Federated States of Micronesia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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.

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 generally enforced the law, although resources and inspections were minimal. The national antitrafficking law provides for penalties that were sufficient to deter violations. There were reports of foreign workers from Southeast Asian countries working in conditions indicative of human trafficking on Asian fishing vessels in the country or its territorial waters.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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. There was no 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, particularly to foreign fishermen and other seafarers.

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 AIDS or other diseases.

There was no pattern of discrimination in most areas, although discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to persons with disabilities. Traditional customs, especially in Yap State, limited professional opportunities for lower-status and outer-island persons. Women were underrepresented in all areas except in the service sector.

The national minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government was not below the official estimate for the poverty income level.

The law sets a standard of an eight-hour day and a five-day workweek, with premium pay for overtime. There are no legal provisions prohibiting excessive or compulsory overtime. A federal regulation requires that employers provide a safe workplace. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Division of Immigration and Labor within the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing these standards. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to deter violations. The tax system monitored the minimum wage effectively. The government generally was effective in its enforcement of these standards and provided sufficient resources for effective enforcement.

Approximately one-half of workers were in the informal economy where the law does not apply, predominantly in subsistence agriculture and fishing. Working conditions aboard some foreign-owned fishing vessels operating in the country’s waters continued to be very poor. Crewmembers reported incidents of injuries, beatings by officers, and nonpayment of salaries.

Liberia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers, except public servants and employees of state-owned enterprises, the right to freely form or join independent unions of their choice without prior authorization or excessive requirements. It allows unions to conduct their activities without interference by employers, parties or government. The law provides that labor organizations and associations have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules with regard to electing their representatives, organizing their activities, and formulating their programs. The Liberia Labor Congress (LLC), however, wanted the process leading to the certification of labor unions by the Ministry of Labor revisited. According to the LLC, the Ministry of Labor certified several union organizations that were unable to represent adequately the interest of their members.

The law provides for the right of workers in the private sector to bargain collectively. Public-sector employees and employees of state-owned enterprises are prohibited under the Civil Service Standing Orders from organizing into unions and bargaining collectively, but instead may process grievances through the Civil Service Agency grievance board. Representatives from the Ministry of Labor, the LLC, and the Civil Servants Association stated that the Standing Orders appeared to conflict with Article 17 of the constitution, which affords the right to associate in trade unions. The law also provides for the right of workers to conduct legal strikes, provided they have attempted to negotiate to resolve the issue and give the Ministry of Labor 48 hours’ notice of their intent. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination and the issuance of threats against union leaders. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The law prohibits unions from engaging in partisan political activity and prohibits agricultural workers from joining industrial workers’ organizations. The law prohibits strikes under certain circumstances as follows: if the disputed parties have agreed to refer the issue to arbitration; if the issue is already under arbitration or in court; and if the parties engage in essential services as designated by the National Tripartite Council comprising the Ministry of Labor, Liberian Chamber of Commerce, and the Liberian Labor Union. The National Tripartite Council has not published a list of essential services.

While the law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement for workers dismissed for union activity, it allows for dismissal without cause if the company provides the mandated severance package. It also does not prohibit retaliation against strikers whose strikes comply with the law if they commit “an act that constitutes defamation or a criminal offense, or if the proceedings arise from an employee being dismissed for a valid reason.”

In general the government endeavored to enforce applicable laws in the formal sector, and workers exercised their rights. Employees enjoyed freedom of association, and had the right to establish and become members of organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization or coercion. The law, however, does not provide adequate protection, and some protections depend on whether property damage has occurred and is measurable. Penalties were inadequate to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays or appeals and to outside interference.

Union influence continued to increase during the year through increased membership at plantations; there were reports of union-led protest actions in a number of concession areas including plantations, leading to work stoppages or disruptions for days. Labor unions called on the government to enforce laws that would improve work conditions across the country, particularly the Decent Work Act.

In April the Ministry of Labor, Liberia Revenue Authority, and the Liberia Immigration Service conducted a joint nationwide labor inspection exercise to ensure employers complied with the Decent Work Act and all other existing labor laws.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. The law prescribes a minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment for conviction of the trafficking of adults but does not prescribe a maximum sentence; these penalties were not sufficiently stringent to deter violations.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred. Families living in the interior of the country sometimes sent young women and children to stay with acquaintances or relatives in Monrovia or other cities with the promise that the relatives would assist the women and children to pursue educational or other opportunities. In some instances these women and children were forced to work as street vendors, domestic servants, or beggars. There were reports of forced labor in rubber plantations, gold mines, and alluvial diamond mines. Forced labor continued despite efforts by the government, NGOs, and other organizations to eliminate the practice.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Under the Decent Work Act, most full-time employment of children younger than age of 15 is prohibited. Children older than age 13 but younger than age 15 may be employed to perform “light work” for a maximum of two hours per day and not more than 14 hours per week. “Light work” is defined as work that does not prejudice the child’s attendance at school and is not likely to be harmful to a child’s health or safety and moral or material welfare or development as defined by law. There is an exception to the law for artistic performances, where the law leaves the determination of work hours to the minister of labor. Under the act children age 15 and older are not allowed to work more than seven hours a day or more than 42 hours in a week. There are mandatory rest periods of one hour, and the child may not work more than four hours consecutively. The law also prohibits the employment of children younger than age 16 during school hours, unless the employer keeps a registry of the child’s school certificate to illustrate the child attended school regularly and can demonstrate the child was able to read and write simple sentences. The law prohibits the employment of apprentices younger than age 16. The compulsory education requirement extends through grade nine or until age 15.

The law provides that an employer must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Labor before engaging a child in a proscribed form of labor. It was unclear, however, whether such permits were either requested or issued.

According to the law, “a parent, caregiver, guardian, or relative who engages in any act or connives with any other person to subject a child to sexual molestation, prohibited child labor, or such other act, that places the well-being of a child at risk is guilty of a second-degree felony.”

The Child Labor Commission (NACOMAL) is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies, although it did not do so effectively, in large part due to inadequate staff and funding. As a result, while labor inspectors were trained on child labor issues, none was specifically assigned to monitor and address child labor. The government charged the National Steering Committee for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (National Child Labor Committee)–comprising the Ministry of Labor’s Child Labor Secretariat (which includes NACOMAL); the Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Protection Unit; the MGCSP’s Human Rights Division; and the LNP’s Women’s and Children’s Protection Section–with investigating and referring for prosecution allegations of child labor; however, inspections and remediation were inadequate. Although the National Child Labor Committee convenes regular meetings, coordination of their activities remained a serious challenge. In March 2017 the NACOMAL convened a national conference aimed at reaching a consensus with all stakeholders–including government, private sector, and labor advocates–to eliminate child labor through sustained commitment and partnership. This was the first such conference that convened all of the necessary stakeholders, and resulted in the validation of the National Action Plan on Child Labor (NAP). As of December, however, the NAP had not been endorsed by the government.

The law penalizes employers that violate the minimum age provision of child labor laws with a fine of L$100 ($0.67), and imprisonment until the fine is paid. The law also penalizes parents or guardians who violate this minimum age provision with a minimum fine of L$15 ($0.10) but not more than L$25 ($0.17), and imprisonment until such fine is paid. These penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

Child labor was widespread in almost every economic sector. In urban areas, children assisted their parents as vendors in markets or hawked goods on the streets. There were reports that children tapped rubber on smaller plantations and private farms. There were also reports that children worked in conditions likely to harm their health and safety, such as rock crushing or work that required carrying heavy loads. Some children were engaged in hazardous labor in alluvial diamond and gold mining as well as in the agriculture sector. Some children in Monrovia, particularly girls, worked in domestic service after being sent from rural communities by their parents or guardians. There were also reports of children working in garages and shops, and selling goods on Monrovia streets.

See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

Section 2.4(b) of the Decent Work Act prohibits discrimination with respect to equal opportunity for work and employment and calls for equal pay for equal work. The government did not in general effectively enforce the law.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, HIV-positive status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination in hiring based on gender, and women experienced economic discrimination based on cultural traditions resisting their employment outside the home in rural areas. Anecdotal evidence indicates women’s pay lagged behind that for men. LGBTI individuals and those with disabilities faced hiring discrimination, and persons with disabilities faced difficulty with workplace access and accommodation (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).

The Decent Work Act, which specifies amounts in U.S. dollars, requires a minimum wage of $0.43 per hour (increased from $0.17 prior to the Decent Work Act’s passage), or $3.50 per day (not exceeding eight hours per day), excluding benefits, for unskilled laborers. This applies to the informal economic sector including domestic, agricultural, and casual workers. The minimum wage for the formal economic sector is $0.68 per hour, or $5.50 per day (not exceeding eight hours per day), excluding benefits. While labor protections are not enforced in the informal sector, the law does fix a minimum wage for agricultural workers, and allows that they be paid at the rate agreed in the collective bargaining agreement between workers’ unions and management, excluding benefits (provided the amounts agreed to should not be less than the legally stipulated minimums).

The minimum wage was greater than the World Bank’s poverty income level of $1.90 per day. Many families paid minimum-wage incomes were also engaged in subsistence farming, small-scale marketing, and begging. According to the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey, 50.9 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line.

The law provides for a 48-hour, six-day regular workweek with a one hour rest period for every five hours of work. The Decent Work Act stipulates that ordinary hours may be extended by collective agreement up to an average of 53 hours during an agreed upon period, as well as to 56 hours for workers in seasonal industries. The law provides for overtime pay and prohibits excessive compulsory overtime.

The law provides for at least one week of paid leave per year, severance benefits, and occupational health and safety standards; the standards are up to date and appropriate for the intended industries. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. For certain categories of industries, however, the law requires employers to employ safety and health officers and establish a safety and health committee in the workplace.

The Ministry of Labor’s Labor Inspection Department enforced government-established health and safety standards. These standards were not enforced in all sectors, including the informal economy. Every county has a labor commissioner, and depending on the county, one to two labor inspectors. These inspectors are responsible only for monitoring labor in the formal sector and there is no system for monitoring the informal sector. The number of inspectors was not sufficient to enforce general compliance.

Most citizens were unable to find work in the formal sector and therefore did not benefit from any of the formal labor laws and protections. The vast majority (estimated at 80 percent) had no other option than to work in the largely unregulated informal sector, where they faced widely varying and often harsh working conditions. Informal workers included rock crushers, artisanal miners, agricultural workers, street sellers, most market sellers, domestic workers, and others. In the diamond and gold mines, in addition to physical danger and poor working conditions, the industry is unregulated, leaving miners vulnerable to exploitive brokers, dealers, and intermediaries.

Libya

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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.

The limitations of the GNA restricted 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 sufficient to deter violations.

