in gold mines, posing a public-health risk to workers exposed to them. Inspectors lacked the resources to assemble credible data on dangerous workplaces.

The most recent report from the ILO and the World Health Organization listed 2,915 annual work-related deaths in 2016. The Ministry of Labor reported two work-related deaths during the year.

Informal Sector: Almost 93 percent of workers worked in the informal sector, according to the ILO. Informal workers were employed in almost every sector of the economy, from agriculture (growing cotton) and transportation (including taxi drivers) to financial services (door-to-door banking, informal saving associations, and money lenders). Informal workers lost more income than formal-sector workers during the COVID-19 pandemic because informal workers were overrepresented in high-risk sectors of the economy such as restaurants, markets, hotels, beauty salons, tailoring, transport, and private education, according to a study released by United Nations University.

The worst working conditions existed in private businesses and informal sectors of the economy. In small, family-based agricultural endeavors, children worked for little or no remuneration. Employers paid some domestic workers as little as 7,500 CFA francs ($14) per month, which violated minimum wage laws; employers claimed that food and shelter provided to domestic workers was part of their compensation. Violations of overtime laws were common for children working in cities and those working in artisanal gold mines or rice and cotton fields.

Workers in the informal sector are not protected by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. Workers in the informal economy benefitted from government health insurance if they contributed periodically from their salaries; however, there was no insurance against unemployment or retirement, or other social protections for workers in the informal economy.

Malta

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. A trade union may register an industrial dispute with an employer, at which point the trade union enters negotiations with the employer. In the absence of an agreement, both parties are free to resort to industrial action. The trade union may take industrial actions, which may include slowdowns, wildcat strikes, work-to-rule action, strike action for a defined period, or any other industrial action the union may deem necessary. The employer may use a “lockout” to protect its interests.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of unfairly dismissed workers, including for legal, nonviolent union activity. Workers have a right to seek redress for antiunion dismissals, although procedures to seek such redress were unclear for certain categories of public sector workers. There were no reports that workers were dismissed for union activities.

Members of the military and law enforcement personnel may join a registered trade union, but the law prohibits strikes by this category of workers. The law does not explicitly prohibit acts of interference by worker or employer organizations in one another’s activities. According to the International Labor Organization, compulsory arbitration limits collective bargaining rights. Arbitration did not take place during the year.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. The courts handed down prescribed fines to perpetrators. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Both the government and employers generally respected these rights, and workers freely exercised them during the year. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination or other forms of employer interference in union activities. Trade unions and employers’ organizations may both refer a dispute to the Industrial Tribunal, but it was customary that, until the tribunal decides on an award, both parties generally refrain from taking further action.

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government took steps to investigate complaints and to prevent and eliminate forced labor. The processing of cases through the courts, however, was slow. Three labor trafficking prosecutions initiated in 2014 remain pending. The law prescribes penalties of imprisonment for forced labor violations; such penalties were commensurate with penalties for kidnapping. There were reports of men and women in bonded labor and domestic servitude. Many victims of labor trafficking borrowed large sums of money to travel to the country, where they were recruited for certain work and salary. The terms of their employment, however, fell short of promises, and the borrowed money was used to keep the victims enslaved. Both foreign domestic workers and irregular migrant workers were vulnerable to forced labor in various sectors that included cleaning, construction, and caring. Experts recommended implementing strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies and massage parlors, which included screening for trafficking victims.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor as well as employment of children younger than 16 in all sectors. The director general for educational services in the Ministry of Education and Employment may grant an exemption for employment only after determining it would not harm the health or normal development of the minor. While no legal work is specifically restricted for minors, children granted an exemption may work up to 40 hours per week. Children are not allowed, however, to carry out any night duties or perform work that could be regarded as harmful, damaging, or dangerous to a young person. Minors granted an exemption to work in certain areas such as manufacturing, heavy plant machinery, and construction are required to work under supervision.

The government generally enforced the law in most formal sectors of the economy. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Jobs Plus, a government entity under the Ministry for Education and Employment, is responsible for labor and employment matters and summer employment of underage youth allowed in businesses operated by their families.

No assessment was available on the effectiveness with which Jobs Plus monitored the unregistered employment of children as domestic employees and restaurant workers.

The law prohibits discrimination in any form of employment and occupation. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although many foreign workers, including migrants, worked in dangerous, unsanitary jobs, with low social status and little prospect of improvement in their employment conditions. As of September 2020, the population included close to 70,000 registered foreign workers. Of these, approximately 38,000 were non-EU nationals. The law prohibits discrimination based on race as well as racial hatred. There were no reported offenses related to violations of the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for crimes related to civil rights, such as election interference. Remedies were available through civil court.

From January to September, the NCPE received six claims of alleged workplace discrimination, which included one case of alleged sexual harassment at the workplace (also see section 6, Women). Following an investigation, the commissioner may either dismiss the complaint or find the complaint warranted. In the latter case, if the complaint constitutes an offense, the commissioner must submit a report to the police commissioner for action. In instances where the complaint did not constitute an actionable offense, the NCPE undertook steps to investigate the cases and refer them to police or mediate to provide redress as appropriate.

Women were unable to work in same industrial jobs as men. While women constituted a growing proportion of graduates of higher education and of the workforce, they remained underrepresented in management and generally earned less than their male counterparts. Eurostat reports showed the gender pay gap in 2020, the most recent period for which data were available, was 10 percent. In 2020 the employment rate for women was 64 percent, compared with 82 percent for men.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws: The country had a national weekly minimum wage above the poverty income level. The government effectively enforced the minimum wage. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud, and they were imposed on employers convicted of violating the law. Cases mostly involved foreign country nationals. The law mandates a standard workweek of 40 hours, but the norm was 43 or 45 hours in certain occupations such as in health care, airport services, and civil protective services. The law provides for paid annual holidays (i.e., government holidays) and paid annual leave. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime, and employers may not oblige employees to work more than 48 hours per week, including overtime.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards, and such standards were up to date and appropriate for the main industries in the country. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations dangerous to health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. The employer is responsible for ensuring and implementing safety measures at the workplace.

The Department of Industrial and Employment Relations is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections at places of work and initiate sanctions; however, the number of inspectors was deemed to be insufficient to enforce compliance. The government generally enforced minimum wage and hours of work requirements effectively in the formal economy, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

Occupational Health and Safety: The Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), a government entity composed of representatives of the government, unions, and employers, conducted regular inspections at worksites and cited several offenders. Nevertheless, enforcement of health and safety standards continued to be inconsistent, particularly in the construction industry. The number of OHSA inspections was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and to initiate sanctions, including stopping work they deem to be unsafe.

There were six fatal workplace accidents reported in the first half of the year. Industrial accidents occurred mostly in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, and storage sectors. Although the government continued to report steady progress in improving working conditions, authorities conceded that unsafe conditions remained. Workers in the informal economy were more likely to face hazardous or exploitive working conditions.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal economy, particularly in construction, did not have the same protection as formal workers, but they could file complaints against companies that failed to provide a safe work environment. Many workers, however, were unaware of their rights and social welfare programs and avoided state-run agencies due to fear of being detained or deported based on their immigration status or lack of a work permit.

Reports of abuse of migrants attracted by the country’s unskilled labor shortage continued during the year. Abuses included health and safety matters, workers found living in substandard conditions, and low wages (also see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees). Authorities did not stringently enforce standards in the informal economy, which consisted of approximately 5 percent of the workforce and encompassed various sectors of working society, including day laborers and self-employed individuals. OHSA imposed fines on companies that did not comply with minimum safety standards in the formal economy and, to a lesser extent, the informal economy. Irregular migrant workers, who made up a small but growing percentage of the workforce, worked in some cases under conditions that did not meet the government’s minimum standards for employment. The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers, in coordination with Jobs Plus, which is administered by the government, organized informational programs to help individuals pursue employment and obtain work permits.

Marshall Islands

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government interpreted this right as allowing persons to form and join independent labor unions. The law neither provides for nor prohibits collective bargaining or the right to strike. The law does not specifically prohibit antiunion discrimination, nor does it require the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

Given the absence of unions or worker organizations, there were no reports of government enforcement of laws respecting their establishment or operation. Legal penalties are commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

Independent trade unions did not exist, although there were two NGOs promoting the rights of workers.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced labor and prescribes penalties that are commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government effectively enforced the law, conducting workplace inspections that did not yield any instances of forced labor.

There were reports some foreign fishermen were subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor on ships in Marshallese waters.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

There is no law or regulation setting a minimum age, hours of work, or occupational health restrictions for employment of children. The law prohibits exploitation of children younger than age 18, including in the worst forms of child labor, child begging, and child domestic work. The government effectively enforced the law. Government inspections found no evidence of child labor. Penalties for child labor were commensurate with those for other analogous crimes such as kidnapping.

Children typically did not work in the wage economy, but reports persisted that it was common for them to assist their families in fishing, agriculture, retailing, and other small-scale enterprises, particularly in the subsistence economies of the more remote atolls where copra production can take children from school and may reduce educational outcomes. The government reported it found no evidence of this during its inspections.

The constitution states that no person may be treated in a discriminatory manner under law or by public officials. Labor laws and regulations do not specifically prohibit employment discrimination. There were no formal complaints of employment discrimination during the year. There were no legal restrictions against women in employment. No law mandates equal pay for equal work; government employees receive pay equity. Under the law citizens receive preference in hiring, and noncitizen workers are hired only to supplement the local workforce when no citizens qualify for the job. The law requires that employers who hire foreign workers pay a fee used for training citizen workers. Many employers paid the fee to hire technically skilled labor, which was not widely available in the country.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a minimum wage which is not above the poverty line. Foreign employees and local trainees of private employers who invested in or established a business in the country are exempt from minimum-wage requirements provided the employer receives government authorization. The cabinet may also exempt qualified export-oriented industries from minimum wage laws. Most foreign workers, who constituted approximately 30 percent of the workforce (excluding agroforestry), and most of the professional and technical classes in the country earned considerably more than the minimum wage. The law provides for a standard 40-hour workweek but places no restrictions on the amount of overtime that may be worked. Penalties for wage and hour violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational health and safety standards are generally appropriate. No legislation provides protection for workers who file official complaints about conditions that endanger their health or safety. The law does not provide for workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Department of Labor conducts inspections related to wages, hours, and occupational safety and health. Inspectors have the right to conduct unannounced inspections and issue sanctions. There were sufficient inspectors but limited resources made it insufficient to ensure compliance. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Informal Sector: Many households on the outer islands sell copra (dried coconut kernels), handicrafts, or fish to survive.

Mauritania

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law allows all workers, except members of police, armed forces, and foreign and migrant workers, to form and join independent unions of their choice at local and national levels and provides for the right to conduct legal strikes and to bargain collectively. Other provisions and laws severely restrict or excessively regulate these rights. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws.

Prior authorization or approval by authorities is required before a union may be recognized. The public prosecutor must authorize all trade unions before they enjoy legal status. The public prosecutor may provisionally suspend a trade union at the request of the Ministry of Interior if ministry officials believe the union did not comply with the law. The law also provides that authorities may initiate legal proceedings against union leaders who undermine public order or make false statements. This law in effect authorizes administrative authorities to dissolve, suspend, or deregister trade union organizations by unilateral decision.

Noncitizens do not have the right to become trade union officials unless they have worked in the country and in the profession represented by the trade union for at least five years. Labor unions must obtain government authorization in order to hold labor elections. Despite previous promises, the government had not authorized union elections since 2014.

Bargaining collectively at the national level requires previous authorization or approval by the president, who decides how collective bargaining is organized. No such authorization is required for collective bargaining at the company level. The minister of labor, public service, and modernization of the administration may call for bargaining among employers, employees, labor unions, and the government. In addition, the ministry is entitled to take part in the preparation of collective agreements. The law provides that the meeting must occur 15 days following a statement of nonagreement between parties.

The law provides for the right to strike, except for those working in services deemed essential. Aggrieved parties must follow complex procedures before conducting a strike action. If negotiations between workers and employers fail to produce an agreement, the case is referred to the Court of Arbitration. If the court fails to broker a mutually satisfactory agreement, workers may have to wait up to four additional months from the time of the decision before they can legally strike. The government may also dissolve a union for what it considers an illegal or politically motivated strike. The law prohibits workers from holding sit-ins or blocking nonstriking workers from entering work premises. Workers must provide advance notice of at least 10 working days to the Ministry of Labor for any strike.

The government did not enforce the law effectively and did not provide adequate resources for inspections. While authorities seldom punished violators, the government ordered the reinstatement of workers who were wrongfully terminated or directed companies to improve employee benefits and services on several occasions. While antiunion discrimination is illegal, national human rights groups and unions reported authorities did not actively investigate alleged antiunion practices in some private firms. Collective bargaining at the company level remained rare. In May longshoremen, however, reached an agreement with the Autonomous Port of Nouakchott after they went on strike in 2020 to protest the dismissal of thousands of dock workers during a previous strike in 2018.

Registration and strike procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor ministry officials routinely issued notices calling on all parties to negotiate. Such notices legally restrict workers from striking for a period of four months. Workers and unions organized several strikes and, unlike in previous years, authorities did not employ force to disperse them.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. It also criminalizes the practice of slavery, which includes forced labor and forced child labor, and imposes penalties, both on government officials who do not act in response to reported cases and on those who benefit from contracting forced labor. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable violations. The constitution and law make the offense “a crime against humanity.” The law grants civil society organizations the right to file complaints in court on behalf of victims as civil parties; however, many civil society organizations reported difficulty in filing complaints on behalf of victims. The law also provides free legal assistance for victims and refers to their right to compensation. Although the government took more steps towards ending the practice of slavery, including increased engagement with civil society groups, efforts to enforce the antislavery law were considered inadequate by NGOs and human rights activists. The government doubled the budget for the antislavery courts from 900,000 ouguiyas ($24,300) to 1,800,000 ouguiyas ($48,600) during the year, but the courts still lacked adequate funding to carry out their mandate.

On January 13, the prime minister gave the CDHAHRSC the power to introduce cases on behalf of victims of slavery, although the CDHAHRSC had not yet used this authority. The new NGO law does not allow for NGOs to introduce cases on behalf of victims, although several antislavery organizations continued to do so throughout the year.

On December 31, the government used the new NGO law to officially recognize the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, which was created in 2008 and was one of the most active organizations fighting slavery in the country.

On April 13, the Nema specialized antislavery court ruled on one slavery-related case. The court acquitted Habibi Ould Murtadja, a 64-year-old man accused of slavery and child labor, due to lack of evidence. On June 8, the Nouakchott antislavery court ruled on four cases of slavery-related slander, a crime punishable under the law, and sentenced one person to six months in prison but suspended the sentence. The three other cases were either dismissed or postponed. The specialized antislavery courts, like the rest of the judicial system, were closed in January and from July through September because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Slavery and slavery-like practices, which typically flowed from ancestral master-slave relationships and involved both adults and children, continued. Although reliable data on the total number of slaves did not exist, local and international experts agreed hereditary slavery and slavery-like conditions affected a small but not insignificant portion of the population in both rural and urban settings. Enslaved persons suffered from traditional chattel slavery, including forced labor and forced sexual exploitation. Human rights groups reported that masters coerced persons in slavery and slavery-like relationships to deny to human rights activists that such exploitative relationships existed.

In 2015 the government asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) for a program to assess the scope of forced labor in the country. Among other activities, the ILO Bridge Project supported research in the country on recruitment mechanisms and employment conditions to help identify different types of employment that may involve slavery or slavery-like practices.

Former slaves and their descendants remained in a dependent status vis-a-vis their former slave masters due to a variety of factors, including cultural traditions, a lack of marketable skills, poverty, and persistent drought. Some former slaves and descendants of slaves were forced to revert to a de facto slave status by working for their former masters in exchange for some combination of lodging, food, and medical care. Some former slaves reportedly continued to work for their former masters or others under exploitative conditions to retain access to land that they traditionally farmed. Although the law provides for distribution of land to the landless, including to former slaves, authorities rarely enforced the law.

Former slaves in subservient circumstances were also vulnerable to mistreatment. Women with children faced particular difficulties. Because they were particularly vulnerable and lacked the resources to live independently from their former masters, they could be compelled to remain in a condition of servitude, performing domestic duties, tending fields, or herding animals without remuneration.

Some former slaves were coerced into continuing to work for their former masters, who relied on adherence to religious teachings and a fear of divine punishment to keep these individuals enslaved. Former slaves were often subjected to social discrimination and limited to performing manual labor in markets, ports, and airports.

Slavery, including forced labor and de facto slavery, were more prevalent in areas where educational levels were generally low or a barter economy still prevailed, and prevalent to a lesser degree in urban centers, including Nouakchott. The practices commonly occurred where there was a need for workers to herd livestock, tend fields, and do other manual or household labor. Nevertheless, such practices also occurred in urban centers where young children, often girls, were retained as unpaid domestic servants (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law forbids some, but not all, of the worst forms of child labor. The law sets the minimum age for employment at 16. Nevertheless, it allows children as young as 12 to be employed in most forms of family enterprise with authorization from the Ministry of Labor if the work does not affect the child’s health, exceed two hours per day, or occur during school hours or holidays. The law states employed children between ages 14 and 16 should receive 70 percent of the minimum wage and those who are 17 should receive 90 percent of the minimum wage. Children should not work more than eight hours a day, should be given one or several one-hour breaks, and may not work at night. Children working in unpaid, temporary, or noncontractual work do not have the same protections under the child labor laws and regulations as do children working in contractual employment.

The Ministry of Labor authorized children as young as 13 to do work in a variety of areas, resulting in children doing hazardous work with government authorization in the areas of agriculture, fishing, construction, and garbage removal. Additionally, the government does not legally prohibit all forms of hazardous work as defined by international law.

The law penalizes violations of child labor laws and criminalizes commercial sexual exploitation of children and forced begging. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable violations, and the penalties were generally insufficiently enforced to deter violations. The law does not prohibit hazardous occupations and activities in all relevant child labor sectors, including domestic work and agriculture. The law prohibits the use of children for illicit activities, such as the production and trafficking of drugs.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Mechanisms for exchanging information among agencies or assessing the effectiveness of child labor laws were not active during the year. There was no specific mechanism for submitting complaints, other than to labor inspectors or the Special Police Brigade for Minors. NGOs were the only organizations that handled cases of child victims, referred them to the Special Police Brigade for Minors, and pressured the government to adjudicate the cases or integrate the victims in social centers or schools during the year.

The CNDH’s 2016 annual report, which had the most recent numbers available, stated that 26 percent of children between the ages of 15 and 17 worked. The report indicated the proportion of children between the ages of 12 and 14 who performed some work totaled 22 percent. The report also stressed that exploitation of girls was more frequent in domestic work.

An unknown number of talibes (religious students), nearly all from the Halpulaar community, begged in the streets and gave the proceeds to their religious teachers as payment for religious instruction. There were reliable reports that some marabouts (religious teachers) forced their talibes to beg for more than 12 hours a day and provided them with insufficient food and shelter. The government continued a program to reduce the number of talibes and cooperated with NGOs to provide talibes with basic medical and nutritional care.

Child labor in the informal sector was common and a significant problem, particularly in poorer urban areas. Several reports suggested girls as young as age seven, mainly from remote regions, were forced to work as unpaid domestic servants in wealthy urban homes. Young children in the countryside were commonly engaged in cattle and goat herding, cultivation of subsistence crops, fishing, and other agricultural labor in support of their families. Young children in urban areas often drove donkey carts, delivered water and building materials, and collected garbage. Street gang leaders occasionally forced children to steal, beg, and sell drugs. In keeping with longstanding tradition, many children also served apprenticeships in small-scale industries, such as metalworking, carpentry, vehicle repair, masonry, and the informal sector.

The government continued to operate seven Centers for Protection and Social Integration of Children in Difficult Situations: one in each of the regions of Kiffa, Nouadhibou, Aleg, and Rosso, and three in Nouakchott.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, disability, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, social origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, or language, but the government generally did not enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable violations. For example, in conformity with long-standing practice, the employment and advancement of both Haratines and sub-Saharans in the armed services, the National Police, and civil administrative jobs remained limited. On July 27, the government enacted a dual nationality law that allows dual citizens to work in the government and participate in political life. The new law does not allow for dual citizens to run for president or become the prime minister, the president of the national assembly, or a minister of sovereignty (i.e., minister of foreign affairs, defense, Islamic affairs, or interior).

The law provides that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. The two largest employers, the civil service and the state mining company, observed this law; most employers in the private sector reportedly did not. In the modern wage sector, women also received family benefits, including three months of paid maternity leave. Women faced widespread employment discrimination, because employers usually preferred to hire men, with women overrepresented in low-paying positions (see section 6). There are legal restrictions on women’s employment, including limitations on working in occupations deemed dangerous or morally inappropriate and certain industries including mining and construction.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is more than the most recent estimate for the poverty income level. The law provides that the standard legal nonagricultural workweek must not exceed either 40 hours or six days per week. Domestic workers and certain other categories may work 56 hours per week. There are no legal provisions regarding compulsory overtime.

The Labor Office of the Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws but did not do so effectively. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient for the labor force, and inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. The ILO reported that the labor inspectorate was subject to undue influence by employers and the government, thereby reducing the effectiveness of inspection activity.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational health and safety (OSH) standards, and in principle workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment; however, this was rarely applied. These OSH standards apply only to the formal sector, and labor inspectors rarely identified unsafe conditions or responded to workers’ OSH complaints.

The Ministry of Labor was responsible for ensuring OSH standards. Inspections for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as wage and hours. The government did not effectively enforce OSH laws, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for comparable violations. The National Agency of Social Security registered 168 workplace fatalities or injuries during the year, most of which occurred in the mining sector.

Informal Sector: The majority of the working population labored in the informal sector, primarily in subsistence agriculture, fishing, domestic services, and animal husbandry. According to the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers, only 25 percent of workers filled positions accorded regular pay.

Despite the law, labor unions pointed to conditions approaching forced labor in several sectors, including the food processing industry. In these sectors workers did not have contracts or receive pay stubs. Their salaries were below the official minimum wage, and they worked in unfavorable conditions. They occasionally did not receive pay for several months.

Working conditions in the fishing industry were similarly difficult. Commercial fishermen reportedly often exceeded 40 hours of work per week without receiving overtime pay. Additionally, some factory workers employed by fish-processing plants and boat manufacturers did not receive contracts guaranteeing the terms of their employment. Government inspections of fishing vessels, processing plants, and boat factories were rare.

Violations of minimum wage or overtime laws were frequent in many sectors but more common in the informal economy, which included domestic service, street vending, artisanal fishing, garbage collection, bus fare collection, donkey-cart driving, apprenticeship, auto repair, and other similar types of employment.

Mauritius

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide for the rights of all workers, including foreign workers, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Civil servants do not have the right to bargain collectively with the Pay Research Bureau, however, civil service trade union representatives do participate in the consultation process. Workers are free to form and join unions and to organize in all sectors, including in the export-oriented enterprises (EOE), formerly known as the export-processing zone. The law allows police officers to form and join unions but not to strike. The law provides for a commission to investigate and mediate labor disputes, and a program to provide unemployment benefits and job training. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference but allows the government to cancel union registration if the registration was fraudulent, if the union engaged in activities that posed a serious threat to public safety, if it made resources available to a terrorist organization, if it violated the rules of the Registration of Associations Act, if it misapplied funds, or if it ceased to function. There were no reports, however, that the government exercised this right.

The law establishes a mandatory, complex, and lengthy process for declaring a legal strike. This process calls for labor disputes to be reported to the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation only after meaningful negotiations have occurred and the parties involved have reached a deadlock. If the parties reach no compromise, the workers may call a strike. Even if workers follow this procedure, the law allows the government to prohibit a strike and refer the dispute to arbitration if the strike could seriously affect an industry or service or threaten employment. Strikes are not generally legal on matters that are already covered in a collective bargaining agreement. The law requires workers in many sectors to provide minimum service levels in the event of a strike, including sectors that international standards do not classify as “essential services.” The law prohibits strikes and other demonstrations during the sittings of the National Assembly and does not allow unions to organize strikes at the national level or concerning general economic policy topics.

Worker participation in an unlawful strike is sufficient grounds for dismissal, but workers may seek a remedy in court if they believe their dismissals were unjustified. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Dismissed workers may turn to the Industrial Relations Court to seek redress.

National labor laws cover all workers in the formal and informal sectors, with exceptions in the EOE pertaining to overtime.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, but there were delays in court procedures and appeals. Penalties for violations by employers were not commensurate with those for similar violations.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected by the government and most employers, and workers exercised these rights. Most unions collectively negotiated wages higher than those set by the National Remuneration Board. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. There were no reports of government interference in union activities.

Despite the law, antiunion discrimination and dismissal remained a problem in the private sector. Some employers in the EOE reportedly continued to establish employer-controlled work councils for EOE workers, effectively blocking union efforts to organize. Approximately 36,700 persons worked in the EOE; only 10 percent belonged to unions.

The law does not prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO) noted provisions that allow for compelled labor from seafarers who do not follow orders and allow for the hiring out of prisoners to private companies without the consent of prisoners. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government made some efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor, but trade unions stated resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations were criminal and commensurate to those for similar serious crimes. Data from the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training on the number of victims removed from forced or compulsory labor during the year were not available.

Trade unionists reported cases of forced labor during the year among migrant workers involving underpayment of wages, substandard living conditions, and denial of meal allowances. Unions stated these situations took place in the construction and bakery sectors. As of October 31, there were 25,274 migrant workers in the country, mainly from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the People’s Republic of China, and Madagascar. In addition, Malagasy women reportedly transited the country while traveling to other countries, where employers subjected them to forced labor conditions.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 and prohibits employment of children younger than 18 in work that is dangerous, unhealthy, or otherwise unsuitable for young persons.

The Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training is responsible for the enforcement of child-labor laws and conducted frequent inspections of businesses in the formal economy, but generally inspections did not occur after hours or in the informal sector where there was evidence of child labor. The ministry developed vocational training programs to prevent employment of underage children and conducted programs to identify and integrate street children into its vocational training program. These programs are preparatory professional training for school dropouts who are too young to enter the work force.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, especially in the informal sector. The penalties for employing a child were not commensurate with those for other violations. Traffickers and other criminals exploited children in sex trafficking and other illicit activities (see section 6, Children). Children worked primarily in the informal sector as street traders, and they also worked in agriculture, fishing, and construction.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, social status, religion, political opinion, and national origin. Domestic workers and workers in enterprises with fewer than 10 employees are excluded from legal protection from discrimination in hiring, according to the ILO. The law affords women broadly defined wage protections and requires equal pay for equal work for both men and women; it also states that employers should not force women to carry loads above certain weight limits (see section 6, Women). The Equal Opportunity Commission receives and acts on complaints, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, race, disability, political affiliation, and HIV and AIDS status. While women had equal access to education, the private sector paid women less than men for substantially similar work. The ILO has expressed concern that the remuneration regulations assign lower minimum wages for women than men in certain sectors. For example, both the Sugar Industry Regulations and the Tea Industry Regulations still include gender-specific job reservations and set different wage levels for men and women in the same job. Women filled few decision-making positions in the private sector, and there were even fewer women sitting on corporate boards, where approximately 6 percent of all board members were women (see section 6, Women).

The law requires organizations employing more than 35 persons to set aside at least 3 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities, but the government was not always effective in enforcing this law (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). The Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Board may summon an employer at any time to investigate noncompliance. The Board makes recommendations after an employer has justified its noncompliance, and if the employer still does not comply, then the employer may face a monetary fine and a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. The main reasons for the low employment rate of persons with disabilities were inaccessible workplaces and a lack of adapted equipment.

Many community leaders claimed there was discrimination in the employment of Creoles (citizens of African descent) and Muslims of Indian origin in the public service (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination). Migrant workers faced discrimination in employment and pay, which was consistently less than wages for workers who were citizens.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Effective January 2020 the national minimum monthly wage was raised to 9,000 Mauritian rupees ($214) for export workers and 9,700 Mauritian rupees ($230) for nonexport workers, both above the poverty line. The actual market wage for most workers was much higher than the minimum wage due to a labor shortage and collective bargaining. In the private sector, the National Remuneration Board sets minimum wages for nonmanagerial workers outside the EOE.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 45 hours and paid annual holidays, requires premium pay for overtime, and prohibits compulsory overtime. By law employers cannot force a worker outside the EOE to work more than eight hours per day, six days per week. A worker (other than a part-time worker or a watchperson) and an employer may agree, however, to have the employee work in excess of the stipulated hours without added remuneration, if the number of hours covered in a 14-day period does not exceed 90 hours or a lesser number of hours as agreed to by both parties.

The standard legal workweek in the EOE is 45 hours. According to the Mauritius Labor Congress, 10 hours of overtime a week is nonetheless mandatory at certain textile factories in the EOE. Regulations require remuneration for those who work more than their stipulated hours at one and a half times the normal salary rate. Those who work during their stipulated hours on public holidays are remunerated at double their normal salary rate. The law provides for paid annual holidays but does not prohibit compulsory overtime in the EOE. For industrial positions, regulations do not permit workers to work more than 10 hours a day. The law requires the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training to investigate cases of overtime violations. If an employer fails to take action to address the violations, the ministry may initiate a court action.

Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training officials are responsible for the enforcement of wage and hour laws. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. As of June 1, the ministry made 354 labor inspections to construction sites and dormitories.

The government did not enforce the law effectively. While the government generally enforced wages in the formal sector, there were reports employers demoted workers to part-time status to evade wage and hour requirements. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations and were seldom applied in the informal sector, which was estimated to include at least 10 percent of all workers. Unions reported cases of underpayment for overtime in the textile and apparel industries due to differences in existing legislation and remuneration orders for the calculation of overtime hours.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets appropriate occupational safety and health standards, and the responsibility for identifying unsafe conditions lies with inspectors. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations; workers did not generally exercise this right.

Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training officials inspected working conditions. The ministry employed labor and industrial relations officers, including labor inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, to investigate all reports of labor abuses. Despite an increase in the number of inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, trade unions called attention to the fact that numbers remained insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not always commensurate with those for similar violations. Authorities generally applied these standards to both foreign and citizen workers except in the informal sector.

Employers did not always comply with safety regulations, resulting in occupational accidents. As of June 30, there were 34 industrial accidents and no deaths, according to the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training. Subsequent press stories reported two deaths in the construction sector. For example, on August 18, an excavation operator was killed on a construction site after he was buried under a pile of rocks.

Informal Sector: According to a 2013 official government report, the most recent data available, informal workers comprised 10 percent of the workforce, mainly working in construction, transportation, and auto repair. The ILO has reported much higher numbers of informal workers constituting more than 50 percent of total nonagricultural employment. Labor laws applied to the informal sector, but they were seldom enforced, and penalties were not applied. Wage, hour, and safety violations were prevalent in the construction, agriculture, auto repair, and seafaring trades. According to a government official, during the year workers in the informal sector comprised mainly minors and women serving street food. There was an increasing number of migrant workers in the informal sector, the official stated.

Mexico

Section 7. Worker Rights

The government continued its efforts to strengthen freedom of association protections, promote union democracy, and improve the ability of workers to bargain collectively. Efforts focused on implementation of the 2019 labor law reform that transformed the labor justice system. The reforms provide workers with the right to freely elect union representatives and approve or reject collective bargaining agreements through a secret ballot process before they are registered. The reforms prevent the registration of collective bargaining agreements known as “protection contracts,” which nonrepresentative unions often negotiated and signed without the knowledge of workers and undermined genuine collective bargaining. The reforms call for the creation of independent labor courts to replace the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (CABs) that favored corporatist unions in the resolution of disputes and facilitated the registration of protection contracts. The reforms also establish an expedited and more transparent judicial process for unions to obtain collective bargaining rights.

In addition to a more impartial and streamlined judicial process for labor disputes, the reforms transfer the registration of unions and collective bargaining agreements from the CABs to a new independent Federal Conciliation and Labor Registration Center. The Federal Center also carries out mandatory pre-judicial conciliations at the federal level, with local conciliation centers carrying out the same function at the state level. The reforms establish a four-year timeline for implementation designed to end May 1, 2023, but the government established an accelerated timeline to complete implementation by May 2022 and remained on track to meet that goal.

The government continued implementing the labor reforms in a phased manner, with the reform coming online in eight states in November 2020, and phase two started on November 3 with 13 states, and phase three to be concluded on May 1, 2022, for the remaining states. As of July, 39 percent of active unions under local jurisdiction had registered required amendments to their amended statutes to incorporate new secret ballot and gender equity requirements with the CABs. As of July, 94 percent of active unions under federal jurisdiction had registered their amended statutes with the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), but only 39 percent of active unions under local jurisdiction had registered their amendments with the CABs. The deadline for unions to amend and register their statutes, originally set to expire in May 2020, was suspended due to COVID-19, reestablished in late 2020, and continued as of November.

Responsibility for registration of unions and collective bargaining agreements, including amendments to their statutes, shifted to the Federal Conciliation and Labor Registration Center in November 2020 for the eight phase-one states. The Federal Center took over registration functions nationwide on November 3 and was preparing to launch a national union registry to contain all files related to union registration and statutes, collective bargaining agreements, and union financial statements.

On May 1, the role of verifying the process for unions to organize a secret ballot vote for workers to approve or reject existing collective bargaining agreements within the four-year period established by the reforms (legitimization process) transitioned from the STPS to the Federal Center. As part of that process, the Federal Center published a new legitimization protocol to include a mechanism that allows for submission of complaints regarding alleged irregularities that may happen prior to, during, and after the vote. The Federal Center, however, estimated that only 10 to 15 percent of those collective bargaining agreements would undergo a legitimization vote because the worksite where the agreement was valid had closed, the work for which the agreement was negotiated had concluded, or the contract was a protection contract held by a nonrepresentative union. As of September workers had reviewed and voted on 1,790 collective bargaining agreements, less than 1 percent of the total number of agreements.

Federal labor law requires a minimum of 20 workers to form a union. To receive government recognition, unions and their leaders must file for registration with the Federal Center. The Federal Center and the new federal labor courts are designed to handle all matters related to collective bargaining agreements, but until the Federal Center establishes its offices in all the states, labor disputes in states without a Federal Center presence are to be handled by the CABs. The CABs operate under a tripartite system with government, worker, and employer representatives, with worker representation on the CABs selected based on majority representation, which was held by entrenched nondemocratic unions that sign “protection” contracts with complicit employers to secure low wages.

By law a union may call for a strike or bargain collectively in accordance with its own statutes. Under the labor reform, to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, the union must first obtain a certificate of representativeness from the Federal Center demonstrating it has support from at least 30 percent of workers to be covered by the agreement. Before a strike may take place, a union must file a “notice to strike” with the appropriate CAB, or the appropriate labor court once they are operational. Workers, the employer, or an interested third party may request the CAB or court rule on the legality of the strike, which may find the strike is “nonexistent” and therefore illegal. In June the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision confirming that the exercise of the right to strike suspends the processing of collective conflicts of an economic nature that may be pending before the court and the topics that they present, unless the workers express in writing their agreement to submit the conflict to the decision of the court. This decision prevented a protection union from attempting to stop the strike by filing a challenge to the Mineros Union’s control of the existing collective bargaining agreement at the San Martin mine in Sombrerete, Zacatecas.

The law prohibits employers from intervening in union affairs or interfering with union activities, including through implicit or explicit reprisals against workers. The law allows for the reinstatement of workers if the CAB finds the employer fired the worker without just cause and the worker requests reinstatement; however, the law also exempts broad categories of employees from this protection, including so-called employees of confidence and workers in the job for less than one year.

The government’s failure to enforce labor laws left workers with little recourse for violations of freedom of association, poor working conditions, and other labor provisions in states that had not yet implemented the new labor justice model. The CABs’ continued failures to administer and oversee procedures related to union activity impartially and transparently, such as union elections, registrations, and strikes, undermined worker efforts to exercise their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

According to several NGOs and unions, many workers faced violence and intimidation perpetrated by protection union leaders and employers supporting them, as well as other workers, union leaders, and vigilantes hired by a company to suppress opposition to an existing union in bargaining-rights elections. Some employers attempted to influence bargaining-rights elections through the illegal hiring of temporary or fake employees immediately prior to the election to vote for the company-controlled union. The CABs were widely alleged to administer these elections with a bias against new, independent unions.

In April the STPS suspended a legitimization vote at the General Motors plant in Silao, Guanajuato, due to serious irregularities during the vote. Workers argued that the protectionist union holding the collective bargaining agreement pressured workers to legitimize the agreement, offered bribes, and tampered with ballots. After the STPS canceled the vote, in May the rapid response mechanism under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement commenced, and the government agreed to review a denial of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights at the plant, confirming the denial of rights. In July an arrangement was reached on a course of remediation, which included a new collective bargaining agreement legitimization vote under the supervision of the STPS, with observers from the National Electoral Institute and the International Labor Organization. The new vote took place on August 17-18, and a majority of workers rejected the collective bargaining agreement. As a result other unions, including a new union formed by workers after the vote, gained the right to seek representation rights and negotiate a new agreement. The STPS certification of the new election set November 3 as the date for termination of the existing agreement, thus establishing that representation rights would be determined under the new labor reform rules and institutions.