Employees organized spontaneous strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins in a number of workplaces. No GNA action prevented or hindered labor strikes, and GNA payments to leaders of the strike actions customarily ended these actions.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The GNA, however, did not fully enforce the applicable laws due to its limited capacity. The resources, inspections, and penalties for violations were insufficient to deter violators. While many foreign workers fled the country due to the continuing conflict, there were reports of foreign workers, especially foreign migrants passing through the country to reach Europe, subjected to forced labor. According to the IOM, armed groups subjected migrants to forced labor in IDP camps and transit centers that they controlled (see section 2.d. Protection of Refugees).

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.

Armed groups prevented foreign health-care workers from departing conflict areas such as Benghazi and compelled these workers to perform unpaid work in dangerous conditions.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law prohibits children younger than age 18 from employment, except in a form of apprenticeship. The law does prohibit the worst forms of child labor. The government lacked the capacity to enforce the law. No information was available concerning whether the law limits working hours or sets occupational health and safety restrictions for children.

The 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 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 on the basis of an individual’s employment or occupation.

The limitations of the central government restricted its ability to enforce applicable laws. Discrimination in all the above categories likely occurred.

Women faced discrimination in the workplace. Observers reported that authorities precluded hiring women for positions in the civil service and in specific professions that they occupied previously, such as school administration. They 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.

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. The national minimum wage was 450 dinars per month ($330). There is not an official poverty income level.

The law provides occupational health and safety standards, and the law grants workers the right to court hearings regarding violations of these standards. The limitations of the GNA restricted its ability to enforce wage laws and health and safety standards. Legal penalties were not sufficient to deter violations of the law.

Certain industries, such as the petroleum sector, attempted to maintain standards set by foreign companies. There was no information available on whether inspections continued during the year. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for occupational safety and health concerns; however, no information was available on enforcement and compliance.

No accurate data on foreign workers were available. Many foreign workers, especially in the health sector, departed the country due to continuing instability and security concerns.

Liechtenstein

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of all workers, including foreigners, domestic workers, agricultural workers, and public-sector employees, to form and join independent unions of their choice and to bargain collectively. The law is silent on the right to strike, including for public servants and essential services. The law neither prohibits antiunion discrimination nor requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government adequately enforced applicable laws. Penalties in the form of fines were adequate to deter violations. The resources, inspections, and remediation were also adequate and sufficient to deter violations.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for violations include prison sentences of up to 10 years. The resources, inspections, and remediation, including penalties for violations, were adequate and sufficient to deter violations, and there were no reports that forced labor occurred.

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 14 years old. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 may engage in certain categories of light work, including running errands, housework, and babysitting, for no more than eight hours per week during the school year and 35 hours per week during school vacations. Children aged 15 years and younger may be employed for the purposes of cultural, artistic, sport, and advertising events. Working hours for youths between the ages of 15 and 18 who have completed compulsory education are not to exceed 40 hours a week. The labor law prohibits children younger than 17 from working overtime and prohibits children younger than 18 from engaging in night work and Sunday shifts. The labor 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 “bad 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, which take the form of fines or prison sentences of up to six months, were sufficient to deter violations. There were no reports of illegal child labor.

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on gender, disability, race, nationality, age, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. The LHRA and NGOs stated that the government’s enforcement of the law was not entirely effective.

Violations may result in the award of compensation to a prospective or dismissed employee equal to at least three months’ salary. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations, according to the LHRA and Infra. Women, particularly migrant and Muslim women wearing headscarves, persons with disabilities, and LGBTI individuals experienced discrimination in the labor market.

While the law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, women still experienced discrimination in the workplace. According to Infra, a marked difference between men and women persisted in professional promotions; women were severely underrepresented in top-level management positions in private industry and the national administration.

The law does not provide for a national minimum wage. The Liechtenstein Workers Association negotiates voluntary collective bargaining agreements annually with the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber for Economic Affairs on a sector-by-sector basis. Collective bargaining agreements were effectively enforced. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for white-collar workers, employees of industrial firms, and sales personnel; and 48 hours for other workers. Some exceptions to overtime limits were authorized in the areas of nursing and medical treatment. The law provides for a standard workweek, including overtime, which may not exceed an average of 48 hours a week over a period of four consecutive months.

The law sets occupational safety and health standards, which 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 family duties. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with occupational safety and health experts and not with workers.

The Office of Labor Inspection, a part of the Department of National Economy, is responsible for enforcing labor laws. The agency’s three inspectors were sufficient to enforce compliance with the law: one inspector for examining workplace conditions, such as wages and occupational health and safety, and two inspectors for controlling construction sites or work permits. Penalties took the form of fines and prison sentences between three and six months and were sufficient to deter violations.

Lithuania

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers 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 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.

In the event of a disagreement between management and labor, any such disputes are to be 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. Labor-code procedures make it difficult for some workers to exercise the right to strike. The law prohibits sympathy strikes and allows an employer to hire replacement workers in certain sectors to provide for minimum services during strikes.

Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment and were insufficient to deter violations. 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.

The government generally respected freedom of association but did not enforce the labor code effectively, although resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. 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 all forms of forced or compulsory labor and the government generally enforced the law effectively. Penalties ranged from a fine to imprisonment, which were sufficient to deter violations.

There were instances of forced labor, most of which involved Lithuanian men subjected to forced labor abroad.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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 under 18 may not perform hazardous work.

The State Labor Inspectorate is responsible for receiving complaints related to employment of persons younger than 18. In the first eight months of the year, the inspectorate identified 18 cases in which 30 children were working illegally, without work contracts, in the wholesale, retail, agriculture, forestry, fishery, and construction 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, issuing penalties adequate to deter violations.

The law stipulates that discrimination based on sex should also cover discrimination related to pregnancy and maternity (childbirth and breastfeeding).

The equal opportunity ombudsman (EOO) monitored the implementation of discrimination laws. As of September 28, the EOO received 160 complaints. To address the gender equality problem, the EOO in cooperation with the Association of Municipalities and the Lithuanian Women’s Lobby Organization continued implementing a three-year project to visit all 60 municipalities to give presentations on discrimination and gender equality problems.

NGOs reported that workers in the Romani, LGBTI, 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.

According to the National Department of Statistics, as of January 1, the minimum monthly wage increased by 5 percent and was above the poverty line.

The law limits annual maximum overtime hours to 180 hours, and establishes different categories of work contracts, such as permanent, fixed-term, temporary agency, apprenticeship, project work, job sharing, employee sharing, and seasonal work. The occupational safety and health standards are current and appropriate for the main industries. The law applies to both national and foreign workers.

The government enforced standards effectively across all sectors including the informal economy, which accounted for an estimated 25 percent of the economy. The State Labor Inspectorate, which is responsible for implementing labor laws, had a staff sufficient to enforce compliance. In 2017 the inspectorate received 4,462 complaints related to labor-contract disputes. The inspectorate also conducted 7,477 inspections at companies and other institutions. Of these cases, 85 percent were related to underpayment, late payment of wages, or worker safety. Workers dissatisfied with the results of an investigation can appeal to the court system. The State Labor Inspectorate continued to conduct seminars for managers of companies, local communities, and persons looking for work. The seminars dealt with preventing and combating illegal employment, the administration of labor contracts, and worker’s rights.

According to the State Labor Inspectorate, violations of wage, overtime, safety, and health standards occurred primarily in the construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors. The inspectorate received complaints about hazardous conditions from workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors. As of September 1, the State Labor Inspectorate recorded 25 fatal accidents at work and 85 severe work-related injuries, compared with 28 and 93, respectively, in 2017. 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. Workers have the legal right to request compensation for health concerns arising from dangerous working conditions.

Luxembourg

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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 government effectively enforced the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were adequate. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in practice.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. While its resources and inspections were limited, the government pursued suspected cases and effectively enforced the law. Penalties for violations included imprisonment under criminal law and were sufficient to deter violations.

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

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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

Forced child labor occurred in restaurants and the construction sector. Romani children from neighboring countries were sometimes brought into the country during the day and trafficked for the purpose of forced begging.

Government resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were adequate. By law persons who employ children younger than age 16 may be subject to a fine and prison sentence. The penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, 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. The labor code prohibits discrimination based on religion, national extraction, or social origin.

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 workers with disabilities and pay them prevailing wages, but the government acknowledged it had not applied or enforced these laws 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 Equal Opportunities, during the year employers paid women 5.4 percent less on average than men for comparable work.

As of January 1, the national minimum wage for a worker older than age 18 was greater than the estimated poverty income level of 1,691 euros ($1,945) per month in 2016. Minimum wage provisions apply to all employees, including foreign, migrant, temporary, and contract workers.

The Labor Inspection Court, the Social Security Ministry, and the Superior Court of Justice are responsible for enforcing laws governing maximum hours of work and mandatory holidays. The government regularly conducted investigations and transferred cases to judicial authorities. The majority of alleged violations occurred in the construction sector. The law mandates a safe working environment. Workers can remove themselves from situations endangering health and safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

The Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor and the accident insurance agency of the Social Security Ministry are responsible for inspecting workplaces, but the Labor Inspectorate did not have adequate skilled inspectors to fulfill this responsibility effectively. Workers have the right to ask the labor inspectorate to make a determination regarding workplace safety. Penalties for violations included fines and imprisonment and were generally sufficient to deter violations. Accidents occurred most frequently in the construction and catering sectors.

Madagascar

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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. The maritime code, 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 a 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 labor code 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.

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, and 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 smaller local companies. Union representatives reported workers in such companies often were reluctant to make demands due to fear of reprisal.

The government inconsistently respected freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. The law provides that unions operate independently from the government and political parties. Union representatives indicated employers increasingly attempted to dissuade or influence unions, which often prevented workers from organizing or criticizing poor 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 magistrates, court clerks, public school and university teachers, and customs office employees. These strikes were not always related to labor conditions, and some officials suggested strikers intended such actions to “destabilize” the country. Observers considered that some union leaders used labor actions during the year as a springboard to gain political notoriety. Several labor unions took part in the antigovernment movement in April and openly called for the dismissal of some ministers.

The antitrafficking law prohibits forced labor, with a penalty of two to five years’ imprisonment and a one to five million ariary fine ($280 to $1,400). For trafficking in children the law prescribes a penalty of between five and 10 years’ imprisonment and a two to 10 million ariary ($560 to $2,800) fine; however, it was still a significant problem among children in the informal sector.

Forced labor also persisted in dina judgments(see section 1.d.). In some communities, local dinas imposed forced labor to resolve conflicts or pay debt. These arrangements persisted because authorities did not effectively enforce the law. The legal definition of trafficking includes forced labor.

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.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law establishes a legal minimum working age of 15, with various restrictions. The law also regulates working conditions of children, defines 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 semi-annual 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 insufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Civil Services, Administrative Reform, Labor, and Social Laws is responsible for enforcing child labor laws.

In January the government amended the child labor law to include more detail about the worst forms of child labor such as working in massage centers, car washing in public places, and abusive work on family farms.

Child labor was a widespread problem. Centers operated by NGOs in Antananarivo, Antsirabe, and Toamasina cared for children who were victims of human trafficking and forced labor. 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 rickshaw, petty trading, stone quarrying, artisanal mining for gemstones such as sapphires, bars, and as beggars. Children also worked in the vanilla sector, salt production, deep-sea diving, and the shrimp industry. Some children were victims of human trafficking, which included child sex trafficking and forced labor.

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

Labor laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, origin, or disability. A special decree on HIV in the workplace provides guidance on discrimination based on serology status. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or language. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Discrimination remained a problem. Employers subjected persons with disabilities and LGBTI 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. Employers did 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.

The government raised the monthly minimum wage in February to 168,019 ariary ($47) for the nonagricultural sector and 170,422 ariary ($47.70) for the agricultural sector. The minimum wage is slightly below the $1.90 (6,750 ariary) per day 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 law limits workers to 20 hours of overtime per week and requires 2.5 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 government sets occupational safety and health standards for workers and workplaces, but the labor code does not define penalties for noncompliance, which only requires an inspection before a company may open. Workers, including foreign or migrant workers, have an explicit right to leave a dangerous workplace without jeopardizing their employment as long as 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, particularly regarding health and occupational hazards and classification of professional positions. There was no enforcement in the large informal sector, which is estimated to comprise as much as 85 percent of the work force.

A 2015 study of the garment and leather industry conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German foundation, revealed that all 126 companies investigated in Antananarivo had set up safety systems, such as fire extinguishers and emergency exits, but that only 11 percent of them provided individual protection equipment to workers. The same study reported that 40 percent of employees from the investigated companies, along with their families, were deprived of basic social services because a significant number of employers failed to pay contributions to the national fund for social welfare since the 2009-13 political crisis.

The Ministry of Civil Services’ Department of Administrative Reform, Labor, and Social Laws is responsible for enforcing minimum wage and working conditions, but enforcement rarely occurred. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to monitor conditions outside of the capital. Apart from the insufficient number of inspections, authorities reportedly took no other action during the year to prevent violations and improve working conditions. There were no prosecutions, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

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. Although most employees knew the legal minimum wage, high unemployment and widespread poverty led workers to accept lower wages.

EPZ companies generally respected labor laws, as many foreign partners required good working conditions in compliance with local law before signing contracts with EPZ companies. Labor organizations, however, reported a shift in recent years from paying hourly wages to a piece-rate payment system that worsened conditions for laborers in the textile sector, who were primarily women. The practice, designed to increase productivity, reportedly led to an increase in work-related accidents and injured the women’s health. Observers declared many women unfit to occupy these positions by age 40. In its 2015 study, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation reported that EPZ companies prioritized setting a production target that was generally difficult to attain and penalized workers with various sanctions, such as unpaid overtime, disciplinary action, or even dismissal.

Media and union representatives reported that employees of offshore companies operating in customer service and online commerce generally worked in harsh conditions. These employees were subjected to long working hours including night shifts, weekends, and holidays, generally with no appropriate allowances such as overtime pay.

As a result representatives reported many of them were frequently sick or gave up their jobs within a few days.

Malawi

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows workers, except for military personnel and police, to form and join trade unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. Unions must register with the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations in the Ministry of Labor. 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 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 has failed. The law also requires the labor minister to apply to the Industrial Relations Court to determine whether a particular 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. Members of a registered union in essential services have 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 the vast majority of 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, limited resources and lack of capacity resulted in delays of some labor cases. Small fines for most violations were insufficient to deter violations. Provisions exist for punishment of up to two years in prison, 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 and a lack of awareness of worker rights. Employers, labor unions, and the government lacked sufficient knowledge of their roles in labor relations and disputes.

Arbitration rulings were legally enforceable; however, the Industrial Relations Court did not monitor cases or adequately enforce the laws.

Informal sector workers 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 issues affecting informal workers due in part to a Ministry of Labor decision that MUFIS did not have sufficient standing to bargain collectively with employers.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Conviction of forced labor is punishable by fine of MWK 10,000 ($13.60) or two years’ imprisonment, which was insufficient to deter violations. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws.

Children were sometimes subjected to domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor, including cattle herding; bonded labor on plantations, particularly on tobacco farms; and menial work in small businesses.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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, vocational technical schools, or other training institutions. The law prohibits child trafficking, including labor exploitation and the forced labor of children for the income of a parent or guardian. The Employment Act provides a list of hazardous work for children and specifies a fine or imprisonment for conviction of violations. The law, however, was not effectively enforced due to lack of resources and staffing. Penalties and enforcement were insufficient to deter offenders.

Police and Ministry of Labor officials were responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies. Labor inspectors do not have law enforcement authority and must enlist police to pursue violators.

The Ministry of Labor carried out inspections, focused mainly on agricultural estates, but enforcement by police and ministry inspectors of child labor laws was minimal. The government acknowledged it made little progress in implementing the now-expired 2010-16 National Action Plan on Child Labor. Most public education activities were carried out by tobacco companies–tobacco is the country’s largest export–and NGOs.

Child labor remained a serious and widespread problem. The 2015 National Child Labor Survey found that 38 percent of children ages five to 17 were involved in child labor. Child labor was most prevalent on farms and in domestic service. These children often worked 12-hour days, frequently for little or no pay. Children who worked in the tobacco industry risked working with hazardous chemicals and sometimes suffered from nicotine poisoning. Many boys worked as vendors, and young girls in urban areas often worked outside of their families as domestic servants, receiving low or no wages.

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

The employment law prohibits discrimination against any employee or prospective employee, but the government in general did not effectively enforce the law.

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 nontraditional employment opportunities. Few women participated in the limited formal labor market, and those that did represented only a very small portion of managerial and administrative staff. Households headed by women were overrepresented in the lowest quarter of income distribution.

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

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 962 MWK ($1.28) per day as of July 2017, lower than the World Bank’s poverty income level of $1.90. During the year the World Bank estimated that 69 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line. There was no exception to the requirement of paying the minimum wage for foreign or migrant workers.

The Ministry of Labor lacked the capacity to enforce the minimum wage effectively. Official minimum wages apply only to the formal sector and thus did not apply to most citizens, who earned their livelihood outside the formal wage sector. Wage earners often supplemented their incomes through farming activities. No government programs provided social protections for workers in the informal economy. According to the 2013 Malawi Labour Force Survey, of the 7.8 million persons in the working population, 88.7 percent were in the informal sector.

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 are 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. Workweek and annual leave standards were not effectively enforced, and employers frequently violated statutory time restrictions. The Ministry of Labor’s enforcement of health and safety standards was also poor. The law specifies fines and imprisonment for conviction of violations, but these penalties were not sufficient to deter offenders, and there have never been reports of jail terms.

The law includes extensive occupational health and safety standards. 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. Workers, particularly in industrial jobs, often worked without basic safety clothing and equipment. In tobacco fields workers harvesting leaves generally did not wear protective clothing; workers 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, due to ignorance of such rights and high levels of unemployment, workers were unlikely to exercise these rights. Additionally, authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

Malaysia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for limited freedom of association and for some categories of workers to form and join trade unions, subject to a variety of legal and practical restrictions. The law provides for the right 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 law prohibits defense and police officials, retired or dismissed workers, or workers categorized as “confidential, managerial, and executive” from joining a union. The law also restricts the formation of unions to workers in “similar” trades, occupations, or industries. Foreign workers may join a trade union but cannot 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, contract workers may not form a union and cannot 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 in the settlement of union recognition disputes; such applications were often refused. If a union’s recognition request was approved, the employer sometimes challenged the decision in court, leading to multi-year delays in recognizing unions.

Most private-sector workers have the right to bargain collectively, although these negotiations cannot include issues 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 tech fields. 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.

Private-sector strikes are legal, but severely restricted. The law provides for penal sanctions for peaceful strikes. 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 generally not sufficient to deter violations.

Freedom of association and collective bargaining were not fully respected. National-level unions are prohibited; the government allows three regional territorial federations of unions–peninsular Malaysia, 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 Trade Unions 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.

The inability of unions to provide more than limited protection for workers, particularly foreign workers who continued to face the threat of deportation, and the prevalence of antiunion discrimination created a disincentive to unionize. 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 continued efforts to enforce laws prohibiting forced labor. The Department of Labor required evidence of three months’ nonpayment of wages in order to initiate an investigation into a potential forced labor case. Penalties included fines. In addition to fines, authorities often charged forced labor perpetrators with related crimes that included harsher penalties.

The National Anti-Human Trafficking Council reported labor department officials received four specialized training courses, including with other law enforcement agencies, to help increase coordination. The Department of Labor had 30 “special enforcement officers” who focused primarily on forced labor and other human trafficking indicators (see section 7.e.).

In September the government established an Independent Committee on Foreign Workers to provide comprehensive reform plans to the government regarding foreign worker management and labor policy.

Forced labor occurred in the country. A variety of sources reported occurrences of forced labor, or conditions indicative of forced labor, in plantation agriculture, the fishing industry, electronics factories, garment production, construction, restaurants, and domestic households, among both adults and children (also see section 7.c).

Employers, employment agents, or labor recruiters subjected some migrants to forced labor or debt bondage. Many companies hired foreign workers using recruiting or outsourcing companies rather than directly, 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 described a typical pattern involving recruiting agents both in the countries of origin and in Malaysia who imposed high fees, which made migrant workers vulnerable to debt bondage.

Media reported in July that former deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi was connected to a fraudulent scheme involving hundreds of thousands of Nepali workers seeking jobs in the country. According to the report, which civil society organizations deemed credible, private companies linked to the then-deputy prime minister’s brother and brother-in-law charged Nepali workers more than RM185 million ($46.3 million) for medical tests and to submit visa applications during the prior five years. These medical and visa processing services increased the cost ten-fold without offering additional protections or benefits. Zahid denied involvement in or knowledge of the scam, but the Malaysian Anticperorruption Commission charged him in October with 45 counts of corruption, bribery, and money laundering, three of which relate to RM3 million ($750,000) he allegedly received in bribes from a company that ran a visa center for Nepali workers. Critics of the former government had long characterized the foreign worker recruitment system as corrupt.

In June the minister of human resources suspended the system used to recruit migrant workers from Bangladesh following allegations of large-scale corruption under the former government. Local media alleged that a third-party recruitment agent with close links to senior Barisan Nasional officials earned more than RM2 billion ($500 million) in two years through the recruitment of more than 100,000 Bangladeshi workers. The new human resources minister called the former recruitment process a “total mess,” in which workers paid exorbitant amounts to intermediaries and became debt bonded. In October the government also signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Nepal that mandates direct government-to-government recruitment of foreign workers instead of relying on private recruitment companies. In addition to removing third-party intermediaries from the process, the new agreement requires the employer to pay workers’ airfare, visa fees, and medical checkup costs and also requires employers to deposit workers’ wages directly into bank accounts.

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 including 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 14 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 fully enforce laws prohibiting child labor. Those found contravening child labor laws faced penalties of imprisonment and/or a fine.

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 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. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6, Children).