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. While penalties for conviction of forced labor were commensurate with those for similar crimes, very few cases were successfully prosecuted. State governments reported investigating 12 suspected forced labor cases in 2020. Federal and state labor inspectorates conducted nearly 30,000 labor inspections in formally registered businesses in 2020 but did not conduct inspections in the informal sector.

Forced labor persisted in the domestic service and in child-care, manufacturing, mining, food-processing, construction, tourism, begging, street-vending, leather-goods-production, and agriculture sectors, especially in the production of chili peppers and tomatoes. Women and children were subjected to domestic servitude. Women, children, indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ persons, and migrants (including men, women, and children) were the most vulnerable to forced labor (see section 7.c.). Many workers were compelled into forced labor through debt bondage, threats of violence, and nonpayment of wages by recruiters and employers.

Day laborers and their children were the primary victims of forced and child labor in the agricultural sector, particularly in the production of chili peppers and tomatoes. In 2016, the most recent data available, INEGI reported that 44 percent of persons working in agriculture were day laborers. Of the day laborers, 33 percent received no financial compensation for their work, and only 3 percent had a formal written contract.

Indigenous persons in isolated regions reported incidents of forced labor in which cartel members forced them to perform illicit activities or face death. Minors were recruited or forced by cartels to traffic persons, drugs, or other goods across the border with the United States. Migrants were also recruited by criminal organizations to conduct illicit activities.

Criminal groups became increasingly involved in the illegal timber trade in Chihuahua, which accounted for 70 percent of the wood consumed in the country. Drug traffickers involved in illegal logging recruited and kidnapped indigenous persons and children in isolated or displaced communities, withheld their wages, forced them to conduct illicit activities, and often threatened death if they tried to leave.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits children younger than age 15 from working and allows those ages 15 to 17 to work no more than six daytime hours in nonhazardous conditions daily, and only with parental permission and permission from the labor authority. The law requires children younger than 18 to complete compulsory basic education and to have a medical certificate to work. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18, including all work in the agricultural sector. The law prohibits minors from working in a broad list of hazardous and unhealthy occupations. The pandemic severely impacted the economy, resulting in a significant increase in the number of children engaging in child labor. Despite a government program to transmit public education classes via internet, television, and radio during the pandemic, reports suggested that at least 2.5 million children did not continue their basic education.

At the federal level, the Secretariat of Social Development, Prosecutor General’s Office, and National System for Integral Family Development share responsibility for inspections to enforce child labor laws and to intervene in cases in which employers violate such laws. The STPS is responsible for carrying out child labor inspections and refers cases of child labor to the Prosecutor General’s Office for sanctions. Penalties were commensurate with other similar laws but were rarely enforced. In 2020 the STPS Federal Labor Inspectorate conducted almost 30,000 labor inspections nationwide but reported finding only one case of child labor. State labor inspectors, however, reported finding evidence of child labor, particularly in agricultural establishments.

State-level prosecutors reported investigating at least 199 cases involving child trafficking victims in 2020. The government was reasonably effective in enforcing child labor laws in large and medium-sized companies, especially in the export-oriented factory (maquiladora) sector and other industries under federal jurisdiction.

Enforcement was inadequate in many small companies, in agriculture, and in construction, and nearly absent in the informal sector in which most child laborers worked. Inspectors generally were permitted to examine the informal sector only in response to complaints. Social programs to combat child labor did not address all sectors where child labor occurred. Children performed dangerous tasks in agriculture in the production of beans, chili peppers, coffee, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, onions, tomatoes, and tobacco. Children also produced garments, leather goods, and illicit crops such as opium poppies; engaged in illicit activities such as the production and trafficking of drugs; and experienced sexual exploitation, often as a result of human trafficking.

Underage children in urban areas earned money by begging, washing windshields, selling small items, or performing in public places.

According to a 2019 National Child Labor Survey, the number of children ages five to 17 in child labor, including in hazardous household work, was 3.3 million, or approximately 11.5 percent of children in the country. This represented an increase of 11 percent of children from the 2017 INEGI survey. Of all children, 7.1 percent, or two million, were younger than the minimum age of work or worked under conditions that violated federal labor law, such as performing hazardous work.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/  as well as the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination with respect to employment or occupation. Federal law specifically proscribes discrimination based on ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, disability, social status, health, religion, immigration status, political opinion, sexual preference, marital status, or pregnancy. The government did not effectively enforce the law or regulations. The law mandates that all discrimination cases, including sexual harassment, bypass formerly mandatory conciliation and proceed directly to the labor courts.

Penalties for violations of the law were commensurate with those for other similar laws. Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred against women, indigenous groups, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and migrant workers. According to a 2017 INEGI survey, the most recent information available, 12 percent of women were illegally asked to take a pregnancy test as a prerequisite to being hired. Job announcements specifying desired gender, age, marital status, and parental status were common. INEGI reported in 2017 that 23 percent of working women experienced violence in the workplace within the past 12 months and that 6 percent experienced sexual violence. The government approved the National Work and Employment Program for People with Disabilities 2021-2024, aimed at strengthening labor inclusion of persons with disabilities and supporting the employment of persons with disabilities in decent work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The tripartite National Minimum Wage Commission is responsible for establishing minimum salaries. In January 2020 the government raised the minimum wage. The new wage applied to all sectors and allowed an earner to reach or exceed the poverty line. In March the government amended federal labor law to define the minimum wage as the lowest cash amount a worker receives for services rendered during a workday and stipulated it should never be below the inflation rate. Most formal-sector workers (70 percent) received between one and three times the minimum wage.

Federal law sets six eight-hour days and 48 hours per week as the legal workweek. Any work in excess of eight hours in a day is considered overtime, for which a worker is to receive double pay. After accumulating nine hours of overtime in a week, a worker earns triple the hourly wage. The law prohibits compulsory overtime. The law provides for eight paid public holidays and one week of paid annual leave after completing one year of work.

Between September 2020 and June, the STPS reported conducting labor inspections in 22,350 work centers nationwide benefiting more than three million workers. Civil society organizations, however, reported that the number of labor inspections was not sufficient to secure compliance. There were 600 federal labor inspectors to cover the entire country; 60 percent of state level labor authorities had fewer than 10 inspectors. Criminal cases related to such violations were rarely carried out. Penalties for law violations regarding hours and minimum wage were commensurate with those for other similar laws but were rarely enforced.

According to labor rights NGOs, employers in all sectors sometimes used the illegal “hours bank” approach – requiring long hours when the workload is heavy and cutting down hours when it is light – to avoid compensating workers for overtime. This was a common practice in the maquiladora sector, in which employers forced workers to take leave at low moments in the production cycle and obliged them to work in peak seasons, including the Christmas holiday period, without the corresponding triple pay mandated by law for voluntary overtime on national holidays.

Many companies evaded taxes and social security payments by employing workers through subcontracting regimes or by submitting falsified payroll records to the Mexican Social Security Institute. On April 24, congress approved a reform to the labor law aimed at banning subcontracting of personnel for core or main economic activities in the public and private sectors. Subcontracting is allowed if it is used to perform specialized services unrelated to the main economic activity of businesses or public institutions. The law mandates the creation of a public registry of companies supplying specialized services to verify only registered companies fulfilling tax and administrative requirements may supply those services. According to the Mexican Social Security Institute, as a result of the law 2.7 million workers of the 4.6 million subcontractors moved from formal subcontracting status to a formal direct employment status. Approximately 23 percent of informal workers (6.8 million persons) were employed by formal businesses or organizations but paid in cash off the books to evade taxes and social security payments.

Observers from grassroots labor rights groups, international NGOs, and multinational apparel brands reported that employers in export-oriented supply chains increasingly used hiring methods that lessened job security. For example, manufacturers commonly hired workers on one- to three-month contracts and then waited a period of days before rehiring them on new short-term contracts to avoid paying severance and to prevent workers from accruing seniority. This practice violated federal law and restricted workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Observers noted that it also increased the likelihood of work-related illness and injury. Outsourcing practices made it difficult for workers to identify their legally registered employer, thus limiting their ability to seek redress of labor grievances.

Citizens hoping to obtain temporary, legal employment in the United States and other countries frequently paid recruiters hundreds or thousands of dollars in prohibitive fees to secure jobs, and many prospective workers were promised jobs that did not exist. The government rarely investigated cases of alleged abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices. Although the law requires entities recruiting for overseas employment to register with the STPS, there is no enforcement mechanism, and only a handful of recruiters complied.

The situation of agricultural workers remained particularly precarious, with similar patterns of exploitation throughout the sector. Labor recruiters enticed families to work during harvests with verbal promises of decent wages and a good standard of living. Rather than receiving daily wages once a week, as mandated by law, day laborers had to meet certain harvest quotas to receive the promised wage. Wages were illegally withheld until the end of the harvest to ensure that the workers did not leave. Civil society organizations alleged that workers were prohibited from leaving by threats of violence or by nonpayment of wages. Workers had to buy food and other items at the company store at high markups, at times leaving them with no money at the end of the harvest after settling debts. Civil society groups reported families living in inhuman conditions, with inadequate and cramped housing, no access to clean water or bathrooms, insufficient food, and without medical care. With no access to schools or child care, many workers took their children to work in the fields.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law requires employers to observe occupational safety and health regulations, issued jointly by the STPS and Institute for Social Security. Legally mandated joint management and labor committees set standards and are responsible for overseeing workplace standards in plants and offices. Individual employees or unions may complain directly to inspectors or safety and health officials. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The STPS has the authority to order labor inspections at any time in the event of labor law violations, imminent risk to employees, or workplace accidents. Penalties for law violations regarding occupational safety and health regulations were commensurate with those for other similar laws but were rarely enforced.

News reports indicated poor working conditions in some factories. These included low wages, contentious labor management, long work hours, unjustified dismissals, a lack of social security benefits, unsafe workplaces, and no freedom of association. Many women working in the industry reported suffering some form of abuse.

According to data from the Mexican Social Security Institute, in 2020 there were approximately 278,000 workplace accidents, resulting in 666 deaths.

Hundreds of thousands of workers continued to work in foreign-owned factories, mainly in northern border states, producing electronics, medical equipment, and auto parts. Several outbreaks of COVID-19 resulted in multiple deaths. Some companies reportedly did not implement effective protective measures for employees, and one factory, owned by Eaton Corporation in Baja California, was operating illegally and was closed after it placed chains on its doors to prevent 800 workers from leaving.

Informal Sector: According to INEGI informal workers represented 56 percent of total workers in the country as of the second quarter of the year. Labor inspections focused on the formal sector, leaving informal workers with no labor law protection. Informal workers were in every sector of the economy, with agriculture as the sector with the greatest number of informal workers. While on average informal workers earned less than the minimum wage, in some areas, such as near the northern border, informal employment could pay more than formal employment in the manufacturing sector. Informal workers lacked access to social protection mechanisms such as health care and retirement benefits.

Micronesia

Section 7. Worker Rights

Although the law does not specifically provide for the right of workers to join a union, under the constitution citizens have the right to form or join associations, and by law government employees can form associations to “present their views” to the government without being subject to coercion, discrimination, or reprisals. Citizens did not exercise this right. No law deals specifically with trade unions, the right to collective bargaining, or antiunion discrimination. There is no specific right to strike, but no law prohibits strikes. The government effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights.

Although the law does not prohibit workers, including foreign workers, from joining unions, there were no unions and most private-sector employment was in small-scale, family-owned businesses or in subsistence farming and fishing. No nongovernmental organizations focused on unions or labor issues.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government enforced the law, although resources and inspections were minimal. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes. The national antitrafficking law provides for penalties that were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, although lenient sentences of a year or less, or those that were not served on consecutive days, created potential safety problems for trafficking victims and weakened deterrence.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

National and state laws do not establish a minimum age or prescribe limits on hours or occupations for employment of children. The law does not prohibit the worst forms of child labor. Despite the gaps in the law on child labor, the government generally enforced laws against trafficking of children. Some child labor occurred. There were no reports of employment of children for wages, but children often assisted their families in subsistence farming and family-owned shops. There were reports of children trafficked by family members for commercial sex. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, and religion. Labor law also prohibits discrimination based on race and gender. The law also provides protections for persons with disabilities, but they are limited in scope. The law does not provide for specific legal protections for age, citizenship, national origin, political opinion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or positive diagnosis of HIV/AIDS or other diseases. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for violations related to civil rights but were seldom applied.

The government did not receive reports of discrimination during the year, except with respect to persons with disabilities, who had little opportunity for gainful employment. Traditional caste statuses, specifically in Yap State, limited professional opportunities for lower-status and outer-island persons. Women were underrepresented in all areas except in the service sector.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. There is no other minimum wage.

The law sets a standard of an eight-hour workday and a five-day workweek, with premium pay for overtime. There are no legal provisions prohibiting excessive or compulsory overtime.

Occupational Safety and Health: A federal regulation requires that employers provide a safe workplace. Occupational safety and health standards are enforced by the Public Health and Environmental Protection Agency. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Government entities generally enforced safety and health laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence.

The Division of Immigration and Labor within the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws for foreign workers. The government generally effectively enforced these standards, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient, and inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The tax system monitored the minimum wage effectively through random audits.

Informal Sector: Approximately one-half of workers were in the informal economy where the law does not apply, predominantly in subsistence agriculture and fishing.

Moldova

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides workers the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. The government generally respected these rights with limitations. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not provide for the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The law does not allow government workers and workers in essential services, such as law enforcement, judges, holders of public administration offices, health-care providers, and public utility employees, to strike. The law prohibits strikes when the government declares an emergency, such as during natural disasters, epidemics, and pandemics. Authorities may impose compulsory arbitration at the request of one party to a dispute. There were no groups of workers excluded from or covered differently by relevant legal protections.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations were generally independent of the government, political parties, employers, or employers’ associations, although the country’s sole national-level trade union confederation has remained largely unreformed since independence in 1991.

There were no reports that the government, political parties, or employers interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations. Prosecutors may reject appeals by trade unions alleging antiunion behavior, and authorities did not punish alleged violations of the trade union law.

There is a mechanism to monitor and enforce labor laws through the State Labor Inspectorate (SLI) and the Prosecutor General’s Office, but it failed to monitor effectively and enforce the rights to collective bargaining and to organize. The law does not provide effective sanctions for violations of freedom of association, or stipulate penalties for violating trade union rights. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those of other laws related to civil rights.

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, with exceptions. The law and a government decision allow central and local authorities as well as military bodies to mobilize the adult population under certain conditions, such as in the event of a national disaster, and to employ such labor to develop the national economy. The government did not invoke this provision during the year.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation for forced labor were generally inadequate. Penalties for persons who engage workers in forced labor were commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Men and women were subjected to labor trafficking within the country and in other parts of Europe. Internal trafficking occurred in all regions of the country, focused mostly on farms and begging in larger towns. Internal trafficking for begging and labor exploitation, particularly in the agriculture and construction sectors, was steadily on the rise. The alleged complicity of government officials in trafficking continued to be a significant problem that the government authorities attempted to curb by prosecuting those involved.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor. Gaps exist in the legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, however, including the minimum age for work. The minimum age for employment is 15. The law permits juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 to work under special conditions, including shorter workdays (35 hours per week and no night, weekend, holiday, or overtime work). With written permission from a parent or guardian, 15-year-old children may work. Work for children who are 15 or 16 should not exceed 24 hours per week. Children younger than 18 are not allowed to perform hazardous and dangerous activities in 30 industries, including construction, agriculture, food processing, and textiles. The law provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for persons engaging children in the worst forms of child labor. Under aggravating circumstances, courts can increase the sentence to life imprisonment.

The penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other serious crimes. The government did not effectively enforce legal protections, and child labor remained a problem, especially in the agriculture, construction, service, and industrial sectors. The government was unable to make unannounced inspections and could only act on a violation directly related to a complaint. If child labor violations were observed during a complaint-based inspection, the government did not have the authority to act.

Parents who owned or worked on farms often sent children to work in fields or to find other employment. Children left behind by parents who had emigrated abroad also worked on farms. The vast majority of child laborers worked in family businesses or on family farms.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The law prohibits discrimination in respect to employment and occupation based on sex, age, race, color, nationality, religion, political opinion, social origin, residence, disability, HIV-positive status, and membership or activity in trade unions, as well as other criteria. The law requires employers to provide for equal opportunity and treatment of employees without discrimination, to apply the same criteria to assess each employee’s work, and to provide equal conditions for men and women relating to work and family obligations. The law defines and prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination. The government did not uniformly enforce the law, but when enforced, penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other crimes related to denial of civil rights. The law does not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value.

Discrimination on the basis of sex in access to pension benefits persisted. The age at which men and women can retire with either full or partial benefits is not equal, nor is the mandatory retirement age for men and women.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, minority status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status. Gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace is common in the country. Pregnant women reported being denied employment opportunities, since such employment was associated with additional benefits payable after childbirth.

The law also stipulates that the Equality Council be responsible for reviewing complaints of discrimination and making recommendations. As of September the council had made decisions on 193 cases of alleged discrimination, 3.2 percent more than in 2019.

In Transnistria job segregation “laws” ban women from more than 300 jobs. Prohibited occupations include a wide variety of occupations deemed “too dangerous or demanding” for women, including welding, pouring, driving, snow blowing, gas extracting, and climbing.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is less than the poverty level. According to the SLI, as of October salary arrears were at 39.6 million lei ($2.2 million).

The law sets the maximum workweek at 40 hours with overtime compensation, provides for at least one day off per week, and mandates paid annual leave of at least 28 calendar days (government holidays excluded). Different paid leave plans may be used in some sectors, such as education, health care, and public service. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. Foreign, migrant, and domestic workers have the same wage and hour protections as other workers.

The SLI is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. The number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Labor inspectors were generally required to give advance notice before conducting labor investigations and were generally prohibited from conducting onsite inspections if the information sought could be obtained in writing, which undercut their enforcement ability. In January parliament reversed changes that delegated responsibility for occupational safety and health inspections to the 10 sectoral inspection agencies and returned it to the SLI. Stringent requirements for initiation of unannounced inspections remained a problem in detecting and addressing labor violations. Inspectors did not have authority to initiate sanctions without concurrence from a superior and court certification. In the first 10 months of the year, the SLI reported 436 unplanned inspections in areas defined by law as “labor relations,” “salary payments” and “occupational safety and health.” Labor inspectors could not confirm that any of these unplanned inspections were unannounced. The government did not effectively enforce wage and hour laws. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health standards, which are appropriate for the main industries. According to labor law, workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Effective January 1, responsibility for occupational safety and health inspections returned from the 10 sectoral inspection agencies to the SLI.