The law does not prohibit discrimination with respect to hiring; the director general of labor may investigate discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment for both foreign and local employees. The director general may issue necessary directives to an employer to resolve allegations of discrimination in employment; however, there were no penalties under the law for such discrimination.

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 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 also unilaterally able to terminate work permits, subjecting migrant workers to immediate deportation.

Women experienced some economic discrimination in access to employment. A UN report noted participation in the labor market for women was 46.1 percent, compared to 78.7 percent for men. Employers routinely asked women their marital status during job interviews. The Association of Women Lawyers advocated for passage of a separate sexual harassment bill making it compulsory for employers to formulate sexual harassment policies. The law prohibits women from working underground, such as in sewers, 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 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).

The minimum wage was raised to RM1,050 ($263) across all parts of the country, up from RM920 ($230) per month in Sabah and Sarawak States and RM1,000 ($250) per month in peninsular Malaysia. The minimum wage applied to both citizen and foreign workers in most sectors, with the exception of domestic service (see below). The minimum wage rates were less than Ministry of Finance-published poverty income levels in Sabah and Sarawak.

Working hours may not exceed eight per day or 48 per week, unless workers receive overtime pay. The law specifies limits on overtime, which vary by sector, but it allows for exceptions.

The law protects foreign domestic workers only with regard to wages and contract termination. The law excludes them from provisions that would otherwise 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.

On January 1, employers became responsible for paying a levy for their foreign workers, a move designed to better protect low-wage foreign workers and to encourage the hiring of local employees. Previously employers regularly passed the costs on to employees and withheld as much as 20 percent of a worker’s annual salary to cover the fees. Despite the change, some employers continued to deduct a government-imposed levy on companies employing migrant workers from the wages of their workers.

The Ministry of Human Resources began enforcing amendments to the Private Employment Agencies Act (PEAA) on February 1, following its passage in October 2017. The measure aims to make the cost of business too high for small-scale recruiting agencies that have been the sources of abuses in the past. Employment agencies must now pay as much as RM250,000 ($62,500) to operate a business that recruits foreign workers, a significant increase from the RM1,000 ($250) required under the original PEAA. Further, agencies must secure a guaranteed bank note for as much as RM250,000 ($62,500) that would be liquidated (and used for victim repatriation costs) if they are found to be in violation of the law. Under the new amendment, agencies found operating without a license would face tough new penalties, including a RM200,000 ($50,000) fine and a maximum three years in prison, increased from a RM5,000 ($1,250) fine.

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 but provide no protection for 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.

The National Wages Consultative Council is responsible for recommending changes to the minimum wage and coverage for various sectors, types of employment, and regions. The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Human Resources enforces wage, working condition, and occupational safety and health standards. Labor enforcement officers were responsible for enforcing labor law at hundreds of thousands of businesses and in private residences that employ domestic help; however, the number of 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.

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

Employers did not respect laws on wages and working hours. The Malaysian Trade Union Congress reported that 12-, 14-, and 18-hour days were common in food and other service industries. Migrant workers often worked under difficult conditions, worked in sectors where violations were common, performed hazardous duties, had their pay withheld by employers, 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, confiscated their travel documents, 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 and living conditions; did not provide sufficient time off; physically and sexually assaulted workers; and harassed and threatened workers, including with deportation.

According to statistics by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, 117 workers died, 1,612 acquired a nonpermanent disability, and 80 acquired permanent disability in the first half of the year.

Maldives

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides for workers’ freedom of association; however, there is no law protecting the right to freedom of association, which is required to allow unions to register and operate without interference and discrimination. Worker organizations are treated as civil society organizations 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. There were widespread reports from civil society organizations that civil service employees were also discouraged from going on strikes or participating in political protests. In August and September, there were reports that the government terminated or transferred several government workers to other islands for participating in the opposition’s presidential campaign activities.

The government did not always enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. 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 are cumbersome and complicated. Violators who refused to correct violations or pay fines were referred to the courts, whose decisions often were ignored. The 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 the Maldives (TEAM) reported the judicial system had delayed final decisions on numerous such cases, some older than five years of age. The Employment Tribunal only hears cases submitted within six months of the alleged offense. In September the Employment Tribunal amended its regulations so that dismissed or withdrawn appeals can only be resubmitted once. Previously, there was no restriction on the number of times such cases could be resubmitted. The Employment Tribunal received 148 claims as of July, 97 of which dealt with unfair dismissal.

Under the law, some workers’ organizations were established as civil society organizations, specifically in the tourism, 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 and TEAM were among the more active workers’ organizations, along with the Maldives Fisherman’s Association and Maldivian Ports Workers.

All forms of forced or compulsory labor are prohibited, but the government did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and there were reports forced labor occurred. Nevertheless, the LRA reported officers were adequately trained to identify cases of forced labor and stated that the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act provided an effective solution.

Resources, inspections, and remediation were generally inadequate, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The foreign worker population was particularly vulnerable to forced labor. Maldives Immigration detained undocumented workers at Hulhumale Detention Center, an immigration-processing center near Male, until deportation or repatriation. There were reports of bureaucratic delays in processing undocumented immigrants and substandard facilities at the immigration processing center. Maldives Immigration reported it screened the workers for victims of trafficking, but there were reports some of the detained and deported undocumented workers should have been identified as trafficking victims.

Under the penal code, 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 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 human trafficking is a maximum sentence of 10 years. The police confirmed they did not investigate any labor recruiters or agencies allegedly engaged in fraudulent practices during the year.

The LRA, under the Ministry of Economic Development, recommended blacklisting of companies that violated the law, precluding the companies from bringing in new workers until violations were rectified. Maldives Immigration enforced the measure and blacklisted additional companies, although some companies resurfaced under different names. The law allows a fine of not more than MVR 50,000 ($3,250) for forced labor and other violations of the Employment Act, but the LRA reported this amount was not sufficient to deter violations by large companies. The government took steps to improve the conditions of migrant workers through the periodic distribution of pamphlets explaining their rights that were translated into languages commonly used by these workers.

As of August, Maldives Immigration reported the number of documented foreign workers at approximately 145,000. They estimated there were an additional 15,000-20,000 undocumented foreign workers in the country, mostly from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. Some of the 160,000-165,000 foreign workers in the country were subject to forced labor in the construction and tourism sectors. Most victims of forced labor suffered 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law 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 under 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 fine of no less than MVR 1,000 ($65) and no more than MVR 5,000 ($325) for infractions. The Civil Service Commission reported there were 18 civil servants between the ages of 16 and 18 working for the government as of July 31.

The Ministry of Gender and Family, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Family and Child Protection Unit of the MPS are tasked with receiving, investigating, and taking action on complaints of child labor. According to the LRA, MPS and the Ministry of Gender and Family, none of the complaints received related to child labor or employment of minors. Additionally, the LRA found no cases of child labor during its regular labor inspections during the year. The MPS had investigated five cases of child pornography none of which was forwarded for prosecution as of July. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate, because no additional resources were dedicated specifically to uncover additional child labor cases.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at dol.gov/ilab/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, or family obligations. The government generally enforced those laws and regulations, with some exceptions that included unequal pay for women and retribution for political association.

According to NGOs, there were no policies 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 because they 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.

In March the Education Ministry dismissed a schoolteacher for participating in a political opposition protest. Parents of students at the school complained and noted other teachers who participated in political rallies in support of the government had not been dismissed. The teacher was not reinstated as of October.

The Employment Act establishes an Employment Tribunal to examine and protect the rights of employers and employees in legal matters and other employment problems. In 2016 President Yameen overhauled the seven-person tribunal by dismissing its president and vice president and appointing two new members. According to the Employment Act, tribunal members can be removed only in cases of bankruptcy, incapacity, conviction, negligence, or contravening the oath of office. Civil society organizations asserted the former president and vice president did not violate any of these stipulations, and the surprise dismissal of the tribunal members led to allegations of executive branch control over tribunal decisions. TEAM claimed President Yameen misused his authority to influence the tribunal’s decisions, especially in cases in which persons were fired for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of assembly.

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

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 salary of the lowest-paid employee in the government sector was MVR 3,100 ($202) per month. According to TEAM, the average monthly salary for a worker employed at a tourism resort was MVR 3,835 ($250). According to 2016 Asian Development Bank statistics, 15 percent of citizens lived below the poverty level of MVR 29 ($1.90) per day.

The law establishes maximum hours of work, overtime, annual and sick leave, maternity leave, and guidelines for workplace safety. 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, or workers who are on call. 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. All employers are required to provide health insurance for foreign workers.

There were no national standards for safety measures, and as a result such measures were at the discretion of employers. The LRA also reported difficulties in assessing safety standards during inspections due to the lack of national standards. In 2013 parliament approved the country’s accession to eight core International Labor Organization conventions, but the government had not finalized the bills required for the conventions to be legislated into domestic law as of September 18.

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. Authorities completed 241 inspections as of July 31. The most common findings related to employment contracts and job descriptions, overtime and other pay, and problems related to leave. The LRA preferred to issue notices to employers to correct problems, because cases were deemed closed once fines were paid. The LRA typically gave employers one to three months to correct problems but lacked the resources to monitor compliance systematically. The LRA recommended five companies for blacklisting through Maldives Immigration but did not fine any companies for noncompliance as of July 31. According to Maldives Immigration, there were 2,275 companies blacklisted over multiple years as of August.

The LRA reported 175 labor-related complaints as of September 18, 74 of which came from foreign workers. The majority of the complaints related to nonpayment of salary and benefits and failure to grant annual leave.

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. Employers often housed foreign workers at their worksites. 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, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

Mali

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Under the new labor law that came into force in June 2017, workers, except members of the armed forces, have the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. There are restrictions imposed on the exercise of these rights. The law provides that workers must be employed in the same 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 convictions that could suspend their right to vote in national elections. The process was cumbersome and time-consuming, and the government may deny trade union registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds.

The minister of labor and public service has the sole authority to decide which union is representative for sectorial collective bargaining and to approve sectorial collective agreements. Employers have the discretionary right to refuse to bargain with representatives of trade unions. The law allows all types of strikes and prohibits retribution against strikers. For strike action to be lawful, the parties to a dispute must exhaust the mandatory conciliation and arbitration procedures set out in the labor code. 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 can order compulsory arbitration for such workers. The law defines “essential services” as being 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, has not identified 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 during the year.

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 not sufficient to deter violations. 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 Ministry of Mines intervened to facilitate negotiations between labor and management over the closure of the Loulo gold mine. Officials have not renegotiated some collective agreements since 1956.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor; however, the practice of slavery is not criminalized. Forced labor occurred. The law prohibits the contractual use of persons without their consent, and penalties include fines and imprisonment with compulsory hard labor. Penalties can double if a person younger than age 15 is involved. Penalties were seldom enforced and therefore were not sufficient to deter violations. According to NGOs, the judiciary was reluctant to act in forced labor cases. The government made little effort during the year to prevent or eliminate forced labor, although it did allocate initial funding to its antitrafficking action plan. Following a 2014 national conference on the artisanal mining sector, the government established a commission that met twice monthly to develop measures to more effectively combat violations in the sector, including forced labor. The commission has conducted an inventory of mercury in artisanal gold mines, mapped artisanal gold mines in the auriferous regions of Kayes, Koulikoro, and Sikasso, and created a professional identification card for artisanal gold miners.

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

The salt mines of Taoudeni in the North subjected men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, to a longstanding practice of debt bondage. Employers subjected many black Tuaregs to forced labor and hereditary servitude, particularly in the eastern and northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal (see section 6).

See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The labor code was amended in 2017 to set the minimum employment age at 15. No child may work more than eight hours per day under any circumstance. The government’s Hazardous Occupations List prohibits certain activities by children younger than age 18. Girls between ages 16 and 18 may not work more than six hours per day. The law applies to all children, including those who work in the informal economy and those who are self-employed.

Responsibility for enforcing child labor laws is shared between the Ministry for the Promotion of Children and Women through the National Committee to Monitor the Fight against Child Labor, the Ministry of Justice through different courts, the Ministry of Security through the Morals and Children’s Brigade of the National Police, the National Social Security Institute through its health service, and the Ministry of Labor and Public Service through the Labor Inspectorate. 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, and the penalties for violations were not sufficient to deter violations.

Child labor, particularly in its worst forms, was a serious problem. Child labor was concentrated in the agricultural sector, especially rice and cotton production, domestic services, gold mining, forced begging organized by Quranic schools, and other sectors of the informal economy.

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 were engaged in hazardous activities in agriculture. Armed groups used child soldiers in the North and the Center (see 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.

Child labor in artisanal gold mining was a serious problem. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, at least 20,000 children worked under extremely harsh and hazardous conditions in artisanal gold mines. Many children also worked with mercury, a toxic substance used in separating gold from its ore. Following a summit on artisanal mining in 2014, the government launched a commission that met twice a month to develop measures to improve conditions in the sector and to mitigate violations, such as child labor.

An unknown number of primary school-age boys throughout the country, mostly younger than age 10, attended part-time Quranic schools funded by students and their parents. Some Quranic teachers (marabouts) often forced their students, known as “garibouts” or “talibes,” to beg for money on the streets or work as laborers in the agricultural sector; any money earned was usually returned to their teachers.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service conducted few surprise or complaint-based inspections. Insufficient personnel, low salaries, and lack of other resources hampered enforcement in the informal sector. 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 www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings .

The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, disability, social status, HIV-positive status, and 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. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, sexual orientation, disability, and ethnicity (see 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 cases where employers from southern ethnic groups discriminated against individuals from northern ethnic groups.

The minimum wage is 40,000 CFA francs ($71) per month, greater than the World Bank’s international poverty level of $1.90 per day. It did not apply to workers in the informal and subsistence sectors, which included the majority of workers. The government supplemented the minimum wage with a required package of benefits, including social security and health care. In January the government increased the salaries of public sector workers after coming to a collective bargaining agreement with the largest national workers’ union, National Workers’ Union of Mali. In August banks and insurance companies also increased their employees’ salaries.

The legal workweek is 40 hours, except for 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 87 percent of workers.

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 and to request an investigation by the Social Security Department, which is responsible for recommending remedial action where deemed necessary. Authorities, however, did not effectively protect employees in these situations. With high unemployment, workers often were reluctant to report violations of occupational safety regulations.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not effectively enforce these standards, and the few inspectors it employed lacked the 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. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations, and no government agencies provided information on violations or penalties. Labor inspectors made unannounced visits and inspections to work sites only after labor unions filed complaints.

Working conditions varied, but the worst conditions were in the private sector. 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. Violations of overtime laws were common for children working in cities and those working in artisanal gold mines or rice and cotton fields. 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.

Malta

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. A trade union can register an industrial dispute with an employer, at which point the trade union enters into negotiations with the employer. In the absence of an agreement, both parties are free to resort to industrial action. The trade union can take industrial actions, which may include slowdowns, wildcat strikes, work-to-rule, strike action for a defined period of time or any other industrial action which the union may deem necessary. The employer may use a “lock-out” 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 alleged antiunion dismissals, although procedures to seek such redress were unclear for certain categories of public sector workers.

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 (ILO), compulsory arbitration continues to limit collective bargaining rights. Arbitration did not take place during the year.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties ranged from fines to two years’ imprisonment and were sufficient to deter violations. 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 is customary that until the tribunal decides on an award, both parties generally refrain from taking further industrial action. While trade unions have the right to take the industrial action they deem fit, employers also have the right to impose a lock out as a form of industrial action.

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government generally took some steps to prevent and eliminate forced labor and acted quickly to investigate and address complaints. The processing of cases through the courts was slow, however, and the government has not secured a conviction for trafficking since 2012. Three labor trafficking prosecutions initiated in 2014 remained pending. The law prescribes penalties of imprisonment for forced labor violations; such penalties were considered sufficient to deter violations. Nevertheless, there were reports of adult men and women in bonded labor and domestic servitude. Foreign domestic workers as well as African migrant workers were vulnerable to forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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 that 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. Jobs Plus, the former Employment Training Corporation, a government entity under the Ministry for Education and Employment, is responsible for labor and employment issues. While Jobs Plus generally enforced the law in most formal sectors of the economy, it allowed summer employment of underage youth 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. Fines and penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The law prohibits discrimination in any form of employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties took the form of fines and were sufficient to deter violations. Remedies were available through the civil court system.

From January to September, the NCPE received 18 claims of alleged workplace discrimination, including complaints at the recruitment stage. The NCPE commissioner has the power to investigate such complaints. 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 does not constitute an actionable offense, the NCPE followed the law and undertook steps to investigate the cases and refer them to the police or mediate to ensure provision of redress as appropriate.

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 2016, the most recent period for which data was available, was 11.8 percent. In 2017 the employment rate for women was 58 percent, compared with 84.1 percent for men.

The country has a national weekly minimum wage that was above the poverty income level. The government effectively enforced the minimum wage. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

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 cannot oblige employees to work more than 48 hours per week, inclusive of overtime.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards, and such standards were current 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 Ministry of Education and Employment generally enforced minimum wage and hours of work requirements effectively in the formal economy. 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 a number of offenders. Nevertheless, enforcement of health and safety standards continued to be inconsistent. The number of labor inspectors was unknown. There were media reports, however, that in at least the construction industry, the number fell short of the ILO sufficient standard.

Workers in the informal economy did not have the same protection but were able to file complaints against companies that failed to provide a safe work environment. 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.

Industrial accidents remained frequent, particularly in the manufacturing and building and construction sectors, up by nearly 4 percent in the first half of 2018 according to information released by Malta’s National Statistics Office. In November the EU and Malta’s OHSA sponsored a symposium on improving safety in the construction sector. OHSA was established in 2002, and fatalities from reported incidents were measured at 12 for the first reporting period, falling to four in the latest period in 2018. Although Malta cites progress in improving conditions, they acknowledge that a labor shortage, coupled with language barriers and a lack of required certifications, as a reason for continued unsafe conditions. A builders association recently provided support for standardized training in the industry.

Irregular migrant workers, who made up a small but growing percentage of the workforce, sometimes worked 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. The latest economic growth figures require nearly 10,000 new workers annually, so many jobs continued to be filled by regular and irregular migrants.

Marshall Islands

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government interpreted this right as allowing people 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.

The government enforced freedom of association laws. Penalties take the form of fines and were sufficient to deter violations.

With a small number of major employers, there were few opportunities for workers to unionize. Independent trade unions did not exist, and there were no NGOs promoting the rights of workers.

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced labor, and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no reports of government enforcement, and there were no reported investigations of forced labor.

There were reports of families holding or attempting to hold extended relatives, including children, in domestic servitude, but there were no known formal allegations made or convictions for this practice. There were also 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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 18 years, including in the worst forms of child labor, child begging, and child domestic work. No information was available on government enforcement efforts regarding the worst forms of child labor.

Children typically did not work in the wage economy, but it was common for children to assist their families in fishing, agriculture, retailing, and other small-scale enterprises. This was particularly true in the subsistence economies of the more remote atolls where copra production can take children from school and reduce educational outcomes.

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. The constitution states that the attorney general, in all cases of violations of the constitution, whether by private or public officials, has the standing to complain of the violation in judicial proceedings. The criminal code does not stipulate any specific penalty in such cases. There were no formal complaints of employment discrimination during the year to September. 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 work force 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 willingly paid the fee to hire technically skilled labor, which was not widely available in the country.

The law establishes a minimum wage of $3.00 per hour for both government and private-sector employees. The government has not effectively enforced the law. The minimum wage does not apply to casual workers or family employees. There was no official poverty level.

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. 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. Their earnings were estimated to average at least 50 percent higher than those of local workers.

The law provides for a standard workday of eight hours, but places no restrictions on the amount of overtime that could be worked.

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 Board of Inquiry within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the authority to make recommendations to the Nitijela on working conditions, such as the minimum wage, legal working hours, overtime payments, and occupational health and safety standards for workers. There were no policy recommendations or political initiatives by the Board of Inquiry during the year, however, and the office did not conduct any health and safety inspections of workplaces. The office is empowered to do so, but it does not have dedicated inspectors to carry out inspections to enforce sufficient compliance. The law provides no protections for informal-sector workers, which generally included work on a family farm or in copra production.

Mauritania

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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 the 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, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

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 and Decentralization if ministry officials believe the union has not complied 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 announcements by the government to do so, it 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, Public Service, and Modernization of the Administration for any strike.

The government did not enforce the law effectively, and resources and inspections were often inadequate. While authorities seldom punished violators, on several occasions the government ordered the reinstatement of workers who were wrongfully terminated or directed companies to improve employee benefits and services. While antiunion discrimination is illegal, national human rights groups and unions reported authorities did not actively investigate alleged antiunion practices in some private firms.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not fully respected, although unions exercised their right to organize workers during the year. Collective bargaining at the company level, however, was rare. Longshoremen of the Autonomous Port of Nouakchott observed a general strike on July 25. According to Mauritanian Workers’ Free Confederation, the authorities dismissed thousands of longshoremen without giving them their rights, adding that the walkout came in response to the “arbitrary policies and decisions” taken against the carriers. The longshoremen strike each year to protest against their harsh working conditions and to demand an increase in the allowances they receive in the course of their work.

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, but in an improvement over years past, authorities only occasionally employed force to disperse them.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. It also criminalizes the practice of slavery, which includes forced labor and child labor, and imposes penalties both on government officials who do not take action on reported cases and on those who benefit from contracting forced labor. Although the government continues its action toward ending slavery, its efforts to enforce the 2015 antislavery law were considered inadequate.