Government efforts to enforce occupational health and safety standards were limited and ineffective. The law requires the government to establish and monitor safety standards in the workplace but inspections could only occur when a complaint was received and not all complaints met the criteria for a workplace inspection. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

Poor economic conditions led enterprises to spend less on safety equipment and to pay insufficient attention to worker safety. There was a consensus among stakeholders that after the change in the legislation governing labor inspections, occupational safety and health standards in the workplace worsened. In the first 10 months of the year, the SLI reported 471 work accidents involving 502 victims. The SLI also reported 61 work-related deaths. Enterprise committees investigated 340 cases of temporary incapacitation resulting from work accidents that involved 356 persons.

Informal Sector: A thriving informal economy accounted for a significant portion of the country’s economic activity. According to the International Labor Organization, 30.9 percent of the total employed population had an informal job. Workers in the informal economy did not have the same legal protections under wage, hour, and occupational safety and health provisions as employees in the formal sector. No government social programs targeted workers in the informal economy who were hardest hit by the COVID-19 lockdowns during the year.

The labor code requires work contracts for employment, but the government did not have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance. In the agricultural sector, approximately 63 percent of workers were employed informally, according to the National Trade Union Confederation.

Monaco

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers, including foreign workers, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes; government workers do not have the right to strike. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited. The law requires the majority of members of a trade union’s bureau to be citizens of Monaco or France. Union representatives may be fired only with the agreement of a commission that includes two members from the employers’ association and two from the labor movement. The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, and employer organizations and trade unions negotiated agreements on working conditions that were largely respected.

The government generally enforced the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. The government provides the assistance of mediators for private or professional conflicts to avoid long and costly court procedures and to find a solution acceptable to all parties to the dispute.

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Information regarding the adequacy of resources, remediation effort, inspection sufficiency, and penalties for violations was not available. No cases alleging forced labor were filed during the year. It is impossible for authorities to know whether unreported cases of forced domestic labor took place in homes or on yachts, because the labor law prohibits inspectors from entering private residences unannounced without a warrant.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 16. Employment opportunities for individuals between the ages of 16 and 18 are severely restricted: Individuals younger than 18 are allowed to work eight hours per day to a maximum of 39 hours per week and are barred from night work. The government enforced the law effectively. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes; no violations were reported during the year.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. No data were available to substantiate any gender-based pay discrepancy. A 2019 agreement signed by representatives of seven labor-based industries and organizations in the country formalized employers’ commitments to promote workplace equality and covers 99 percent of employers in the country. The law allows the firing of foreign employees without justification (except for French members of trade unions described in section 7.a.).

The government sufficiently enforced the laws, and penalties for violations were commensurate with other laws related to civil rights.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is a minimum wage, which exceeded the official estimate of the poverty level. Law and government decree establishing wages and hours are appropriate for the country.

The Department of Employment in the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. The inspectorate had an adequate number of labor inspectors. The chief inspector answered directly to the director of the Department of Employment. Labor inspectors informed employers and employees on all matters related to labor laws and arbitrated, mediated, and reconciled labor/management disputes. They carried out regular on-site inspections, including unannounced visits, to ensure employers respected all requirements of the law.

The government effectively enforced wage and hour laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The laws and government decree establishing occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the country. The same inspectors that cover wage and hour laws are responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health laws. Workplace health and safety committees and government labor inspectors effectively enforced the standards. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. Data were not available on enforcement of occupational safety and health standards in the small informal economy.

Mongolia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form or join independent unions and professional organizations of their choosing without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for the rights of all workers except those employed in essential services to participate in union activities without discrimination, conduct strikes, and bargain collectively. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The law bars persons employed in essential services – defined as occupations critical for national defense and safety, including police, utilities, and transportation services – from striking, and it prohibits third parties from organizing strikes. The decision to strike must be supported by a majority of trade union members and a notice of the date, duration, and number of strikers should be delivered to management at least five days before the intended date of strike. The law prohibits strikes unrelated to matters regulated by a collective agreement.

The government inconsistently enforced laws providing for the rights of collective bargaining and freedom of association. Labor laws apply to the informal sector but were seldom enforced. Penalties, largely fines, were not commensurate with those for similar violations. Labor dispute settlement committees resolved most disputes between individual workers and management. These committees comprise representatives of the local government, the employer, and the employee, who is joined by a representative of the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU). The CMTU reported the court process was so lengthy many workers abandoned their cases due to time and expense.

In July the Trade Union of Healthcare Workers organized a nine-day sit-in demonstration in Ulaanbaatar. Overwhelmed by a spike in COVID-19 cases, the health-care workers faced physical and mental health and financial issues; they demanded a salary increase and life insurance. The government agreed to double salaries, but as of November this deal had not been implemented. In May the CMTU successfully negotiated with the government to increase public-sector salaries next year, particularly for teachers and health-care workers.

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except as part of a legally imposed sentence. The criminal code provides for a fine or imprisonment for forced labor offenses; these were not commensurate with penalties for similar serious crimes. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Inspection was not adequate, and inspectors did not perform unannounced inspections or enforce the law in the informal sector.

There were isolated reports of forced child labor, such as forced prostitution and begging, but there were no prosecutions for forced labor during the year.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The law provides for penalties for forced labor or slavery; prohibits the use of children in prostitution; or the use, procurement, or offering of a child for the production and trafficking of drugs. The law prohibits children younger than 14 from working. The minimum age for work does not apply to children in the informal sector or to those who are self-employed. At age 14 children may, with parental and government permission, work a maximum of 30 hours per week to acquire vocational training and work experience. At age 15 children may enter into a vocational training contract with permission from parents or guardians.

According to a Ministry of Labor and Social Protection order, children younger than 18 may not work in hazardous occupations such as mining and construction; engage in arduous work; serve as jockeys during the winter (children may be jockeys beginning at age seven during other seasons); participate in cultural, circus, or folk-art performances at night; work in businesses that sell alcoholic beverages; or engage in roadside vending. Despite these restrictions, children were commonly seen participating in horse racing, roadside vending, and other occupations in contravention of the order.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Authorities reported employers often required minors to work in excess of 40 hours per week and paid them less than the minimum wage. Penalties were not criminal and were not commensurate with those for similar serious crimes. Child labor, including forced child labor, occurred in many sectors, including in hotels and restaurants, vehicle repair, manufacturing, petty trade, scavenging, forced begging, event or street contortionism (a local art form), and the illicit sex trade (see section 6, Children). The FCYDA, the General Agency for Specialized Inspection (GASI), and police jointly conducted 45 child labor inspections at 304 business entities, including at car washes, artisanal mining sites, public markets, service centers, dumpsites, construction and transportation sites, and farms. The inspections identified 144 children working at these sites. GASI did not conduct any inspections in the informal sector, where most children who worked are employed.

International organizations continued to express concern about child jockeys in horseracing. In July the UN mission in the country urged the government “to take as a matter of urgency, the necessary measures in law and in practice to ensure that no child under 18 years of age is recruited as a horse jockey, at any time of the year.” Children commonly learned to ride horses at age four or five, and young children traditionally served as jockeys during the annual Naadam festival in races ranging from two to 20 miles. All jockeys including child jockeys are prohibited from working from November 1 to May 1, when cold weather makes racing more hazardous.

Although the nationwide Naadam festival in July was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, provinces were authorized to organize local celebrations, provided precautionary measures were taken. GASI reported children participated in horse races 1,647 times in six provinces. In June a 12-year-old child died in Tuv Province after falling off a horse during a race. In the same month, an 11-year-old child was seriously injured in Arkhangai Province while training a horse.

Racing regulations also require registration, insurance, adequate headgear, and chest protection, but despite greater government and public attention to safety, enforcement was inconsistent. The required insurance policy for jockeys pays them or their surviving family members up to 20 million tugriks ($7,000) in case of injury or death sustained during a race. Observers reported compliance with safety regulations at national races but less satisfactory compliance at community and regional events.

The FCYDA maintained an electronic database containing information on more than 10,000 (of an estimated 30,000) child jockeys and collected biometric information to better track jockeys and prevent children younger than seven from working as jockeys. The government, however, conducts child labor inspections at horse racing events only once a year and must provide 48 hours’ notice before initiating an investigation.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on nationality, language, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, sex or marital status, social origin or status, wealth, religion, ideology, education, or medical status. It also prohibits employers from refusing to employ a person with disabilities but provides broad exceptions, applying “unless the condition of such person prevents him from performing a specified activity or would otherwise be contrary to established working conditions at the workplace.” The law prohibits employers from refusing employment to or dismissing an individual diagnosed with HIV or AIDS unless the condition makes it difficult to perform job duties. The law also prohibits women from working in occupations that require heavy labor or exposure to chemicals that could affect infant and maternal health.

The government enforced the law inconsistently, and discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on sex and disability, as well as on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations. Workers had the right to take discrimination cases to court, but the judicial process was slow and ineffective.

The law charges employers with taking steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, including by establishing internal rules about sexual harassment and the redress of complaints, but provides no penalties. The NHRC reported it received 11 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace and conducted inspections at three of the workplaces. The NHRC referred two cases to police for investigation. According to the latest census conducted by the National Statistical Office in 2020, the monthly wages paid to men were, on average, 20 percent higher than those paid to women.

Although the law requires workplaces with more than 25 employees to employ a minimum of 4 percent of persons with disabilities or pay a fine, NGOs reported reluctance to hire them persisted. They also noted the government itself failed to meet the quota. Members of the disability community noted that, even when hired, the lack of accessible public transport made it difficult for persons with disabilities to hold a job (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).

The Labor Ministry’s Department for the Development of Persons with Disabilities is responsible for developing and implementing employment policies and projects for persons with disabilities. Government organizations and NGOs reported employers’ attitude toward employing persons with disabilities had not improved and that many employers still preferred to pay fines to the Employment Support Fund maintained by the Labor Ministry rather than employ persons with disabilities.

NGOs, the NHRC, and members of the LGBTQI+ community reported companies rarely hired LGBTQI+ persons who were open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBTQI+ persons who revealed their status in the workplace frequently faced discrimination, including the possibility of dismissal. Illegally dismissed LGBTQI+ persons rarely sought court injunctions to avoid disclosing their status and increasing the risk of discrimination.

Foreign migrant workers did not receive the same level of protection against labor law violations as the general population.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The National Tripartite Committee, which comprises the government, the CMTU, and the Federation of Employers, annually establishes a national minimum wage that is above the poverty line. The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours and the payment of overtime, but in practice payment of overtime is rarely enforced. The law does not cover workers in the informal sector.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection enforced the law in the public sector, but the CMTU reported that many workers in the private sector received less than the wage promised by their employers, particularly at smaller companies in rural areas. Workers in the construction sector, in which work is constrained to a few months each year due to extreme winters, were sometimes pressured to work long hours, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Occupational Safety and Health: Laws on labor, cooperatives, and enterprises establish occupational health and safety standards, which apply equally to local and foreign workers. GASI noted many standards were outdated.

Labor inspectors assigned to GASI’s regional and local offices are responsible for enforcement of all labor regulations and have the authority to compel immediate compliance. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Inspectors generally did not conduct inspections in the informal sector. GASI reported its inspectors, faced with large investigative workloads, needed better training on investigative techniques and evidence collection. GASI reported some of the planned inspections for the year were not conducted because most inspectors were deployed to work on the frontline during COVID-19 lockdowns. GASI acknowledged that fines imposed on companies for not complying with labor standards or for concealing accidents were not commensurate with those for similar violations and did not compel management compliance. GASI lacks the authority to perform unannounced inspections.

According to the latest census conducted by the National Statistics Office in 2020, there were 4,039 foreign workers in the country and 2,069 of them were from China. There were no North Korean workers reported in the country.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger safety without jeopardy to their employment. The CMTU raised concerns that, due to restrictions at the Mongolia-China border, coal-truck drivers often faced very poor labor conditions caused by waiting at the border in their trucks, sometimes for a month, without proper lodging.

Between January and August, GASI provided 11 safety-training sessions, forums, and public awareness sessions to more than 700 employees of companies and private enterprises. As of August, 144 persons have been involved in industrial accidents, 14 of which resulted in death, representing a decrease of 54 and six, respectively, from the previous year.

Informal Sector: The law applies to the informal sector, but it was not enforced, and workers have no assured rights. The government calculated in 2020 that the nonagricultural informal sector employed 210,000 persons (44 percent of the 481,400 employees in the informal sector), primarily concentrated in urban areas (90 per cent of the employees in nonagricultural sectors were in Ulaanbaatar). Subsistence agriculture and herding and artisanal mining make up the biggest components of the informal sector. The law on pensions allows small family businesses and workers in the informal economy (such as herders) to participate in pension and social benefit programs. These categories of workers were able to access health care, education, social entitlements, and an optional form of social security.

Montenegro

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the rights of workers, including members of the armed forces, to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. To represent workers in collective bargaining at the enterprise level, a union must count at least 20 percent of the workforce in the enterprise as members. To act as a worker representative in a sector, group, or branch of industry, a trade union must include at least 15 percent of the total workforce in that sector, group, or branch. The law prohibits discrimination against union members or those seeking to organize a union and requires the reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity.

In 2020 a labor law took effect that is intended to strengthen the protection of employees’ rights, increase flexibility in the labor market, and suppress the informal economy through several new measures. The law creates an obligation for employers to consult with a labor union (or employee representatives) and notify the Employment Agency about the consultations in cases of a collective layoff (i.e., dismissal of at least 20 employees over a 90-day period); creates an obligation for all employment agreements to contain a reference to bargaining agreements being applied with the employer; and requires that all employer bargaining agreements must be registered with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.

The government generally enforced the law. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those under other laws related to denials of civil rights.

While the government generally respected freedom of association, employers often intimidated workers engaged in union activity. According to the Union of Free Trade Unions, workers in the trade sector were intimidated when establishing their union, and they belonged to the category of workers whose rights were the most endangered.

Workers exercised their right to join unions and engage in collective bargaining, although not always without employer interference.

Although allowed by law, collective bargaining remained rare. The government continued to be party to collective negotiations at the national level. Only the union with the largest registered membership at any given level was entitled to bargain, negotiate settlements of collective labor disputes, and participate in other government bodies.

The right to strike is restricted for public servants whose absence from work would jeopardize public interests, national security, the safety of persons and property, or the functioning of the government. International observers noted that the range of professions in which strikes are proscribed exceeds international standards. Employers may unilaterally establish minimum service requirements if negotiations with trade unions fail to lead to an agreement.

Management and local authorities often blocked attempts to organize strikes by declaring them illegal, citing lack of legally required advance notice, which ranges from two to 10 days, depending on circumstances. There were reports from employees in both the private and public sectors that employers threatened or otherwise intimidated workers who engaged in union organizing or in other legal union activities. In some cases private employers reduced workers’ salaries or dismissed them because of their union activities.

Workers in privatized or bankrupt companies had outstanding claims for back pay and severance. Workers occasionally were not able to collect on their claims, despite valid court decisions in their favor. Several local governments failed to pay their staff for months at a time. Trade unions claimed workers were largely unaware of their rights and afraid of retaliation if they initiated complaints.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and authorities made efforts to investigate or identify victims of forced labor in the formal economy. Penalties under the law for offenses related to forced labor were commensurate with those for other serious crimes.

There were reports of Romani girls forced into domestic servitude and of children forced to beg, mostly by their families (see section 7.c.). Migrants from neighboring countries were vulnerable to forced labor during the summer tourist season, although to a lesser extent during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no reports of prosecutions or convictions.

Also see the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The official minimum age for employment is 15. Children younger than 18 may not engage in jobs that require difficult physical labor; overtime; work at night; underground or underwater work; or work that “may have a harmful effect or involve increased risk to their health and lives,” although the law allows employees between ages 15 and 18 to work at night in certain circumstances. The government generally enforced these restrictions in the formal, but not the informal, economy.

Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other serious crimes. The Labor Inspectorate investigated compliance with the child labor law only as part of a general labor inspection regime. The Labor Inspectorate reported that few cases of child labor were identified in informal workplaces. In such situations the Labor Inspectorate imposed fines, and inspectors ordered employers to acquire necessary documentation to meet the legal requirements permitting child labor. The government did not collect data specifically on child labor.

Many parents and relatives forced Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan-Egyptian children to work at an early age to contribute to their family’s income. They engaged in begging at busy intersections, on street corners, door to door, in restaurants and cafes, or in sifting through trashcans. While many working children were from the country, a large percentage of those between ages seven and 16 were from nearby countries, mainly Kosovo and Serbia. Police generally returned the children they apprehended to their families.

In villages, children usually worked in family businesses and agriculture. Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan-Egyptian children worked chiefly during the summer, typically washing car windows, loading trucks, collecting items such as scrap metal, selling old newspapers or car accessories, or working alongside their parents as day laborers. Many internally displaced Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan-Egyptian children were forced to engage in begging or manual labor. Police asserted that begging was a family practice rather than an organized, large-scale activity, but this claim was disputed by several NGOs. Begging was readily observable, particularly in Podgorica and the coastal areas during the summer. During a 2020 operation dubbed “Beggar,” police identified children forced to beg and prosecuted their parents, who faced misdemeanor charges. The children were returned to their families.

Despite Operation Beggar, police seldom pressed charges against adult perpetrators. Authorities placed victims of forced child labor who did not have guardians in the children’s correctional facility in Ljubovic. After leaving the facility, most children returned to forced begging. Romani NGOs tried to raise awareness of the problem and suggested the government did not provide sufficient resources to rehabilitate children begging and living on the street.

Children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children, and section 7.b.). Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion or other affiliation, national origin, citizenship, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, language, pregnancy, marital status, social status or origin, membership in political and trade union organizations, or health conditions, including HIV-positive status and other communicable diseases. The government did not enforce antidiscrimination laws and regulations effectively, and there were instances of discrimination on these bases. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other crimes related to denials of civil rights.

Persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment, despite affirmative action programs that provided significant financial incentives to employers to hire persons with disabilities. Although the state employment agency did not track the employment rate of persons with disabilities, it reported that 25.6 percent of unemployed persons were persons with disabilities. In addition the NGO Youth with Disabilities reported that approximately 3,021 persons with disabilities were employed in the country. Advocates noted there were too few training programs for persons with disabilities to contribute significantly to their economic integration. Neither governmental entities nor private employers hired many persons with disabilities. NGOs reported employers often chose to pay fines rather than employ a person with a disability.