Tadamoun, the government agency charged with combating the “vestiges” of slavery, received 750 million ouguiyas ($21.1 million) of public funding to underwrite infrastructure and education programs to improve opportunities primarily for the benefit of the Haratine community. Some national and international NGOs criticized Tadamoun for not targeting its funding toward the Haratine community and for not more directly confronting cases of slavery in the country, such as not submitting criminal claims on behalf of slavery victims. Other than Tadamoun, the only entities that can legally file criminal cases on behalf of former slaves are legally registered human rights associations that have been operating for five years. The government continued to prevent the registration of antislavery organizations and associations that work for the promotion and protection of human rights of the Haratine community and former slave groups that would have been able to submit complaints once their five-year wait had passed.

The IRA, which is the most active organization on fighting slavery in the country, was prevented from registering since its creation in 2008. The lack of registration for the IRA and other human rights NGOs, as well as the ensuing inability to file complaints on behalf of victims, was a contributing factor to the underutilization of the Specialized Antislavery Courts.

In March the Nouadhibou Specialized Antislavery Court adjudicated its first two cases by convicting and sentencing three slaveholders, imposing stronger penalties than those in previous slavery cases. A woman was convicted of enslaving three sisters in Nouadhibou and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. The woman was released two months later due to her age and health. In a separate case, a man and his son were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for enslaving an entire family in Bir Moghrein, although at the time of the verdict, the man was deceased and his son was convicted in absentia after fleeing the country.

In April the Nouakchott Antislavery Court sentenced two defendants to one year in prison and 25,275 ouguiyas ($710) fines for the crime of libeling with slavery in two separate cases. The third case, in which the defendant was accused of slavery, was postponed pending the decision of the appeals court.

Slavery and slavery-like practices, which typically flowed from ancestral master-slave relationships and involved both adults and children, continued throughout the year. Although reliable data on the total number of slaves did not exist and the government maintained there was no slavery, local and international experts agreed hereditary slavery and slavery-like conditions continued to affect a significant 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 persuaded persons in slavery and slave-like relationships to deny such exploitative relationships to human rights activists.

In 2015 the government asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) for a program to assess the scope of forced labor in the country. The ILO launched the program in 2015, but at year’s end, the government had not authorized the start of a population survey.

Former slaves and their descendants remained in a dependent status with their former slave owners in part due to cultural tradition and a lack of marketable skills, poverty, and persistent drought. Some former slaves and descendants of slaves were forced or had no other viable option than to work for their old 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 in society 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.

Both NGO observers and government officials suggested that deeply embedded psychological, religious, and tribal bonds made it difficult for many individuals whose ancestors had been slaves for generations to break their bonds with former masters or their tribes. Some persons continued to link themselves to former masters because they believed their slave status had been divinely ordained or feared religious punishment if that bond was broken. Former slaves were often subjected to social discrimination and limited to performing manual labor in markets, ports, and airports.

Slavery and dependency of former slaves occurred primarily in areas where educational levels were generally low or a barter economy still prevailed, and 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.

Forced labor 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The labor code sets the minimum age for employment at 14. Nevertheless, children as young as 12 may be employed in most forms of family enterprise with authorization from the Ministry of Labor, Public Service, and Modernization of the Administration, as long as the work does not affect the child’s health, exceed two hours per day, or occurs 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 and 18 should receive 90 percent of the minimum wage. Children should not work more than eight hours a day and 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. Forced child labor occurred (see section 7.b.).

The law prohibits employing or inciting a child to beg and provides penalties for violations ranging from one to eight months’ imprisonment and a fine of 18,000 to 30,000 ouguiyas ($510 to $845). The penalties were generally insufficient to deter violations. The law does not prohibit hazardous occupations and activities in all relevant child labor sectors, including agriculture. Moreover, no 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. Existing mechanisms for exchanging information among agencies or assessing effectiveness 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.

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

An unknown number of talibes (young 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 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 within poorer urban areas. Several reports suggested girls as young as 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 significant labor in support of their families. Young children in urban areas often drove donkey carts and delivered water and building materials. Street gang leaders forced children to steal, beg, and sell drugs in the streets of the capital. In keeping with longstanding tradition, many children also served apprenticeships in small 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 regions of Kiffa, Nouadhibou, Aleg, and Rosso, and three in Nouakchott. During the year these centers hosted 400 children.

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

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 often did not enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race and language. For example, in conformity with long-standing practice, the advancement of both Haratines and sub-Saharans in the armed services remained limited.

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 employment discrimination, because employers usually preferred to hire men, and women were overrepresented in low-paying positions (see section 6).

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 unless there is overtime compensation, which is to be paid at rates graduated according to the number of supplemental hours worked. Domestic workers and certain other categories could work 56 hours per week. The law provides that all employees must be given at least one 24-hour rest period per week. There are no legal provisions regarding compulsory overtime.

The government sets health and safety standards, and in principle workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment; however, this was not the practice. The law applies to all workers in the formal economy. The labor code applies to all formal workers regardless of nationality.

The Labor Office of the Ministry of Labor, Public Service, and Modernization of the Administration is responsible for enforcing labor laws but did not do so effectively. The ILO reported that a significant pay gap between staff in the labor inspectorate and staff in other government inspection departments who receive better remuneration (such as tax inspectors or education inspectors) led to attrition. The ILO also reported that the labor inspectorate was subject to undue influence by employers and the government, thereby reducing the effectiveness of inspection activity.

The majority of the working population labored in the informal sector, primarily in subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry. According to the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM), only 25 percent of workers filled positions with 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. Sometimes they 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 remained rare.

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

According to the CGTM, the National Agency of Social Security registered 187 workplace fatalities or injuries through September, comparable with previous years.

According to MHRW and local press reports, the past few years, and particularly the year 2017, experienced an increase in work accidents associated with manual exploration of gold.

Mauritius

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide for the rights of workers, including foreign workers, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Civil servants have the right to bargain collectively with the Pay Research Bureau. 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 Police (Membership of Trade Union) Act came into force in January 2017 and allows police officers to form and join unions. The law grants authorities the right to cancel a union’s registration if it fails to comply with certain legal obligations; however, there were no reports that the government exercised this right. 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.

The law establishes a mandatory, complex, and excessively 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–a process that is not to exceed 90 days unless the parties involved agree. 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 issues 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 issues.

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 can 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. Despite growth in the informal economy over the years, there was no research on or estimate of the size of the informal economy, which traditionally includes street “hawkers” involved in vending of food and clothing.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, but there were a few delays in procedures and appeals. Penalties for violations by employers, including fines of up to 25,000 rupees ($734), were insufficient to deter violations.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected, and workers exercised these rights. Most unions collectively negotiated wages higher than those set by the National Remuneration Board (NRB). 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 at the enterprise level. Approximately 59,000 persons worked in the EOE; only 10 percent belonged to unions.

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The government made some efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor (see section 7.c.), but resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations, including 15 years’ imprisonment for convictions of adult trafficking and 30 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking, were sufficient to deter violations. Data on the number of victims removed from forced or compulsory labor situations during the year were not available.

Trade unionists reported cases of forced labor during the year among migrant workers involving passport confiscation, underpayment of wages, substandard living conditions, lack of clearly defined work titles, denial of meal allowances, and deportation. As of November 1, there were an estimated 39,500 migrant workers in the country, mainly from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 and prohibits employment of children under 18 in work that is dangerous, unhealthy, or otherwise unsuitable for young persons. The penalties for employing a child are a fine of no more than 10,000 rupees ($293) and imprisonment not to exceed one year.

The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment 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. 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.

While the government generally respected this law, it did not effectively enforce it, especially in the informal sector. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Children worked in the informal sector, including as street traders, and in small businesses, restaurants, agriculture, small apparel workshops, and retail shops.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/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. 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. The government did not effectively enforce these laws and regulations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation with respect to gender, race, disability, and HIV/AIDS status occurred. While women had equal access to education, the private sector paid women less than men for substantially similar work. 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 female. In 2015 police recruited 10 female police riders for its Traffic Enforcement Squad. The first female firefighter was recruited in 2011, and recruitment since brought the total number to 14. A large majority of women held unskilled labor jobs.

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. 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.

There were unsubstantiated reports of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients and their relatives involving foreign workers whose work permits were denied by authorities due to their HIV status.

In November 2017 the Equal Opportunities Amendment Act came into force to counter abuses under the 2012 Certificate of Character Act, which requires employees to provide proof to their employers that they have no criminal record. The new amendment protects employees from being fired due to a criminal record on their certificate of character that “is irrelevant to the nature of the employment for which that person is being considered.” Previously some workers complained employers fired them once the employer learned they lacked a clean certificate of character. Many individuals complained the certificate makes no distinction between minor offenses, such as street littering, and more serious offenses. Observers noted all offenses remain permanently on the certificate of character.

In the private sector, the NRB sets minimum wages for nonmanagerial workers outside the EOE. The government introduced a minimum wage of 9,000 rupees ($264) per month and mandated the minimum wage rise each year based on the inflation rate. The minimum wage for an unskilled domestic worker in the EOE was approximately 607 rupees ($18) per week, while the minimum wage for an unskilled domestic factory worker outside the EOE was approximately 794 rupees ($23) per week. According to the National Empowerment Fund, the national poverty threshold was a household monthly income level of 6,200 rupees ($182).

By law employers cannot force a worker outside the EOE to work more than eight hours per day, six days per week. The standard legal workweek in the EOE is 45 hours. According to a local trade union, 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, Industrial Relations, and Employment to investigate cases of overtime violations. If an employer fails to take action to address the violations (for example, by paying wages owed or allowing 11-hour breaks), the ministry initiates a court action.

The Employment Rights Act and the Employment Relations Act cover the laws relating to acceptable conditions of work outside the EOE. These laws provide for a standard workweek and paid annual holidays, require premium pay for overtime, and prohibit compulsory overtime. 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 government did not always enforce the law effectively. While the government enforced wages in the formal sector, there were reports that employers demoted workers to part-time status to evade wage and hour requirements.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards. 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; however, workers did not generally exercise this right.

Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment 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, the number was insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not always sufficient to deter violations. Authorities generally applied these standards to both foreign and citizen workers.

The actual market wage for most workers was much higher than the minimum wage due to a labor shortage and collective bargaining. There were reports, however, that employers did not always pay full-time employees in the cleaning industry the NRB-recommended minimum wage; some reportedly received only 1,500 rupees ($44) per month.

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.

Employers did not always comply with safety regulations, resulting in occupational accidents. There were reports of foreign workers living in dormitories having unsanitary conditions.

Mexico

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike in both the public and private sectors; however, conflicting law, regulations, and practice restricted these rights.

The law requires a minimum of 20 workers to form a union. To receive government recognition, unions must file for registration with the appropriate conciliation and arbitration board (CAB) or the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. For the union to be able to function legally, its leadership must also register with the appropriate CAB or the ministry. CABs operated under a tripartite system with government, worker, and employer representatives. Outside observers raised concerns that the boards did not adequately provide for inclusive worker representation and often perpetuated a bias against independent unions, in part due to the prevalence of representatives from “protection” unions on the boards. Protection unions and “protection contracts”–collective bargaining agreements signed by employers and these unions to circumvent meaningful negotiations and preclude labor disputes–were common in all sectors.

By law a union may call for a strike or bargain collectively in accordance with its own bylaws. Before a strike may be considered legal, however, a union must file a “notice to strike” with the appropriate CAB, which may find that the strike is “nonexistent” or, in other words, it may not proceed legally. 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 reinstatement of workers if the CAB finds the employer fired the worker unfairly and the worker requests reinstatement; however, the law also provides for broad exemptions for employers from such reinstatement, including employees of confidence or workers who have been in the job for less than a year.

The government, including the CABs, did not consistently protect worker rights. The government’s common failure to enforce labor and other laws left workers with little recourse for violations of freedom of association, poor working conditions, and other labor problems. The CABs’ frequent failure to impartially and transparently administer and oversee procedures related to union activity, such as union elections and strikes, undermined worker efforts to exercise freely their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

February 2017 labor justice revisions to the constitution replace the CABs with independent judicial bodies, which are intended to streamline the labor justice process, but require implementing legislation to reform federal labor law. Under the terms of the constitutional reform, CABs would continue to administer new and pending labor disputes until the judicial bodies are operational.

Penalties for violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining laws were rarely applied and were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Workers exercised their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining with difficulty. The process for registration of unions was politicized, and according to union organizers, the government, including the CABs, frequently used the process to reward political allies or punish political opponents. For example, the government rejected registration applications for locals of independent unions, and for unions, based on technicalities.

In September the Senate ratified the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 98 on collective bargaining. By ratifying the convention, the government subjects itself to the convention’s oversight and reporting procedures. Ratification also contributes, according to the independent unions, to ensuring the institutions established as a result of the labor justice reform are, in law and practice, independent, transparent, objective, and impartial, with workers having recourse to the ILO’s oversight bodies to complain of any failure.

According to several NGOs and unions, many workers faced violence and intimidation around bargaining-rights elections perpetrated by protection union leaders and employers supporting them, as well as other workers, union leaders, and vigilantes hired by a company to enforce a preference for a particular union. Some employers attempted to influence bargaining-rights elections through the illegal hiring of pseudo employees immediately prior to the election to vote for the company-controlled union. CABs were widely alleged to administer these elections with a bias against new, independent unions, resulting in delays and other procedural obstacles that impacted the results and undermined workers’ right to organize.

Other intimidating and manipulative practices were common, including dismissal of workers for labor activism. For example, a garment factory in Morelos failed to halt workplace sexual harassment and sexual violence and instead fired the whistleblowers who reported the problem to management.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. While penalties for conviction of forced labor violations range from five to 30 years’ imprisonment, very few cases reached the court system or were successfully prosecuted.

Forced labor persisted in the industrial and agricultural sectors, especially in the production of chili peppers and tomatoes, as well as in the informal sector. Women and children were subject to domestic servitude. Women, children, indigenous persons, and migrants (including men, women, and children) were the most vulnerable to forced labor. In July authorities rescued 50 agricultural workers on three commercial tomato farms in Coahuila. Authorities in Coahuila freed an additional 25 agricultural workers–including nine children–from a chili pepper and tomato farm in August. In both cases the forced labor victims reportedly lived in unsanitary conditions, worked excessive hours under the threat of dismissal, and received subminimum wage payments or no payment at all.

Day laborers and their children were the primary victims of forced and child labor in the agricultural sector. In 2016 INEGI reported 44 percent (2,437,150) of persons working in agriculture were day laborers. Of the day laborers, 33 percent received no financial compensation for their work. Only 3 percent of agricultural day laborers had a formal written contract, 4 percent had access to health services through their employment, and 7 percent received vacation days or Christmas bonuses–all benefits mandated by federal labor law.

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.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The constitution 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. The law requires children younger than 18 to have a medical certificate to work. The minimum age for hazardous work, including all work in the agricultural sector, is 18. The law prohibits minors from working in a broad list of hazardous and unhealthy occupations.

The government was reasonably effective in enforcing child labor laws in large and medium-sized companies, especially in the factory (maquiladora) sector and other industries under federal jurisdiction. Enforcement was inadequate in many small companies and in agriculture and construction, and nearly absent in the informal sector, in which most child laborers worked.

At the federal level, the Ministry of Social Development, PGR, and National System for Integral Family Development share responsibility for inspections to enforce child labor laws and to intervene in cases in which employers violated such laws. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for carrying out child labor inspections. Penalties for violations range from 16,780 pesos ($840) to 335,850 pesos ($16,800) but were not sufficiently enforced to deter violations.

According to a 2017 INEGI survey, the number of employed children ages five to 17 was 3.2 million, or approximately 11 percent of children in the country. This represented a decrease from 12.4 percent of children in the 2015 INEGI survey. Of these children, 2.1 million, or 7.1 percent of the population ages five to 17, were under the minimum age of work or worked under conditions that violated federal labor laws, such as performing hazardous work. Child labor was most common in the agricultural sector; children worked in the harvest of beans, chili peppers, coffee, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, onions, tobacco, and tomatoes, as well as in the production of illicit crops such as opium poppies. Other sectors with significant child labor included services, retail sales, manufacturing, and construction.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of “race, nationality, age, religion, sex, political opinion, social status, handicap (or challenged capacity), economic status, health, pregnancy, language, sexual preference, or marital status.” The government did not effectively enforce the law or regulations. According to a 2017 INEGI survey, 12 percent of Mexican women had been illegally asked to take a pregnancy test as a prerequisite to being hired. Job announcements specifying desired gender, 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 6 percent experienced sexual violence.

Penalties for violations of the law included administrative remedies, such as reinstatement, payment of back wages, and fines (often calculated based on the employee’s wages), and were not generally considered sufficient to deter violations. Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred against women, indigenous groups, persons with disabilities, LGBTI individuals, and migrant workers.

The general minimum wage was below the official poverty line. Most formal-sector workers received between one and three times the minimum wage. The tripartite National Minimum Wage Commission, whose labor representatives largely represented protection unions and their interests, is responsible for establishing minimum salaries but continued to block increases that kept pace with inflation.

The law sets six eight-hour days and 48 hours per week as the legal workweek. Any work over 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. The law requires employers to observe occupational safety and health regulations, issued jointly by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the 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 Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws and inspecting workplaces. Neither the number of labor inspections nor the penalties for violations of labor law were sufficient to secure compliance with labor law. For example, in June, seven workers disappeared at a mine in Chihuahua when a dam holding liquid waste collapsed. Through its DECLARALAB self-evaluation tool, the ministry provided technical assistance to almost 4,000 registered workplaces to help them meet occupational safety and health regulations.

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 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. Additionally, many companies evaded taxes and social security payments by employing workers informally or by submitting falsified payroll records to the Mexican Social Security Institute. INEGI estimated 57 percent of the workforce was engaged in the informal economy during the year.

Observers from grassroots labor rights groups, international NGOs, and multi-national apparel brands reported that employers in export-oriented supply chains were increasingly using 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 another short-term contract, to avoid paying severance and to prevent workers from accruing seniority. This practice violates federal labor law and restricts worker’s rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Observers noted it also increased the likelihood of work-related illness and injury. Outsourcing practices made it difficult for workers to identify their legally registered employer, limiting their ability to seek redress of labor grievances.

Private recruitment agencies and individual recruiters violated the rights of temporary migrant workers recruited in the country to work abroad, primarily in the United States. Although the law requires these agencies to be registered, they often were unregistered. There were also reports that registered agencies defrauded workers with impunity. Some temporary migrant workers were regularly charged illegal recruitment fees. The Labor Ministry’s registry was outdated, inaccurate, and limited in scope. Although the government did not actively monitor or control the recruitment process, it reportedly was responsive in addressing complaints.

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 pay them daily wages once a week, as mandated by law, day laborers had to meet certain harvest quotas to receive the promised wage. Wages may be illegally withheld until the end of the harvest to ensure the workers do not leave, and civil society organizations alleged 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 childcare, many workers brought their children to work in the fields.

News reports indicated there were poor working conditions in some maquiladoras. 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. Most maquiladoras hired employees through outsourcing with few social benefits.

INDEX, the association of more than 250 factories in Ciudad Juarez, signed an agreement in March to prevent and eradicate violence against women with the Chihuahua Institute of Women and the National Commission.

Moldova

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal 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 during natural disasters, epidemics, and pandemics as well as in times of state emergency. Authorities may impose compulsory arbitration at the request of one party to a dispute. There are no particular groups of workers excluded from or covered differently by relevant legal protections.

In 2017 parliament amended 36 articles in the labor code, adopting new provisions requiring employers to consult the trade union within the organization prior to laying off employees who are trade union members; and abrogating provisions related to the legal effect of a collective labor contract after its termination.

There is a mechanism to monitor and enforce labor laws through the State Labor Inspectorate (SLI) in the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection and the Prosecutor General’s Office, but it failed to monitor and enforce the rights to collective bargaining and to organize effectively. The law does not provide effective sanctions for violations of freedom of association or stipulate penalties for violating trade union rights. Under the law, the deliberate failure to negotiate and amend collective agreements or the violation of the negotiated terms is punishable by fines of 1,000 to 1,500 lei ($60 to $90), which were not sufficient to deter violations. An employer’s groundless refusal to sign a collective labor agreement is punishable by a fine insufficient to deter violations. The law mandates fines insufficient to deter violations for infringements of workers’ rights to form or join trade unions.

The labor code requires the inspectorate to collaborate with other institutions, including business organizations/patronages and trade unions. The methods of cooperation are established through agreement between parties. The National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC) of Moldova registered 111 infringements of collective contracts’ provisions, collective bargaining, and trade unions rights during the year. According to NTUC, private businesses and companies with foreign investments frequently opposed their employees’ right to organize and bargain collectively. NTUC leadership believed that the inspectorate was affiliated with powerful business interests.

The NTUC regularly consulted employers and employees on the application of labor laws, negotiated employer compliance, and advanced worker rights. From January to September, NTUC visited 35,704 employees (including 32.500 trade union members) in the course of 409 workplace visits and documented 7,922 violations, including 6,529 health and safety standard infringements and 953 labor law infringements. NTUC submitted information about these violations to the SLI. In addition, the NTUC labor inspectorate conducted two joint activities with the SLI as requested by trade union members.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations were independent of the government, political parties, employers, or employers’ associations. 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 during the year. Workers exercised the right to strike by conducting legal strikes. Employees of the state-owned railroad company did not protest against salary arrears that reportedly amounted to almost 100 million lei ($5.98 million) in 2018. Employees in the education sector protested at least once during the year requesting a 50 percent salary increase. In August the government approved an 8 percent wage increase for education sector employees.

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. Penalties for persons who engage workers in forced labor are were sufficiently stringent to deter violations but were seldom imposed.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation for forced labor were generally inadequate. Men and women were subjected to labor trafficking to Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, and the United Arab Emirates. Internal trafficking occurred in all regions of the country, focused mostly on farms and begging in larger cities.