In 2020 parliament passed several amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance, one of which changed the previous mandatory retirement age for both men and women from 67 to 66 for men and 64 for women, prompting outcries of gender-based discrimination. The Constitutional Court began proceedings on the initiative of the Association of Judges in Montenegro challenging the amendments, claiming that they violated the constitution and international treaties, which prescribe equality between women and men. Women were also, at times, subjected to discrimination based on their marital status, pregnancy, or physical appearance. Employers did not respect all their legal obligations to pregnant women and sometimes reduced their responsibilities or fired them after they returned from maternity leave. A disproportionate share of women held jobs with lower levels of responsibility than men. Employers promoted women less frequently than men. Some job announcements for women explicitly included discriminatory employment criteria, such as age and physical appearance. Employers at times violated women’s entitlement to a 40-hour workweek, overtime, paid leave, and maternity leave. Societal expectations regarding women’s obligations to the family reduced their opportunities to obtain jobs and advance in the workplace. Nevertheless, an increasing number of women served in professional fields, such as law, science, and medicine. Women accounted for less than 9 percent of personnel in the armed forces and National Police Force. Women were unable to work during the night in the same way men could.

According to the Union of Free Trade Unions, gender-based violence, harassment, and discrimination existed in the workplace, but most victims were discouraged from reporting incidents due to several systemic problems. Very few employed women recognized certain behaviors as gender-based violence and harassment, and often it was very difficult for them to assess whether there was gender discrimination. Even when instances of gender-based violence, harassment, and discrimination were clear, many victims were reluctant to report the violations due to few examples of successful prosecutions and fear of reprisal.

In 2019 the NGO Women’s Right Center published a study in which 34 percent of survey respondents said they had experienced at least one form of sexual harassment at work. Every tenth respondent said that a colleague or superior proposed to have sex with them, and 6 percent said they faced such sexual advances more than once. In addition 5 percent of the respondents said that they had been forced to have sexual intercourse with their colleague or supervisor. In 71 percent of cases, the respondents stated that the person perpetrating the sexual harassment was in a higher position than they. Approximately half of the respondents who had experienced sexual harassment at work said they told someone about the incidents, while the other half said they did not tell anyone due to shame or fear of losing their jobs.

The law does not mandate equal pay for work of equal value. Women were not permitted to work in the same industries as men, as the government designated some jobs too dangerous to have women working in them, and women were not allowed to work the same night hours as men. As mentioned above, women also faced discrimination in access to pension benefits, since the legal age at which men and women could retire and access both full and partial pension benefits were not the same.

As part of COVID-19 health measures, the government decided to close kindergartens and schools, and parents of children younger than age 11 were entitled to take paid leave. Private employers, however, did not respect these measures, and recipients were required to trade days off for holidays if seeking paid time off. Trade unions and NGOs reported that although the government partly subsidized one payment, employees were not receiving the full amount. Employees, especially women, often did not report such violations due to the risk of losing their jobs.

Bosniaks, who accounted for 9 percent of the country’s population, traditionally constituted 6 percent of the government workforce. Roma, displaced persons, refugees, and migrant workers faced employment discrimination. Migrant workers usually came from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, or Albania to work on construction sites and in agriculture. There were also instances of discrimination against unregistered domestic and foreign workers.

In 2020 the Basic Court in Podgorica ruled that, between 2009 and 2019, the Ministry of Defense committed severe forms of prolonged and repeated discrimination against the Trade Union of Defense and the Army of Montenegro. The court forbade any further discriminatory actions against the union. In the explanation of the sentence, the judge indicated that the ministry and general headquarters of the army systematically discriminated against the president of the union and its members for performing work activities related to the union. In 2018 the ombudsman issued an opinion recommending that the discriminator take adequate measures to eliminate uneven treatment within 30 days.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: According to the National Statistics Office, the national monthly minimum wage was slightly above the government’s absolute poverty line. Significant portions of the workforce, particularly in rural areas and in the informal sector, earned less than the minimum wage.

The law limits overtime to 10 hours per week, and total work time cannot exceed 48 work hours per week on average within a four-month period, but seasonal workers often worked much longer. In 2020 new labor laws came into effect that provide new protections for employees regarding required overtime, night work, and the duration of fixed-term employment contracts.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, although penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

Many workers, particularly women employed in the commercial, catering, and service industries, worked unpaid overtime, and employers sometimes forced them to work on religious holidays without additional compensation or to forgo their rights to weekly and annual leave. Employers sometimes failed to pay the minimum wage, other employee benefits, or mandatory contributions to pension funds. Employees often did not report such violations due to fear of retaliation. The practice of only formally paying a worker the minimum wage, thus being responsible for lower mandatory contributions, and giving the employee cash payments as a supplement was common. Also common was the practice of signing short-term work contracts or having lengthy “trial” periods for workers instead of signing them to permanent contracts as prescribed by law.

Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals, sometimes taking years. This led to an increase in the number of persons seeking recourse through alternative dispute resolution. Most disputes reviewed by the Agency for Peaceful Resolution of Labor Disputes involved accusations of government institutions violating laws on overtime, night work, holidays, social insurance contribution requirements, or other administrative regulations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set occupational health and safety standards that were current and appropriate for the main industries. Regulations require employers and supervisors to supply and enforce the use of safety equipment, conduct risk assessment analysis, and report any workplace deaths or serious injuries within 24 hours.

The Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing wage, hour, and occupational health and safety laws. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance in the formal economy. Resources, remediation efforts, and investigations were not adequate to successfully identify, enforce, or prevent violations in the informal economy. The Union of Free Trade Unions reported that approximately 40,000 persons were employed in the informal economy. Penalties for violations of occupational health and safety standards were generally commensurate with those for other similar crimes in the formal sector. Labor inspectors have the legal authority to close an establishment until it corrects violations or to fine owners who commit repeated violations, although they rarely exercised this authority. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections.

Employment in the construction, energy, wood-processing, transportation, and heavy industries presented the highest risk of injury. During the year two electricians working for the country’s electricity distribution system died, one in Danilovgrad and one in Bar. The electric company confirmed they died on the job while repairing transmission lines. Press reports noted that falling from a significant height was the cause of death of three out of four construction workers in 2020; falling also caused at least a third of serious injuries on construction sites throughout the country. Most of the injuries were among foreign nationals. Common causes of injuries on construction sites were unsecured workstations at a height and lack of use of protective equipment. The most frequent reasons cited for unsafe working conditions were the lenient fines for violations of safety rules, failure to use safety equipment, lack of work-related information and training, inadequate medical care for workers, and old or inadequately maintained equipment.

Morocco

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution provides for the right of workers to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions. The law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary, from forming and joining unions and from conducting strikes. The law excludes migrant workers from assuming leadership positions in unions.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and prohibits companies from dismissing workers for participating in legitimate union-organizing activities. Courts have the authority to reinstate workers dismissed arbitrarily and may enforce rulings that compel employers to pay damages and back pay. Trade unions complained that the government at times used the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for most unionized and nonunionized workers. The law allows independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the employee base to be associated with a union to permit the union to be represented and engage in collective bargaining. Unions can legally negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues. At the sectoral level, trade unions negotiated with private employers concerning minimum wage, compensation, and other concerns. Labor disputes were common and, in some cases, resulted from employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages. It was unclear whether penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The law concerning strikes requires compulsory arbitration of disputes, prohibits sit-ins, and calls for a 10-day notice of a strike. The government may intervene in strikes. A strike may not occur over matters covered in a collective contract for one year after the contract commences. The government has the authority to disperse strikers in public areas not authorized for demonstrations and to prevent the unauthorized occupancy of private space. Unions may neither engage in sabotage nor prevent those individuals who were not on strike from working.

Most union federations are affiliated with political parties, but unions were generally free from government interference.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor and establishes a fine for the first offense and a jail term of up to three months for subsequent offenses. Penalties were not commensurate with those prescribed for analogous serious crimes such as kidnapping. The domestic workers law provides some protections to domestic workers. Reports indicated that forced labor, especially of children, occurred (see section 7.c.).

For more information see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law does not prohibit all the worst forms of child labor, and child labor occurred, including in its worst forms. The law prohibits employment of children younger than age 16 in dangerous labor. The law prohibits children younger than age 16 from working as domestic servants. The law does not specifically prohibit the use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs. In some cases employers subjected children to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children), forced domestic work, and forced labor in the production of artisan products and construction.

The law prohibits persons younger than age 18 from hazardous work in 33 areas, including working in mines, handling dangerous materials, transporting explosives, and operating heavy machinery. The labor code does not apply to children who work in the traditional artisan or handicraft sectors for businesses with fewer than five employees or to those who work on private farms or in residences. Some children became apprentices before they were 12, particularly in small, family-run workshops in the handicraft industry and in the construction industry and mechanic shops. Children also worked in hazardous occupations as designated by law. These included fishing and, in the informal sector, in textiles, light manufacturing, and traditional handicrafts. Children’s safety, health conditions, and wages were often substandard.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The overwhelming majority of child laborers worked in rural areas, according to the government’s statistical agency, the High Planning Commission. Punishments for violations of the child labor laws include criminal penalties, civil fines, and withdrawal or suspension of one or more civil, national, or family rights, including denial of legal residence in the country for five to 10 years. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Integration only conducted child labor inspections in the formal economy across the country, but acknowledged child labor violations in the informal sector, including potential forced child labor crimes. The government reported that, overall, labor inspections suffered from insufficient personnel and resources to address child labor violations, including potential child trafficking crimes, throughout the country. The government adopted Law 51.17, which requires the government to enact compulsory education for children between the ages of four and 16 by 2025. It significantly increased the number of prosecutions related to the worst forms of child labor, from five cases in 2018 to 170 cases in 2019; however, in 2020 the number dramatically dropped to just 22 cases. For more information see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

The labor code prohibits discrimination against persons in employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, or disability, including physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disability. The law does not address age or pregnancy.

Discrimination occurred in all categories prohibited by law. Penalties were not commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. Women are prohibited from working in occupations that present a risk of excessive danger, exceeds their capacity or is likely to undermine their morality, such as jobs in quarries and underground in mines, or engaging in work that exposes them to the risk of falling or slipping as well as work in a constant squatting or leaning position, work or activities using asbestos and benzene and any other activity exposing them to dangerous chemical agents.

Migrant worker organizations reported that some migrants, particularly those from sub-Saharan African countries, experienced discrimination in hiring, wages, or conditions of employment. These workers often reported employer noncompliance with low or unpaid wages, excessive hours of work, restricted movement, dangerous and difficult work conditions. Even after obtaining a residence card, their vulnerability was reinforced by lack of access to the formal economy, pushing them to the margins of society. Most lived in crowded rooms in dilapidated neighborhoods, while others slept on the streets, in cemeteries, and forests.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage was above the poverty line. The law provides for a 44- to 48-hour maximum workweek with no more than 10 hours work in a single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including limitations on night work for women and minors. The law prohibits excessive overtime. A 2019 tripartite agreement among the government, employers, and unions stipulated that the monthly minimum wage be increased by 10 percent, phased in through two 5 percent increases. The first occurred in 2019 and the second in July 2020. The current, hourly minimum salary was raised based on the tripartite agreement; however, many employers did not observe the legal provisions regulating conditions of work. The government did not effectively enforce basic provisions of the labor code, such as payment of the minimum wage and other basic benefits under the National Social Security Fund. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Employment and Vocational Integration sets and enforces rudimentary occupational health and safety standards. Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were not appropriate for the main industries in the country, and the government did not effectively enforce them. It was unclear whether responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with OSH experts and not the worker. In the formal sector, workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations. The government has not ratified article 13 of Convention 155, and there are no provisions in the labor code that refer directly to this right. Penalties for violations of occupational, safety, and health laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes like negligence. The government did not adequately enforce labor laws, particularly inspections. The country’s labor inspectors reported that although they attempted to monitor working conditions and investigate accidents, they lacked adequate resources, preventing effective enforcement of labor laws. Inspectors reported that their role as mediators of labor conflicts significantly limited time spent proactively inspecting work sites and remediating and uncovering violations. Inspectors do not have punitive power and cannot independently levy fines or other punishments. Only action by the public prosecutor that results in a judicial decree can force an employer to take remedial actions. Enforcement procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Major workplace accidents were reported during the year. Most notably, in February a flood in a textile factory in Tangier killed 28 garment workers. They were electrocuted when the basement flooded and water came into contact with exposed wiring. The factory was unregistered, and it reportedly did not meet safety standards. In December the factory owner was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

Informal Sector: The domestic worker law provides protections for domestic workers, including limits on working hours and a minimum wage. Penalties for violating the law start with a fine and, in cases of repeated offenses, can include one to three months of imprisonment. Labor inspectors did not inspect small workshops with fewer than five employees and private homes where many such violations occurred, as the law requires a warrant or permission of the owner to search a private residence. The law establishes a conciliation process for labor inspectors to handle disputes between domestic workers and their employers, but the law lacks time limits for a resolution. Labor inspectors reported their small numbers, scarce resources at their disposal, and the broad geographic dispersion of sites limited their ability to enforce the law effectively.

Mozambique

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide for workers, with limited exceptions, to form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law requires government approval to establish a union. By law the government may take up to 45 days to register unions, a delay the International Labor Organization deemed excessive. By law the government, political parties, and religious institutions may not interfere with the organization and direction of trade union associations. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. Workers in defense and security services, tax administration, and the fire brigade, along with prison workers, judges and prosecutors, and the President’s Office staff members are prohibited from unionizing and striking. Other public-sector workers may form and join unions, but they are prohibited from striking.

The law does not allow strike action until complex conciliation, mediation, and arbitration procedures are exhausted, which typically takes two to three weeks. Sectors deemed essential must provide a “minimum level” of service during a strike. Workers’ ability to conduct union activities in workplaces was strictly limited. The law provides for voluntary arbitration for “essential services” personnel monitoring the weather and fuel supply, postal service workers, export-processing-zone workers, and those loading and unloading animals and perishable foodstuffs. The law requires that strikes be announced at least five days in advance, and the announcement must include the expected duration of the strike, although the government interprets this to allow indefinite strikes. Mediation and arbitration bodies, in addition to the unions and workers themselves, may end strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination; however, it does not explicitly provide for reinstatement of workers terminated for union activities. An employee fired with cause does not have a right to severance, but employees terminated without cause do.

Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers were not able to fully exercise these rights. Collective bargaining contracts covered less than 5 percent of the workforce.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Government efforts included fining companies that violated labor laws and the expulsion of foreign supervisors who allegedly did not follow the law. Inspection and prosecution were not sufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar denials of civil rights.

The largest trade union organization, the Organization of Mozambican Workers, was perceived as biased in favor of the government and Frelimo. There were no independent unions.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor. Forced or compulsory labor was among legal penalties for conviction of crimes. Defendants sentenced to fewer than three years’ imprisonment for negligent and other nonserious crimes may have their punishment converted to unpaid labor that benefits the community.

The government did not enforce the law effectively, and forced labor occurred. Criminal penalties if convicted were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. There was limited evidence of forced labor and forced child labor in the mining, domestic service, and agricultural sectors. Girls and women from rural areas, as well as migrant workers from bordering countries, were lured to cities with false promises of employment or education and exploited in domestic servitude and sex trafficking.

In August Vice World News reported that the Dugongo Cement plant, operated by West China Cement in a joint venture with a Frelimo party-associated fund, confined approximately 300 workers on its plant and threatened to dismiss any who left the premises during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to other workplace abuse allegations.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor; however, gaps exist in the legal framework to protect children adequately from the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age of employment without restriction is 18. Labor law and regulations on domestic work allow children ages 12 to 15 to engage in domestic work with the permission of their legal guardian and according to certain conditions defined by the Council of Ministers. A minimum age of 12 is not in compliance with international standards.

Children are not permitted to work in occupations that are unhealthy, dangerous, or require significant physical effort. Hazardous work includes an extensive list of activities within 14 occupational categories, including some domestic service, mining, and production of tobacco. The law permits children between ages 15 and 17 to work with a Ministry of Labor permit. The employer is required to provide for their training and provide conditions of work that are not damaging to their physical and moral development. Children between ages 15 and 18 may work up to seven hours a day or a total of 38 hours a week.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for implementing laws prohibiting child labor in the formal sector. Labor inspectors may obtain court orders and have police enforce compliance with child labor provisions. Law enforcement officers work with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Action and the National Reference Group for the Protection of Children and Combating Trafficking in Persons to coordinate referrals of children to social service providers. The ministry has a standard operating procedure for handling human trafficking victims that incorporates an intake form used nationwide by law enforcement officers, including border officials, to collect the necessary data from victims and to provide for professional care and referrals to appropriate services.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no mechanisms in place for submitting complaints regarding hazardous and forced child labor. Inspections and prosecutions were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Enforcement mechanisms generally were inadequate in the formal sector and nonexistent in the informal sector.

The labor inspectorate and police lacked adequate staff, funds, and training to investigate child labor cases, especially in areas outside the capital, where most of the abuses occurred. The government did not employ enough labor inspectors. Inspectors earned low wages (like many other government employees), making them vulnerable to, and often inclined to seek, bribes. Inspectors often did not have the means to travel to sites and therefore relied on the company they were investigating to provide transportation to the site of an alleged violation. The government provided training on child trafficking and abuse prevention to police officers, training to judges regarding legislation pertinent to child labor, and training to labor inspectors on trafficking identification and prevention.

Child labor remained prevalent. NGOs reported some girls who migrated from rural areas to urban centers to work as domestic help for extended family or acquaintances to settle debts were vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Mothers who did not complete secondary school were more likely to have children involved in child labor. In rural areas children worked in agriculture, as domestic employees, or in prostitution. Civil society organizations reported that children dislocated due to violence in Cabo Delgado Province were subject to sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and child labor, including the recruitment and use as child soldiers by ISIS-Mozambique (see Section 1.g.).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, HIV, AIDS, or refugee status. The government generally enforced applicable law. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with laws relating to other civil rights matters.

Discrimination in hiring against persons with disabilities was common, and access to employment was one of the biggest problems facing persons with disabilities.

The law explicitly prohibits discrimination against workers because of HIV or AIDS status, and the Ministry of Labor generally intervened in cases of perceived discrimination by employers. With an increased public awareness of this law, there were no public reports of individuals dismissed because of their HIV status.

Women received lower wages than men and faced cultural and legal barriers in accessing the judiciary and inheriting land.

There were multiple media reports of the Ministry of Labor suspending the contracts of irregular foreign workers. Some foreign workers reported harassment by Ministry of Labor inspectors after disputes with Mozambican coworkers and being forced to pay bribes for work permits or leave the country. In 2017, however, the Constitutional Council ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to expel foreign workers without judicial approval.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government-mandated minimum wage varies by sector and was above the official poverty line. After consultations with trade unions and the private sector, in August the government raised the minimum wage for the first time since 2019. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours but may be extended to 48 hours. Overtime must be paid for hours worked in excess of 48 hours at 50 percent above the base hourly salary. These legal protections also apply to foreign workers holding work permits.

The Mozambican General Labor Inspectorate, a Ministry of Labor service, is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage rates in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. The ministries usually investigated violations of minimum wage rates only after workers submitted a complaint.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar offenses. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Despite the relatively low number of inspectors, some businesses reported frequent visits by labor inspectors citing capricious violations and threats of substantial monetary fines in order to exact bribes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Workers have the right to clean and safe workplaces, including good physical, environmental, and moral conditions. Workers have the right to be informed of safety risks and instruction on how to follow the regulations and improve safety, including the right to protective clothing and equipment, first aid, health exams, and compensation for workplace injuries or sickness. Workers have the right remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to their employment. OSH officers are responsible for identifying unsafe working conditions, but workers may file complaints regarding unsafe situations.

The Mozambican General Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing OSH standards in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. Inspections for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authority as that for wages and hours.

The government did not effectively enforce OSH standards. The responsible ministries usually investigated violations of OSH standards only after workers submitted a complaint. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar offenses. Labor law applied only to the formal sector, leaving workers in the informal sector unprotected. Agricultural, mining, and security workers were among the most vulnerable to poor work conditions and wage theft.

Informal Sector: The International Labor Organization estimated that approximately six million persons, or 80 percent of the economically active population in the country, worked in the informal sector. The Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and OSH standards in the informal economy, since the Ministry of Labor applies the law only in the formal sector.

Namibia

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right to form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively; however, the law prohibits workers in certain sectors, such as police, military, and corrections, from joining unions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Except for workers providing designated essential services such as in public health and safety, workers may strike once mandatory conciliation procedures lasting 30 days are exhausted and 48 hours’ advance notice is given to the employer and the labor commissioner. Workers may take strike actions only in disputes involving specific worker interests, such as pay raises.

Worker rights disputes, including dismissals, must first be submitted to the labor commissioner for conciliation, followed by a more formal arbitration process if conciliation is unsuccessful. The parties have the right to appeal the arbitrator’s findings in labor court. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays. The law provides for conciliation and arbitration to resolve labor disputes more quickly, although both employers and unions publicly questioned the system’s effectiveness. The law prohibits unfair dismissal of workers engaged in legal strikes, specifically prohibits employer retaliation against both union organizers and striking workers, and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity provided the workers’ actions at the time were not in violation of other law.

The law provides employees with the right to bargain individually or collectively and provides for recognition of the exclusive collective bargaining power of a union when more than half of workers are members of that union. Employers have no obligation to bargain with minority unions. The law covers all formal-sector workers, including migrants, nonessential public-sector workers, domestic workers, and those in export-processing zones. The law on collective bargaining does not cover the informal sector.

The government effectively enforced applicable labor law in the formal sector, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspection was insufficient to enforce compliance in the informal sector. Aside from mediation efforts, the government was not directly involved in union activities. The government and employers generally respected freedom of association, and workers exercised this right. There were no reports of employers interfering in union activities.

Collective bargaining was practiced widely in the mining, construction, agriculture, and public sectors. Almost all collective bargaining was at the workplace and company level. Employers respected the collective bargaining process in the formal sector. Employees exercised their legal rights. For example, on April 22, workers at Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, which had approximately 600 employees for its radio and television services, went on nationwide strike after two years of failed negotiations between management and their union, the Namibia Public Workers Union.

Employers may apply to the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation for an exemption from certain provisions if they are able to prove workers’ rights are protected, but very few employers pursued this option.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The government effectively enforced the law in the formal sector, and criminal penalties were commensurate with those for conviction of analogous serious crimes. The government investigated allegations of forced or compulsory labor and found no prosecutable cases. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for conviction of violations have not been applied under the trafficking act.

By law seamen may be sentenced to imprisonment with labor for breaches of discipline, a provision that the International Labor Organization criticized as forced labor. The Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union confirmed that the law has never been applied.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 14. Children younger than age 18 may not engage in hazardous work, including work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., underground work, mining, construction work, in facilities where goods are manufactured or electricity is generated, transformed, or distributed, or where machinery is installed or dismantled. Prohibitions on hazardous work by children in agriculture are not comprehensive. Children ages 16 and 17 may perform hazardous work subject to approval by the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation and restrictions outlined in the law. Criminal penalties are commensurate with those for conviction of analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government effectively enforced the law in the formal economy. gender-based violence protection units enforced child labor law in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation. The ministry made special provisions in its labor inspections to identify underage workers, although budget constraints did not provide for enough inspectors. The government trained all inspectors to identify the worst forms of child labor. Where child labor was reported, labor inspections were conducted regularly.

Child labor occurred primarily in the informal sector. Children worked herding goats and sheep on communal farms owned by their families. Children also worked as child minders or domestic servants and in family businesses, including informal “businesses” such as begging or street hawking. NGOs reported rising commercial sexual exploitation of girls, particularly in cities and in transit corridors (see section 6).

Also, see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, pregnancy, family responsibility, disability, age, language, social status, and HIV-positive status. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The law, however, does not specifically address employment discrimination based on sexual or gender orientation.

Refugees and legal immigrants with work permits enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.

The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation and the Employment Equity Commission are both responsible for addressing complaints of employment discrimination.

The government inconsistently enforced the law. Penalties are commensurate with those of similar laws but were seldom applied. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, most frequently in the mining and construction industries. Men occupied approximately two-thirds of upper management positions in both the private and public sectors. Indigenous and marginalized groups sometimes faced discrimination in employment involving unskilled labor. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and access to the workspace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Although various sectors have a minimum wage, there is no national minimum wage law that applies across all sectors. Nevertheless, all sector-specific minimum wage rates are applied nationally and were above the poverty line. Unions and employers negotiated industry-specific minimum wages under Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mediation.

The standard legal workweek was 45 hours, with at least 36 consecutive hours of rest between workweeks. By law an employer may not require more than 10 hours’ overtime work per week and must pay premium pay for overtime work. The law mandates 20 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a five-day workweek and 24 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a six-day workweek. The law also requires employees receive paid time off for government holidays, five days of compassionate leave per year, at least 30 workdays of sick leave during a three-year period, and three months of maternity leave paid by the employer and the Social Security Commission.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mandates occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, and the law empowers authorities to enforce these standards through unannounced inspections and criminal prosecution. The law requires employers to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their employees; the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The law covers all employers and employees in the country, including the informal sector and individuals placed by a private employment agency (labor hire), except independent contractors and members of the NDF, the Namibia Central Intelligence Service, the Namibian Correctional Service, and police. By law employees have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

The government enforced wage, hour, and safety standards laws in the formal sector but did not effectively enforce labor law in the informal sector. Penalties are commensurate with those for similar violations, but they were seldom applied in the informal sector. Inspections occurred proactively, reactively, and at random. Due to the ministry’s resource constraints in vehicles, budget, and personnel, as well as difficulty in gaining access to some large communal and commercial farms and private households, labor inspectors sometimes found it difficult to investigate possible violations. Workers in the construction, agriculture, and mining sectors faced hazardous working conditions. There was one report of a fatal industrial accident. In November 2020 an employee of Dundee Precious Metals Inc. was killed while conducting maintenance activities.

Allegations persisted that, in addition to not adhering to the law on hiring and firing, Chinese firms failed to pay sector-established minimum wages and benefits in certain industries, failed to respect work-hour regulations for public holidays and Sundays, and ignored OSH standards, for example, by requiring construction workers to sleep on site.

Informal Sector: The informal sector included an estimated 57 percent of workers. The law applied to the informal sector but was seldom enforced. The Namibian Employers’ Federation reported that the most prominent offenses concerning employee rights and working conditions were in the informal sector, including for domestic workers, street hawkers, and employees in the common informal bars known as shebeens. Sectors having hazardous working conditions included construction and agriculture. Inspection was inadequate and penalties were seldom applied.

Nauru

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent trade unions or other associations. It restricts freedom of association for police. While the right to strike is neither protected nor prohibited by law, a civil servant may not foment or take part in a strike and may be summarily dismissed if found guilty of organizing a strike. The law does not specifically provide for the right of workers to bargain collectively, but it does not prohibit it. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination, and there is no legal requirement to reinstate workers dismissed due to union activity; however, workers may seek redress through the civil court system.

The government effectively enforced the law, although gaps in worker protections remained. Penalties for violations include fines, which were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The country lacked formal trade unions. Worker interests were represented by informal associations. The transient nature of the mostly foreign workforce hampered efforts to organize trade unions.

The constitution prohibits but does not criminalize all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The law does not stipulate penalties, and there were no labor inspectors. Civil courts handled cases of forced labor. There were no reports of forced labor or of government efforts to investigate, or prosecute perpetrators, or remove victims of forced labor.

The worst forms of child labor were not prohibited. The law sets the minimum age of employment at 16. No regulations govern type of work, occupation, or hours for workers younger than age 18, nor do they identify hazardous occupations. The Department of Human Resources and Labor is responsible for enforcing the law. The government effectively enforced the law in the public sector but did not conduct any workplace inspections of private businesses. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The only two significant employers – the government and the phosphate industry – respected minimum age restrictions.

Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The law requires that public servants receive equal pay for work of equal value. Women working in the private sector did not have a similar entitlement.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and discrimination against women in employment and wages occurred. Societal pressures, lower wages, and the country’s general poverty limited opportunities for women. While women headed approximately one-third of all households, less than one-quarter of heads of households engaged in paid work were women. There were no reports the government took any specific action to prevent or respond to employment discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum starting salary for public-sector employees is above the poverty level. There is no minimum salary for the private sector; approximately 26 percent of the population lived at the subsistence level. The law outlines a standard eight-hour workday and one-hour meal break for permanent and contract employees; workers were not required to work longer than nine hours. The law stipulates that for “each year of service, an employee is entitled to four weeks of recreation leave on full salary” and that it can be accumulated for up to three years, at which time the employee must take leave to reduce the balance or “cash out” an amount of recreation leave to reduce the total leave balance accrued.

Public-service regulations govern salaries, working hours, vacation periods, and other employment matters for government workers, who constituted more than 90 percent of salaried workers. The government has a graduated salary system for public-service officers and employees. The law provides for maternity leave after a woman has completed six months of employment.

There is no limit to the maximum number of accumulated overtime hours and no prohibition on excessive or compulsory overtime for workers in the public sector. No specific regulations govern overtime or overtime pay for private-sector workers.

The Department of Human Resources and Labor effectively enforced wage and hour regulations in the public sector, and private-sector employers generally respected wage and hour guidelines. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. There were no reports of violations or prosecutions during the year.

Occupational Safety and Health: Although the government sets some health and safety standards, they do not have the force of law. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment.

The Department of Human Resources and Labor effectively enforced occupational safety and health standards in the public sector. Enforcement was lax in the private sector, but no violations of labor regulations were reported. The law allows the department the right to inspect a workplace without prior notification. Authorities can charge an employer with a criminal offense if found to be in violation of the labor law or the provisions of an employment contract. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations. The number of inspectors was insufficient to monitor compliance fully.

With the decline of the phosphate industry, enforcement of workplace health and safety requirements continued to be lax.

Informal Sector: Most workers were employed in the informal sector in subsistence agriculture, fishing, and copra gathering. Laws and regulations on working conditions apply to the informal sector but were not enforced. Violations were reportedly common, but no inspections of the informal sector occurred.

Nepal

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join unions of their choice, except those organizations deemed by the government to be subversive or seditious. Freedom of association extends to workers in both the formal and informal sectors. Noncitizens cannot be elected as trade union officials or form unions.

Certain workers have the right to strike and bargain collectively, except for employees in what the government defines as essential services, including public transportation, banking, security, and health care. Members of the armed forces, police, and government officials at the undersecretary level or higher also are prohibited from forming or taking part in union activities.

The law prohibits workers from striking in any special economic zone. One special economic zone in Bhairahawa, near the Indian border, is operating.

The law stipulates that unions must represent at least 25 percent of workers in a given workplace to be considered representative. The minimum requirement does not prohibit the formation of unofficial union groups, which under certain conditions may call strikes and negotiate with the government. Workers in the informal sector may also form unions, but due to the strong political affiliation of many of these unions, nonaffiliated individuals often remain excluded or unaware of this right.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights such as discrimination. Enforcement in the private and informal sectors, however, remains a challenge. A labor court addresses violations of labor laws and other issues related to labor.

The law protects union representatives from adverse legal action arising from their official union duties, including collective bargaining, and prohibits antiunion discrimination. Workers dismissed for engaging in union activities can seek reinstatement by filing a complaint in labor court or with the Department of Labor, which has semi judicial and mediation authority. Most cases are settled through mediation. The law stipulates that participation in a strike that does not meet legal requirements constitutes misconduct, for which the consequences can be suspension or termination of employment.

To conduct a legal strike, 51 percent of a union’s membership must vote in favor in a secret ballot, and unions are required to give 30 days’ notice before striking. If the union is unregistered, does not have majority support, or calls a strike prior to issuing 30 days’ notice, the strike is considered illegal.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. Although the government restricted strikes in essential services, workers in hospitals, education services, and the transportation sector occasionally called strikes during the year and did not face any legal penalties. Many unions had links to political parties and did not operate independently from them but worked effectively to advance the rights of workers. The government did not interfere in the functioning of workers’ organizations or threaten union leaders.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but does not criminalize the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law and the country continued to be a source, transit, and destination for men, women, and children who were subjected to forced labor. Kamlari is one such form of illegal slavery in which girls as young as four years and women across all age groups were forced to work as bonded laborers in the houses of rich landlords. The government did not provide support, such as financial assistance or educational opportunities, to adequately reintegrate newly freed women and girls into society. Several nonprofit organizations operated checkpoints along the country’s border with India, where human trafficking was still a problem, and play an important role in victim detection and raising awareness among women and children at a higher risk of human trafficking and slavery.

Government enforcement of the laws against bonded labor was uneven, and social reintegration of victims remained difficult. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. The government did not effectively screen for labor trafficking among abused migrant workers and handled such cases administratively in lieu of criminal investigation. In addition, despite reports of worker exploitation, including trafficking, and illegal recruitment fees charged by recruitment agencies, the government did not sufficiently investigate agencies for violations. The penalties for violating laws against bonded labor involve fines and compensation to victims, with no imprisonment, and are not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Labor trafficking is prosecuted as a criminal offense and punishments are commensurate with other serious crimes.

Forced labor, including through debt-based bondage, of adults and children existed in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic work. A government study documented more than 61,000 individuals – including approximately 10,000 children – in forced labor over the past five years, especially in agriculture, forestry, and construction. NGOs reported some children worked in brick kilns, including carrying loads, preparing bricks, and performing other tasks at kilns for extended periods.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and establishes 14 as the minimum age for work and 17 as the minimum age for hazardous work, and it defines and mandates acceptable working conditions for children. The law prohibits employment of children in factories, mines, and 60 other categories of hazardous work and limits children between the ages of 16 and 17 to a 36-hour workweek (six hours a day between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., six days a week). The types of hazardous work prohibited for children do not include brickmaking, where work involves carrying heavy loads and being exposed to hazardous substances. Employers must maintain separate records of laborers between the ages of 14 and 17.

The Department of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and practices, did not effectively do so. Labor law enforcement was centralized and the number of labor inspectors at the provincial levels remained inadequate. The Department of Labor conducted most of its inspections in the formal sector while nearly all child labor occurred in the informal sector. The department had 14 factory inspector positions in district labor offices and two senior factory inspector positions in Kathmandu. Chronic vacancies in these positions, however, limited the department’s effectiveness. Some of these positions were vacant due to regular rotation of civil servants, and resources devoted to enforcement were limited. Although labor inspectors periodically received training on child labor laws and inspection, this training did not necessarily adhere to any formal schedule.

A broad range of laws and policies were designed to combat and eventually eliminate child labor. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Child labor, including forced child labor, occurred in agriculture, domestic service, portering, recycling, and transportation; the worst abuses were reported in brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, the carpet sector, embroidery factories, and the entertainment sector. In the informal sector, children worked long hours in unhealthy environments, carried heavy loads, were at risk of sexual exploitation, and at times suffered from numerous health problems (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, sex, caste, tribe, geographical or social origin, language, marital status, physical or health condition, disability, or ideological conviction. Labor regulations prohibit discrimination in payment or remuneration based on gender. Penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights.

There are no provisions in the constitution, law, or regulations prohibiting discrimination, including labor discrimination, based on color, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, refugee status, national origin or citizenship, HIV or AIDS-positive status, or other communicable diseases. To be eligible for government jobs, Nepali national origin or citizenship is mandatory. Certain groups, such as lower-class women, minority groups, persons with disability, marginalized groups, Muslims, gender and sexual minority groups, youths, peasants, laborers, and other disadvantaged groups are stated to have the right to employment in state structures based on “the principle of inclusion.”

Authorities restrict domestic work in Gulf countries for Nepali women to protect them from exploitation and violence, including with conditions a labor destination country must meet. Civil society organizations note that these conditions are so stringent that they remain a de facto ban for women traveling for domestic employment.

Despite constitutional and legal protections, discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, caste, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and HIV-positive status. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Such discrimination was most common in the informal sector, where monitoring by the government and human rights organizations was weak or absent and those in disadvantaged categories had little leverage or recourse. In the formal sector, labor discrimination generally took the form of upper-caste men without disabilities being favored in hiring, promotions, and transfers.

According to the Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens and disability rights advocates, the overall rate of employment of persons with disabilities did not increase significantly. In the private sector, large numbers of persons with disabilities claimed they were denied work opportunities or dismissed due to their conditions. In all sectors, employees with disabilities reported other forms of discriminatory treatment.

According to the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization, the government made little progress in implementing antidiscrimination legal provisions to assure employment opportunities for lower-caste individuals in both the public and private sectors. There was no comprehensive data on this abuse.

Structural barriers and discrimination forced Dalits to continue low-income and dehumanizing employment, such as manual scavenging, disposing of dead animals, digging graves, or making leather products.

For every 100 employed men, there were only 59 employed women, and the average monthly income for women was 6000 rupees ($50) less than what men earn. make up 58 percent of the population earning 7,600 rupees ($65) per month but only 12 percent of those earning more than 25,000 rupees ($ 210). Patriarchal attitudes and unequal gender division of labor has long been identified as a factor causing inequality with direct links to lower income, education, and access to finance.

Reliable data on discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in various sectors was not available, but activists reported it was common for gender and sexual minorities to be denied promotions and competitive opportunities within security services and athletics.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage exceeded the official poverty line, but it was minimally sufficient to meet subsistence needs.

The law stipulates a 48-hour workweek, with one day off per week and one-half hour of rest per five hours worked. The law limits overtime to no more than four hours in a day and 20 hours per week, with a 50 percent overtime premium per hour. Excessive compulsory overtime is prohibited. Employees are also entitled to paid public holiday leave, sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave, bereavement leave, and other special leave. The law provides benefits such as a provident fund, housing facilities, day-care arrangements for establishments with more than 50 female workers, and maternity benefits.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. The ministry did not employ enough inspectors to enforce the wage and hour laws or the occupational health and safety laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The government did not effectively enforce the law and the number of worksite inspections was low. Penalties for violations of minimum wage and overtime laws were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. Most factories in the formal sector complied with laws on minimum wage and hours of work, but implementation varied in the informal sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: Implementation and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards were minimal, and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security considered it the most neglected area of labor law enforcement. The law provides adequate occupational health and safety standards and the ministry found violations across sectors, including in construction, mining, transportation, agriculture, and factory work.

The government had not created the necessary regulatory or administrative structures to enforce occupational safety and health provisions. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security did not have a specific office dedicated to occupational safety and health, nor did it have inspectors specifically trained in this area. Although the law authorizes factory inspectors to order employers to rectify unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety standards remained minimal, and monitoring was weak. Accurate data on workplace fatalities and accidents was not available. Labor law and regulations provide for protection of workers from work situations that endanger their health and safety, but in small and cottage industries located in towns and villages, employers sometimes forced workers to work in such situations or risk losing their jobs. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance.

The government regulated labor contracting or “manpower” agencies recruiting workers for overseas jobs, and penalized fraudulent recruitment practices. The government declared it remained committed to its free-visa, free-ticket scheme, but according to migrant rights NGOs, the government failed to implement the policy effectively. Some government officials were complicit in falsifying travel documents and overlooking recruiting violations by labor contractors. The Department of Foreign Employment introduced measures to reduce the number of registered manpower agencies and more closely scrutinize their activities. The myriad unregistered and unregulated labor “brokers” and intermediaries, who were often trusted members of the community, complicated effective monitoring of recruitment practices. Workers were also encouraged to register and pay a fee to the Foreign Employment Board, which tracked migrant workers and provided some compensation for workers whose rights were violated. As in 2020, the suspension of international flights and the economic impact of COVID-19 prevented workers from traveling for a significant portion of the year and made it difficult to evaluate the impact of any measures.

The government required contracts for workers going abroad to be translated into Nepali and instituted provisions whereby workers must attend a predeparture orientation program. During the orientation workers are made aware of their rights and legal recourse, should their rights be violated. The effectiveness of the initiatives remained questionable since workers who went overseas often skipped the mandatory training, and many companies issued predeparture orientation certificates for a small fee and failed to deliver the training. Migrant workers heading abroad often continued to face exploitive conditions.

Informal Sector: According to the International Labor Organization, more than 70 percent of the economically active population was involved in the informal economy, and over 90 percent of women were employed in the informal sector including domestic service. A rapid study published by the Home Workers’ Trade Union of Nepal in late 2020 showed that the pandemic and lockdowns had left more than 85 percent of domestic workers unemployed and without a safety net. Minimum-wage laws apply to both the formal sector and the informal sector, but implementation was stronger in the formal sector. Violations occurred in informal agriculture, transportation, domestic servitude, brick kilns, carpet industries, construction, and small hotels and restaurants.

Netherlands

Section 7. Worker Rights

The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide for public- and private-sector workers to form or join independent unions of their own choosing without prior governmental authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for collective bargaining. Unions may conduct their activities without interference.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and retaliation against legal strikers. It requires workers fired for union activity to be reinstated. The law restricts striking by some public-sector workers if a strike threatens the public welfare or safety. Workers must report their intention to strike to their employer at least two days in advance.

The governments effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Throughout the kingdom the government, political parties, and employers respected the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Authorities effectively enforced applicable laws related to the right to organize and collective bargaining.

Throughout the kingdom the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the governments enforced it. The penalty for violating the law against forced labor ranges from 12 years’ imprisonment in routine cases to 18 years’ imprisonment in cases where the victim incurs serious physical injury and life imprisonment in cases where the victim dies. These penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Enforcement mechanisms and effectiveness varied across the kingdom. In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment investigated cases of forced or compulsory labor. The inspectorate worked with various agencies, such as police, and NGOs to identify possible cases. After completion of an investigation, cases were referred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. On the islands of the Dutch Caribbean, labor inspectors together with representatives of the Department for Immigration inspected worksites and locations for vulnerable migrants and indicators of trafficking. On Sint Maarten the lack of standard procedures for frontline responders to identify forced labor victims hindered the government’s ability to assist such persons.

Isolated incidents of forced or compulsory labor occurred in the kingdom. Victims of coerced labor included both domestic and foreign women and men, as well as boys and girls (see section 7.c.) forced to work in, among other sectors, agriculture, horticulture, catering, domestic servitude and cleaning, the inland shipping sector, and forced criminality (including illegal narcotics trafficking). Refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, were vulnerable to labor trafficking.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

In the Netherlands the law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and there were no reports of child labor. The government groups children into three age categories for purposes of employment: 13 to 14; 15; and 16 to 17. Children in the youngest group are only allowed to work in a few light, nonindustrial jobs and only on nonschool days. As children become older, the scope of permissible jobs and hours of work increases, and fewer restrictions apply. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working overtime, at night, or in hazardous situations. Hazardous work differs by age category. For example, children younger than 18 are not allowed to work with toxic materials, and children younger than 16 are not allowed to work in factories. Holiday work and employment after school are subject to very strict rules set by law. The government effectively enforced child labor laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Aruba’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. On Aruba the minimum age for employment is 15. The rules differentiate between “children,” who are younger than 15, and “youngsters” who are between the ages of 15 and 18. Children who are 13 or older and who have finished elementary school may work, if doing so is necessary for learning a trade or profession (apprenticeship), is not physically or mentally taxing, and is not dangerous. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment, which were adequate to deter violations. The government enforced child labor laws and policies with adequate inspections of possible child labor violations.

Curacao’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The island’s minimum age for employment is 15. The rules differentiate between “children” who are younger than 15 and “youngsters” who are between the ages of 15 and 18. Children who are 12 or older and who have finished elementary school may work, if doing so is necessary for learning a trade or profession (apprenticeship), is not physically or mentally taxing, and is not dangerous. The penalty for violations is a maximum four-year prison sentence, a fine, or both, which was adequate to deter violations.

Sint Maarten’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. On Sint Maarten, the law prohibits children younger than 14 from working for wages. Special rules apply to schoolchildren who are 16 and 17 years of age. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working overtime, at night, or in activities dangerous to their physical or mental well-being. Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment and were adequate to deter violations. The government effectively enforced the law.

Labor laws and regulations throughout the kingdom prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation, and the governments effectively enforced the laws. The law applies to all refugees with residency status. Penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

The NIHR, which covers the Netherlands, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, focused on discrimination in the labor market, such as discrimination in the workplace, unequal pay, termination of labor contracts, and preferential treatment of ethnically Dutch employees. Although the NIHR’s rulings are not binding, they were usually adhered to by parties. The NIHR noted in its yearly report that in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic profoundly affected the Dutch labor force but disproportionally impacted persons with lower levels of education, youths, migrants, and persons with disabilities or physical or mental health conditions that do not allow them to work. In 2020, 51 percent of the 638 cases addressed by the NIHR were cases of possible labor discrimination. For example, NIHR judged that a judicial bailiff company discriminated on the grounds of religion by not employing a woman because she wore a headscarf. It also found the national postal services guilty of discrimination for not considering the chronic illness of an employee during its structural reorganization. Plaintiffs may also take their cases to court, but the NIHR was often preferred because of a lower threshold to start a case. The Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment conducted inspections to investigate whether policies were in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace. The law addresses requirements for employers to accommodate employees with disabilities, and the government worked to improve the position of persons with disabilities in the labor market (see section 6).

Discrimination occurred in the Netherlands, including on the basis of race, sex, religion, and disability. The country’s residents with migrant backgrounds faced numerous barriers when looking for work, including lack of education, lack of Dutch language skills, and racial discrimination. According to Statistics Netherlands, the unemployment rate of persons of other than of West European background during 2020 was more than twice that of ethnic Dutch (8.2 percent vs 3 percent) and the unemployment rate among youths with a non-West European background was also twice as high compared to the rate among ethnic Dutch youth. The government completed implementing a pilot program, “Further Integration on the Labor Market,” to improve the competitiveness of persons with a migrant background who are seeking work in the Netherlands.

In 2019 the NIHR reported there were at least 37 claims of discrimination in employment related to pregnancy. Unemployment among women was higher than for men, and women’s incomes lagged behind those of their male counterparts.

There were no reports of labor discrimination cases on Curacao, Aruba, or Sint Maarten.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In the Netherlands the minimum wage for an adult older than 21 was sufficient for a single-person household but inadequate for a couple with two children, according to the government. The government effectively enforced wage laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the monthly minimum wage was considered sufficient to ensure a decent living for workers, according to the three governments.

In the Netherlands the law does not establish a specific number of hours as constituting a full workweek, but most workweeks were 36, 38, or 40 hours long. Collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts, not law, regulate overtime. The legal maximum workweek is 60 hours. During a four-week period, a worker may only work 55 hours a week on average or, during a 16-week period, an average of 48 hours a week, with some exceptions. Persons who work more than 5.5 hours a day are entitled to a 30-minute rest period.

Occupational Safety and Health: In the Netherlands the government set occupational safety and health (OSH) standards across all sectors. OSH standards were appropriate for primary industries and frequently updated. The situation was similar in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. On Sint Maarten the government established guidelines for acceptable conditions of work in both the public and private sectors that cover specific concerns, such as ventilation, lighting, hours, and terms of work. The Ministries of Labor in the kingdom reviewed and updated the guidelines and routinely visited businesses to ensure employer compliance.

In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment effectively enforced the labor laws on conditions of work across all sectors, including the informal economy. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. The inspectorate can order companies to cease operations due to safety violations or shut down fraudulent temporary employment agencies that facilitate labor exploitation. The number of labor inspectors, who have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, was sufficient to enforce compliance. In 2020 the government set up a special team to draft a report and provide recommendations to structurally improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers. Government and civil society stakeholders asserted the pandemic made exploitation and mistreatment of migrant workers more visible. The government implemented several recommendations throughout the year to prevent violations, including ensuring registration of labor migrants, improving their medical position, and launching a multilanguage website where labor migrant can learn more concerning their rights.

Most violations in the Netherlands were in temporary employment agencies that mainly hired workers from Eastern Europe, particularly in the construction and transportation sectors, without paying the minimum wage. The situation was similar on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, although the underpaid workers were generally from Latin America.

New Zealand

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes, with some restrictions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. While the law does not require reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity, courts may order this at their discretion.

Police have the right to freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively, but sworn police officers (including all uniformed and plainclothes police but excluding clerical and support staff) do not have the right to strike or take any form of industrial action.

Contractors and self-employed persons are not covered by most employment-related laws (excluding health and safety laws) and cannot join unions, bargain collectively, or conduct strike action.

Workers may only strike while negotiating a collective bargaining agreement or over matters of health and safety. An employer may employ another person to perform the work of a striking employee under strict conditions. Strikes by providers of essential services are subject to certain procedural requirements, including mandatory notice of three to 28 days, depending on the service involved. The list of essential services was broader than international standards on the definition of essential services.

To bargain collectively, unions must be registered, independent, governed by democratic rules, and have a minimum of 15 members. Unions may not bargain collectively on social or political issues.

The government respected these rights and effectively enforced applicable laws without lengthy delays. Employment legislation places a statutory duty on both unions and employers to bargain in good faith and entitles both employees and employers to engage in economic sanctions (strikes and lockouts) to support their bargaining claims. The law provides penalties for violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining protections and includes fines commensurate with similar crimes. Cases were occasionally referred to the civil employment court.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced labor. The government’s efforts to enforce the law were not always effective. Penalties were commensurate with similar crimes. Fines can be imposed for labor violations that may be indicators of forced labor such as underpayment of wages and excessively long working hours. The government did not initiate any new labor trafficking prosecutions during the year.

In August the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal from Joseph Matamata, a horticultural contractor, who was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in 2020 on slavery and trafficking-in-persons charges. The court also dismissed a government counterclaim for a longer sentence but did agree that a minimum nonparole period of five years should be imposed.

In June media reported that the Employment Relations Authority, the government body tasked with resolving employment disputes, had a backlog of up to 12 months in hearing cases, due to COVID-related restrictions and staff shortages.

Recruitment agencies that recruit workers from abroad must utilize a licensed immigration adviser. The Immigration Advisers Authority, an independent body, promotes and protects the interests of individuals receiving immigration advice. It licenses individuals deemed fit and competent to give immigration advice; maintains standards and a code of conduct for immigration advisers; investigates individuals giving immigration advice without a license; and receives complaints from persons who believe they received poor immigration advice. Media reports during the year suggested migrant workers were vulnerable to forced labor in sectors including horticulture, retail, agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic service. Reports stated that some migrant workers from South and East Asia were charged excessive and escalating recruitment fees, experienced unjustified salary deductions, nonpayment or underpayment of wages, excessively long working hours, and restrictions on their movement. Some had their passports confiscated and contracts altered improperly. Victims were often deterred from filing complaints out of fear of jeopardizing their visa status.

In July, as part of broader government initiatives to combat migrant labor exploitation, a six-month visa to allow migrant workers to leave exploitative work situations quickly yet remain lawfully in the country came into force.

In August several labor rights advocates complained when the government stopped the emergency welfare and accommodation support provided to migrant workers since 2020 because COVID-19-related travel restrictions prevented many of them from returning home. The group argued the change made the workers more vulnerable to workplace exploitation and forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment, limitations on working hours, and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. By law children younger than 16 may not work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The law also states that children enrolled in school may not work, even outside school hours, if such employment would interfere with their education. The law bans employment of children younger than 15 in specific hazardous industries such as manufacturing, mining, and forestry.

Government inspectors effectively enforced these laws. The law outlines prison sentencing guidelines and fines for the most serious offenses. Penalties were commensurate with similar crimes.

Small numbers of children ages 16 to 18 worked in hazardous situations, such as in agriculture: the law requires them to be fully trained. Children younger than 15 cannot drive a tractor or large vehicle, except children working in agriculture if they are older than 12 and are fully trained or are being trained, or if they live on the property. The commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a problem, and the government convicted 363 perpetrators for sexual offenses against children younger than 16 (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  for information on the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the grounds of age, sex (gender) or sexual orientation; marital or relationship status; religious or ethical beliefs; skin color, race, ethnicity, or country of origin; disability, impairment, or illness; political opinions; and employment status. The law prohibiting discrimination does not address refugee or stateless status. The government effectively enforced these prohibitions, and penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights.

The Human Rights Commission has an equal opportunity employment team that focuses on workplace gender-related problems. This team regularly surveyed pay scales, conducted a census of women in leadership roles, and engaged public and private employers to promote compensation equality. According to Business New Zealand in 2018, 82 percent of discrimination complaints were closed within three months and 97 percent were closed within 12 months. In July the new Ministry for Ethnic Communities took over the role of the Office of Ethnic Affairs in promoting ethnic diversity in employment.

According to the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU), Maori and Pacific Island persons – and Maori and Pacific Island women in particular –remained disadvantaged compared with the general population in terms of conditions of employment and wages. According to government body Statistics NZ, across all sectors the female-male gender pay imbalance in June was minus 9 percent for the entire population. Nonetheless, according to the NZCTU, Pacific Island women were paid between 22 and 25 percent less than non-Maori women. As of September, the Human Rights Commission was investigating “the persistent Pacific pay gap and lack of equal employment opportunities experienced by Pacific peoples.” According to Statistics NZ, in 2019 the public service reflected a gender pay gap of 10.5 percent based on occupational structure, gender segregation, and seniority.

Persons with disabilities faced employment discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace. The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities was twice the national average.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour: The minimum hourly wage was adjusted on an annual basis to be above the amount – 60 percent of the median household income – that researchers frequently used as an unofficial poverty level.

The law provides that work hours should be set in collective or individual agreements between employers and employees. Although a 40-hour workweek is traditional, employer and employees may contractually agree to a workweek of more than 40 hours. Overtime pay is negotiable. Labor regulations do not define an absolute maximum number of overtime hours.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government established appropriate occupational safety and health standards and proactively investigated labor conditions. Extensive laws and regulations govern health and safety issues. Employers are obliged to provide a safe and healthy work environment and have primary responsibility for individual’s health and safety at work. The government requires employers to provide health insurance for their seasonal workers. The law allows workers to refuse to perform work likely to cause serious harm and permits legal recourse if the worker believes an employer penalized them as a result.

In cases of noncompliance with labor law, inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and to shut down equipment, levy fines, require restitution of wages to workers, and revoke licenses of offenders. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment enforces laws governing working conditions, including wages and hours, through sub agencies such as the Labor Inspectorate and Employment NZ. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. In particular, employers who have breached minimum employment standards regarding vulnerable migrant workers face a set “stand-down” period where they lose the ability to support migrant visa applications for at least 12 months. As of September, 64 companies or employers were on the stand-down list.

Labor ministry inspectors effectively enforced wages, hours, safety, and health rules in all sectors including the informal economy. WorkSafe, the official occupational health and safety authority, reported that 75 percent of surveyed employers changed their workplace practices following inspections. Convictions for violations of the occupational health and safety law as well as for violations of the wages and hours law can result in fines, deportation of noncitizens, or imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with similar violations.

Between July 2020 and June 2021, the country had 55 workplace-related fatalities (excluding occupational disease). The most dangerous sectors were categorized by WorkSafe as agriculture, construction, transport and warehousing, and forestry.

Nicaragua

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of all workers in the public and private sectors, except for those in the military and police, to form and join independent unions of their choice without prior authorization and to bargain collectively. The government’s control of all major unions effectively nullified those rights. The ruling party used its control over major unions to harass and intimidate workers in several sectors, including education, health care, the public sector, and free trade zones. The constitution recognizes the right to strike, although it places some restrictions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not provide for measures to protect against rights violation. Burdensome and lengthy conciliation procedures and government control of all major unions impeded workers’ ability to call strikes. In smaller businesses where major unions were not present, the government created parallel labor unions to confuse and diffuse efforts to organize strikes or other labor actions. In addition, if a strike continues for 30 days without resolution, the Ministry of Labor may suspend the strike and submit the matter to arbitration.

Collective bargaining agreements last up to two years and are automatically renewed if neither party requests its revision. Collective bargaining agreements in the free trade zone regions, however, are for five-year periods. Companies in disputes with their employees must negotiate with the employees’ union if one exists. By law several unions may coexist at any one enterprise, and the law permits management to sign separate collective bargaining agreements with each union.

The government sought to foster resolution of labor conflicts through informal negotiations rather than formal administrative or judicial processes. The law does not establish specific fines for labor law violations, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Although the law establishes a labor court arbitration process, it was subject to long wait times and lengthy and complicated procedures, and many labor disputes were resolved out of court.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not respected, and the government often intervened for political reasons. The government did not effectively enforce the laws. Most labor unions were historically allied with political parties, but in recent years the government reportedly dissolved unions and fired workers not associated with the ruling FSLN. Independent labor experts reported the Ministry of Labor denied or unduly delayed providing legal recognition to unions that were not aligned with the FSLN.

Politically motivated firings continued to be a problem. Most of the doctors and university staff from the public sector fired for political reasons since 2018 had not received severance pay as of September. Labor experts highlighted similar instances of public-sector employees being fired without receiving severance pay. FSLN party affiliation or letters of recommendation from party secretaries, family cabinet coordinators, or other party officials were allegedly required from applicants seeking public-sector jobs.

The government restricted the organizing of trade unions and teachers perceived to be in opposition to the government.

There were no known documented instances of strikes being declared illegal. Under the law, during a strike employers may not hire replacement workers, but unions alleged this practice was common. Wildcat strikes – those without union authorization – were historically common.

Employers interfered in the functioning of workers’ organizations and committed other violations related to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Labor leaders noted employers routinely violated collective bargaining agreements and labor laws with impunity.

Official union federations were accused of protecting employer interests by identifying and isolating workers who attempted to organize as well as frustrating such attempts through arbitrary procedural barriers that delay approval processes. Federations also permitted illegal firings of workers who tried to organize themselves; the workers faced retaliation and permanent exclusion from jobs in the free trade zones.

Many employers in the formal sector continued to blacklist or fire union members and did not reinstate them. Many of these cases did not reach the court system or a mediation process led by the Ministry of Labor. Employers often delayed severance payments to fired workers or omitted the payments altogether. Employers also avoided legal penalties by organizing employer-led unions lacking independence and by frequently using contract workers to replace striking employees. There were reports FSLN party dues were automatically deducted from paychecks.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. There was no information available regarding government enforcement of these laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Despite reported political will to combat human trafficking, including labor trafficking, during the year the government did not take sufficient action to address the scope of the problem and provided only limited information about its law enforcement efforts.

Observers noted reports of forced labor, including of men, women, and children in agriculture, construction, mining, street begging, and domestic servitude. Victim identification, prosecution, and conviction remained inadequate, and victims’ family members were often complicit in their exploitation. Traffickers lured residents of rural or border regions with the promise of high-paying jobs in urban and tourist areas but then subjected them to sexual exploitation and forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The law establishes the minimum age for employment at 14 and limits the workday for any individual between ages of 14 and 18 to six hours and the workweek to 30 hours. Those between 14 and 16 must have parental approval to work or enter into a formal labor contract. The law prohibits teenage domestic workers from sleeping in the houses of their employers. It is illegal for minors to work in places the Ministry of Labor considers harmful to their health or safety, such as mines, garbage dumps, and night entertainment venues, and to undertake certain agricultural work. The government mostly enforced the law in the formal sector, but enforcement was insufficient in the much larger informal sector, where child labor was more prevalent. Legal penalties for persons employing children in dangerous work were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government used limited resources to concentrate on child labor violations in select sectors in narrow geographic areas, such as coffee-growing regions, and gave only limited attention to the large informal sector. The government reported having separated nine children from work between January 2019 and the first semester of 2020.

The government signed thousands of cooperative agreements with employers to prevent the hiring of minors and continued Programa Amor, which aimed to eradicate child labor by reintegrating abandoned children into society. Information on the program’s activities, funding, and effectiveness was unavailable, but independent observers deemed it insufficient.

Laws to eliminate child labor were not fully implemented and lacked a consistent mechanism to coordinate efforts to address child labor. The government also divested resources from child labor prevention. Attendance in secondary schools remained much lower than in primary schools, increasing the risk of older children engaging in exploitative labor. The country made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

Fifteen percent of children lacked birth certificates, which increased their risk for human trafficking, including for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation.

Child labor remained widespread. According to organizations that worked on children’s rights, this likely increased to almost 320,000 children working in some form of child labor. A common feature of child labor was the prevalence of unpaid family work, and the National Institute of Development Information stated 80 percent of children and adolescents were unpaid workers.

Children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6). Most child labor occurred in forestry, fishing, and the informal sector, including on coffee plantations and subsistence farms. Child labor also occurred in the production of dairy products, oranges, bananas, tobacco, palm products, coffee, rice, and sugarcane; cattle raising; street sales; garbage-dump scavenging; stone crushing; gold mining and quarrying of pumice and limestone; construction; marijuana and other drug production and trafficking; street performing; domestic work; and transport. Persons with disabilities and children were subjected to forced begging, particularly in Managua and near tourist centers.

Children working in agriculture suffered from sun exposure, extreme temperatures, and dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. Children working in the fishing industry were at risk from polluted water and dangerous ocean conditions.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status. The government did not deter such discrimination because it did not effectively enforce the law and regulations. Penalties for violations were commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Discrimination in employment took many forms. Although women generally had equal access to employment, few women had senior positions in business and worked in the informal sector in higher numbers than men; in the public sector or in elected positions, an autocratic ruling political party limited women’s independence and influence. In addition, women’s wages were generally lower when compared with those of male counterparts, even for the same position and work performed. Workplace challenges for persons with disabilities included inadequate infrastructure, lack of educational opportunities, and a generally low rate of public-services positions, despite a legal requirement that a certain percentage be available to them. LGBTQI+ organizations reported that sexual orientation and gender identity continued to be a basis for discriminatory behavior.

Workers who disagreed with government recommendations were fired, and only those with a membership card of the ruling party were hired.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a statutory minimum wage for 10 economic sectors. According to the Ministry of Labor, the average legal minimum wage covered only 35 percent of the cost of basic goods. The ministry, together with workers’ unions aligned with the ruling party, agreed to a 3 percent wage increase for the year. Public-sector employees received a 5 percent salary increase in August. Free trade zone regions had a wage increase of 8 percent, prenegotiated in a five-year agreement expected to expire in 2022. The salary increase remained unchanged despite free trade zone representatives reporting unsteady industry performance.

The minimum wage was generally enforced only in the formal sector, estimated to be 20 percent of the economy. The Ministry of Labor is the primary enforcement agency.

The standard legal workweek is a maximum of 48 hours, with one day of rest. The law dictates an obligatory year-end bonus equivalent to one month’s pay, proportional to the number of months worked. The law mandates premium pay for overtime, prohibits compulsory overtime, and sets a maximum of three hours of overtime per day not to exceed nine hours per week. Penalties for violations of minimum wage and overtime laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

According to International Labor Organization guidelines, the number of labor inspectors was insufficient for the size of the workforce, which included approximately three million workers. The law allows inspectors to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions for egregious violations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The National Council of Labor Hygiene and Safety, including its departmental committees, is responsible for implementing worker safety legislation and collaborating with other government agencies and civil society organizations in developing assistance programs and promoting training and prevention activities. According to labor contacts, the council was inactive throughout the year. The government did not allocate adequate staff or other measures to enable the Office of Hygiene and Occupational Safety to enforce occupational safety and health (OSH) provisions. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence, but they were infrequently enforced and only in the formal sector.

OSH standards also were not widely enforced in an expanding large informal sector, which represented 77 percent of employment and 88 percent of businesses, according to 2016 reports from the Consultants for Business Development and the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development. Although more recent statistics on informality were not available, experts viewed this indicator as necessarily rising because of sociopolitical unrest and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. It was unclear whether authorities effectively protected employees in such cases.

Informal Sector: The informal sector included the bulk of workers in street sales, agriculture and ranching, transportation, domestic labor, fishing, and minor construction. Legal limitations on hours worked often were ignored by employers, who claimed workers readily volunteered for extra hours for additional pay. Violations of wage and hour regulations in the informal sector were common and generally not investigated, particularly in street sales, domestic work, and agriculture, where children continued to work in tobacco, banana, and coffee plantations. Compulsory overtime was reported in the private-security sector, where guards often were required to work excessive shifts without relief.

Niger

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law provides for freedom of association, but the government had not adopted implementing regulations to enforce the law. While there were no provisions that limit collective bargaining in nonessential services, provisions restrict certain categories of public servants not engaged in the administration of the government from exercising their right to collective bargaining. Children ages 14 to 15 are permitted to work (although there are limits on the hours and type of work) but are not permitted to join unions.

The right to strike excludes police and other security forces. The law restricts the right to strike by public servants in management positions and workers in certain essential services, the scope of which was broader than that envisioned in International Labor Organization conventions. The law defines strategic and essential services that require minimum service during a strike, including telecommunications, health, government media, water supply, electricity distribution, fuel distribution, air traffic control, financial services, public transportation, garbage collection, and government authority services. Legal restrictions usually involve requiring civil servants to report to work during a legally notified strike. There are no prohibitions on strikes in nonessential services. Workers must give employers at least three days’ advance notice of intent to strike. The government may call for mandatory arbitration in lieu of a strike.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for penalties but does not require reinstatement for workers dismissed for union activity. There are limitations on the law’s applicability to public service employees, however.

Government application of laws in the public and private sectors varied, but the laws were largely enforced. Penalties for violations include imprisonment and fines; these penalties were generally commensurate with those for other laws involving violations of civil rights.

The law applies to the large informal sector, which accounted for most economic activity, but the government did not effectively enforce the law in informal workplaces, particularly in rural areas. The informal sector featured some unions. Informal workers in some urban areas formed trade unions or small cooperatives, such as in permanent local markets selling food and household goods. For example, Marche Katako, a large informal market in Niamey, had its own union, the Union for Katako Tradespersons.

Authorities generally respected freedom of association, the right to strike, and the right to collective bargaining, and workers exercised these rights. For example, market vendors held unobstructed local strikes to protest new regulations or higher rents. Unions exercised the right to bargain collectively for wages above the legal minimum and for more favorable working conditions.

The law criminalizes all forms of forced labor, including slavery, practices similar to slavery, and exploitative begging. The government did not effectively enforce these laws, however. The law establishes penalties for forced labor that are commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, but the penalties were largely unenforced.

The government, particularly the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service, made efforts to reach out to administrative heads and religious and traditional chiefs to discourage forced labor, especially traditional slavery. In 2020 the High Court reaffirmed the illegality of wahaya, the selling of girls as young as age seven into forced marriages, a traditional practice which perpetuated hereditary slavery. Enforcement of the law, however, was ineffective, particularly in rural areas where the practice was prevalent.

Forced labor remained a problem, especially in domestic work and agriculture. A 2016 study conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, concluded that victims of forced labor were characteristically young (age 17 on average) and predominantly male (62.5 percent), although adult victims were also identified. Poverty, substandard living conditions, and lack of opportunity were reasons that victims remained in jobs under conditions of forced labor.

The Tuareg, Zarma, Fulani, Toubou, and Arab ethnic minorities throughout the country, and particularly in remote northern and western regions and along the border with Nigeria, practiced a traditional form of caste-based servitude or bonded labor. Persons born into a traditionally subordinate caste or descent-based slavery sometimes worked without pay for those above them in the social order. Such persons were forced to work without pay for their masters throughout their lives, primarily herding cattle, working on farmland, or working as domestic servants. Estimates of the numbers of persons involved in traditional slavery varied widely, but some estimates placed this number as high as 800,000. In Zarma/Songhai communities, social stigma against descendants of hereditary slaves interfered with their right to marry freely, own property, practice independent farming or other economic activity, or participate in politics.

Forced child labor occurred. Thousands of boys as young as age four and largely from poor rural families were forced to beg on city streets in lieu of payment of fees for religious education. Girls from poor rural families were sometimes forced into domestic servitude (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the use of child labor and the employment of children younger than age 14. The law, however, does not apply to types of employment or work performed by children outside an enterprise, such as self-employment, subsistence agriculture, or in the informal sector. Children ages 12 or 13 may perform nonindustrial light work for a maximum of two hours per day outside of school hours with a labor inspector’s authorization, as long as such work does not impede their schooling. Light work is defined as including some forms of domestic work, fruit picking and sorting, and other nonindustrial labor. Children may not perform work that requires force greater than their strength, may damage their health or development, is risky, or is likely to undermine their morals.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, in part due to an insufficient number of child labor inspectors in the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service. Penalties for violations include fines and imprisonment, but these were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes. The laws rarely were applied to work performed by children in the nonindustrial and informal sector. The government worked with international partners to provide relevant education to parents as an inducement to keep their children in school.

Child labor was prevalent, with children as young as age five engaged in labor. Most rural children regularly worked with their families from an early age, helping in the fields, pounding grain, tending animals, gathering firewood and water, and doing similar tasks. Some families kept children out of school to work or beg. Children were also forced into commercial sex and domestic servitude, artisanal mining, and criminality.

There were reports that loosely organized clandestine international networks forced young boys from neighboring countries into manual labor or begging, and young girls to work as domestic servants, usually with some degree of consent or complicity of their families.

Quranic schoolteachers forced their talibes (young male pupils) to work as beggars. The practice remained widespread, with a degree of complicity from parents.

Child labor occurred in hereditary slavery and largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining operations as well as in trona (a source of sodium carbonate compounds), salt, and gypsum mines. The artisanal gold mines in Tillaberi and Agadez Regions continued to use many children, particularly adolescent boys and some girls, under hazardous health and safety conditions. The use of cyanide in these mines further complicated the health hazards. Human rights groups, NGOs, and some government ministries expressed deep concern regarding poisoning, but the practice remained widespread. Children also performed dangerous tasks in cattle herding. Children, especially boys and girls in the Arab, Zarma, Fulani, Tuareg, and Toubou ethnic minorities, continued to be exploited as slaves and endure conditions of bonded labor, particularly in distant western and northern regions and along the border with Nigeria.

Children born into a traditionally subordinate caste or descent-based slavery became the property of their masters and could be passed from one owner to another as gifts or part of a dowry.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The constitution provides for equal access to employment for all citizens. The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, sickle cell anemia, HIV-positive status, or other communicable disease. The law prescribes fines for persons engaging in discrimination, requires equal pay for equal work, and requires firms to provide hiring preferences to persons with disabilities under certain circumstances. The law restricts women from working in occupations deemed dangerous to their health, although these restrictions are not clearly defined.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government neither adopted regulations to implement the law nor took actions to prevent or prosecute employment discrimination. The government had inadequate staff to investigate reports of violations, and penalties were not commensurate with those for other violations of civil rights.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender and disability. Traditional and religious beliefs resulted in employment discrimination against women. The government requires companies to hire a minimum of 5 percent of individuals with disabilities; however, the government did not enforce the law effectively. Workplace access for persons with disabilities remained a problem. The descendants of hereditary slaves also faced discrimination in employment and occupation.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a minimum wage only for salaried workers in the formal sector with fixed (contractual) terms of employment. Minimum wages are set for each class and category within the formal economy. The lowest minimum wage was above the official poverty income level.

The formal economy’s legal workweek is 40 hours with a minimum of one 24-hour rest period, although the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service authorized workweeks of up to 72 hours for certain occupations such as private security guards, domestic workers, and drivers. The law provides for paid annual holidays. The law provides special arrangements regarding the mining and oil sectors whereby the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service may grant waivers regarding work hours based on these two sectors’ specific nature and make allowances for working larger blocks of time in exchange for increased time off. Workers may work for two weeks beyond normal work hours, in compensation for which they are entitled to two weeks’ rest. Employers must provide premium pay for overtime, although the law does not set a specific rate; employees of each enterprise or government agency negotiate with their employer to set the rate. The law calls for a maximum eight hours of overtime per week, but this was not enforced. Penalties for wage and hour violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

The Ministry of Labor and Civil Service inconsistently enforced minimum wages and workweek laws and only in the regulated formal economy. The number of inspectors responsible for enforcing the labor code was not sufficient to enforce compliance and monetary sanctions were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but do not have the authority to initiate sanctions.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health standards, which were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. It extends labor inspectors’ authority over these standards and provides for sanctions, including a mandatory appearance before labor inspectors for resolving health and safety disputes. By law all workers may remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Nevertheless, authorities did not effectively protect workers in such situations. The nonunionized subsistence agricultural and small trading sectors, where the law applies but was not enforced, employed approximately 90 percent of the workforce. In the nonunionized informal sector, despite the law, it was unlikely workers could exercise the right to sick leave without jeopardizing their employment. The number of inspectors responsible for enforcing the law was not sufficient to enforce compliance and monetary sanctions were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but do not have the authority to initiate sanctions.

Violations of provisions governing wages, overtime, and work conditions reportedly occurred in the petroleum and mining sectors, including at artisanal gold mines, oil fields, and oil refineries. Groups of workers in hazardous or exploitive work conditions included mineworkers, which included children, domestic workers, and persons in traditional slavery. In the artisanal gold-mining sector, the use of cyanide posed serious health hazards for workers and surrounding communities. A significant, but unknown, percentage of the mining workforce worked in the informal sector. The vast majority, however, were employed by large, international firms; labor advocates complained these firms were not transparent regarding work conditions.

Union workers in many cases did not receive information concerning the risks posed by their jobs. The government reported the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service responded to reports of work-related accidents and required affected employees be compensated as required by law. The ministry did not release data on fatal accidents.

Informal Sector: Approximately 90 percent of workers were in the informal sector, with subsistence crop agriculture, animal husbandry, small trading, and artisanal trade dominating the labor market. The 10 percent of workers in the formal sector were mainly civil servants, teachers, and employees of state-owned corporations like utilities and industrial mines. Rural workers had no access to government enforcement of wage, hour, OSH laws or inspections.

Although the constitution provides that the social protections of old age pensions, work accident payments, and health care apply to all workers, informal workers cannot meet the administrative requirements and lack mechanisms to pay the voluntary contributions to subscribe. Program regulations do not mention informal workers or specify them to be eligible.