Internal trafficking for begging and labor exploitation, particularly in the agriculture and construction sectors, was steadily on the rise. Official complicity in trafficking continued to be a significant problem that the government attempted to curb by prosecuting those involved.

As of August, the SLI conducted 1,599 labor inspections, (280 in the public sector and 1,319 in the private sector). The SLI documented 10,506 violations of the labor code and sent 186 cases to courts. In 1,195 cases, the employers corrected the problem. Labor inspectors issued 56 violation notices, and 28 persons were reinstated.

Following a reform in 2017, the SLI no longer has the authority to enforce penalties for violations of workplace health and safety concerns, this was delegated to 10 other state agencies according to their areas of expertise.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The minimum age for employment is 16. 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 prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for persons engaging children in such activities. Under aggravated circumstances, courts can increase the sentence to life imprisonment.

Authorities did not effectively enforce legal protections, and child labor remained a problem. Authorities were required to give advance notice before conducting any labor investigations, which undercut their enforcement ability.

Penalties for crimes involving the worst forms of child labor were sufficient to deter violations.

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 to EU countries, also worked on farms. According to government data, 24.3 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 and 4.6 percent of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 fell into the category of child laborers. The vast majority of child laborers worked in family businesses or on family farms.

In September the State Energy Inspectorate reported the deaths of at least three minors who were electrocuted by power lines while picking walnuts from trees during the seasonal harvest.

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

The law prohibits discrimination 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 unrelated to the professional qualities, such as sexual orientation. 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 as well as the worst forms of discrimination, which include discrimination based on two or more protected grounds.

The law also stipulates that the Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality be responsible for reviewing complaints of discrimination and making recommendations. As of September, the council has made decisions on 229 cases of alleged discrimination, double the number in 2017. The council most frequently found grounds for discrimination based on disability, sex, age, race/ethnicity, and language.

The law provides for fines at levels considered sufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, minority status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status. NTUC reported frequent cases of employers denying employment to pregnant women, since such employment was associated with additional benefits payable after childbirth. University or college graduates were frequently denied employment because of an alleged lack of experience.

Legislation on wages is confusing and defines three types of minimum monthly salaries. Under one definition, the minimum monthly wage in the real sector of the economy was set at 2,610 lei ($156). Under a different definition, “the sum of the minimum salary in the country” was set at 1,000 lei ($60). Finally, a third definition in the law on wages in the public sector sets the minimum possible wage for state employees at 1,000 lei ($60). According to official statistics, in the first half of the year, the average minimum monthly subsistence level was estimated at 1,896 lei ($113).

According to NTUC, as of October, salary arrears were more than 229 million lei ($13.7 million), with almost half of the sum accounted for by the state railway company.

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 and migrant workers have the same legal status as domestic workers.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards. According to labor law, workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The labor code requires work contracts for employment. Through August the SLI reported that 95 persons were employed without proper documents, including 39 women and one minor. There were no reports of work contracts in the agricultural sector, where the central government did not have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance.

Government efforts to enforce requirements for minimum wage, work hours, and occupational health and safety standards were limited and ineffective. The law requires the government to establish and monitor safety standards in the workplace. In September 2017, the government delegated the functions of safety and health standards enforcement to 10 other state agencies. This has created confusion, as there is no public reporting available on inspections for compliance with health and safety standards. Penalties for violations ranged from 5,000 to 24,000 lei ($299 to $1,440), but were insufficient to deter violations.

A thriving informal economy accounted for a significant portion of the country’s economic activity. According to a 2016 study conducted by the National Anticorruption Center, the informal economy represented 30 percent of the country’s gross national product. According to the International Labor Organization, 30.9 percent of the total employed population had an informal job and 68.7 percent of those jobs were in the agricultural sector. Workers in the informal economy did not have the same legal protections as employees in the formal sector. There were no government social programs targeting workers in the informal economy.

Poor economic conditions led enterprises to spend less on safety equipment and to pay insufficient attention to worker safety. During the first eight months of the year, the SLI documented 256 work accidents involving 299 victims. The SLI also reported 36 deaths in 32 work accidents. Enterprise committees also investigated 211 cases of temporary incapacitation resulting from work accidents involving 245 people. Following a reform of state inspections, the SLI no longer provided a breakdown of accidents by industry.

Monaco

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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. According to ECRI’s report published in 2016, the law requires the majority of members of a trade union’s bureau to be of Monegasque or French nationality. 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 generally respected these rights.

The government generally enforced the law. Penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations. 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 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 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.

The minimum age for employment is 16. Employment between the ages of 16 and 18 is subject to severely restricted conditions. Youths under the age of 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 sufficient to deter violations; no violations were reported during the year.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. While no data were available, observers believed there was a small and gradually diminishing gender pay discrepancy.

The law allows the firing of foreign employees without justification. ECRI reported foreign women did not enjoy the same entitlement to social benefits as their male counterparts.

There is a minimum wage, which exceeded the official estimate of the poverty level. The wage laws were enforced. Law and government decree establish health and safety standards, which are appropriate for the country. Workplace health and safety committees and government labor inspectors enforced the standards.

The Department of Employment in the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs had several 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, as well as health and safety standards. They arbitrated, mediated, and reconciled labor-management disputes. When possible, they carried out onsite inspections to ensure employers respected all requirements of the law. Data was not available on enforcement of occupational safety and health standards in the informal economy.

Mongolia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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 law prohibits strikes unrelated to matters regulated by a collective agreement.

Laws providing for the rights of collective bargaining and freedom of association generally were enforced. Penalties, largely fines, for violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining provisions were not sufficient to deter violations. The tripartite Labor Dispute Settlement Committee resolved the majority of disputes between individual workers and management. The Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU) reported the court process was so lengthy many workers abandoned their cases due to time and expense.

The CMTU stated that some employees faced obstacles, including the threat of salary deductions, to forming, joining, or participating in unions. Some employers prohibited workers from participating in union activities during work hours. The CMTU also stated workers terminated for union activity were not always reinstated. The CMTU further reported some employers took steps to weaken existing unions. For example, some companies used the portion of employees’ salaries deducted for union dues for other purposes and did not forward the monies to the unions. The CMTU also reported some employers refused to conclude collective bargaining agreements.

There were several strikes during the year over the salary of public servants. For example, a teacher’s strike that lasted nine days concluded after the government increased all public servants’ salaries, with the exception of judges and prosecutors, between 8 and 30 percent depending on salary grade.

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, but penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. NGOs and government officials noted the low number of inspectors and a lack of public awareness limited effective enforcement of the law.

There were isolated reports of forced labor, including forced child labor. There were reports workers from the DPRK and China were vulnerable to forced labor in construction, production, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, wholesale and retail trade, automobile maintenance, and mining industries. Press reports suggested, and government officials confirmed, that a large proportion of wages due to laborers from the DPRK went directly to the DPRK government, and workers’ freedom of movement was limited by requirements they travel in the company of a DPRK supervisor (see section 7.e.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law prohibits children younger than age 14 years from working. By law at age 14 children may work a maximum of 30 hours per week, with parental and government permission, to acquire vocational training and work experience. At age 15 children may conclude an employment contract with permission from parents or guardians. According to a Ministry of Labor and Social Protection order, children younger than age 18 may not work in hazardous occupations such as mining and construction; engage in arduous work; serve as child jockeys during the winter (children may be jockeys beginning at seven years 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.

Authorities reported employers often did not follow the law, requiring minors to work in excess of 40 hours per week and paying them less than the minimum wage.

The criminal code’s child protection provisions cover hazardous child labor, which is punishable by a maximum one year in prison. Persons who involved children in “vagrancy and beggary” are subject to a maximum five years’ imprisonment. The government did not effectively enforce the law; there were no government prosecutions or convictions of forced child labor during the year.

There was no government funding for programs to prevent child labor and support employment of adult family members.

Child labor, including cases of forced child labor, was suspected in many sectors, including the hotels and restaurants, in manufacturing, petty trade, scavenging and forced begging, event or street contortionism (a local art form), and the illicit sex trade (see section 6, Children). In the year to November, the FCYDA and the General Agency for Specialized Inspection (GASI) conducted child labor inspections, including at artisanal mining sites, public markets, service centers, dumpsites, construction and transportation sites, and on farms. Following the inspections, FCYDA and GASI reported there were 495 children working in the informal sector (20 in artisanal mining, 82 at public markets, 12 at dumpsites, 14 at construction and transportation sites, and 367 in farming). Of these 495 children, 83 were girls, 236 had dropped out of school, and 27 were engaged in hazardous labor, including 15 in sorting and packing fluorspar.

International organizations continued to express concern about child jockeys in horseracing. Children commonly learned to ride horses at age four or five years, and young children traditionally served as jockeys during the annual Naadam festival, where races ranged from two to 20 miles. According to GASI, 28,889 child jockeys (of whom 20 were younger than the required minimum of seven years) raced during the year. Although the government in 2016 prohibited child jockeys from working from November 1 to May 1, in 2017 it amended this prohibition to apply only to “winter.” The NHRC, NGOs, and human rights activists criticized this change because the provision is vague and allows child horse jockeys to work as early as January. Despite the “winter” ban, during just one horse race early in the year, 24 children fell from horses and five children lost consciousness. In January the government decreed 12 as the minimum age for child jockeys in “spring” races (races that occur after the annual Lunar New Year and before June 1). Also in January, eight of 21 provincial governors banned child jockeys from racing from November 1 to May 1.

Regulations also require adequate headgear and chest protection, but despite greater government and public attention to safety, enforcement was inconsistent. For example, GASI reported that of the 28,889 child jockeys, 336 lacked helmets, 513 did not have sufficient equipment, and 1,174 did not have insurance coverage. Observers reported sufficient compliance with safety regulations at national races (but less compliance at community and regional events). The FCYDA and GASI maintained a database to register all jockeys participating in officially sanctioned national and local races. The FCYDA collected biometric information to better track jockeys and prevent children younger than seven years from working as jockeys.

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

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/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 in a limited manner, and discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on sex and disability, as well as on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.

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 poor knowledge of the law’s sexual harassment provisions among both employers and employees.

The NHRC found employers were less likely to hire, promote, or provide professional development opportunities to women. There were also reports some employers refused to hire overweight persons, falsely claiming they could not perform essential job functions.

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 a reluctance to hire them persisted, and many companies preferred to pay the fine. 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 many employers still preferred to pay fines to the Employment Fund rather than employ persons with disabilities. For example, observers suspected discrimination against persons with disabilities in a case where a school principal asked a janitor with disabilities to submit her letter of resignation before she reached retirement age.

NGOs, the NHRC, and members of the LGBTI community reported that companies rarely hired LGBTI persons who were open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBTI persons who revealed their status in the workplace frequently faced discrimination, including the possibility of dismissal. Illegally dismissed LGBTI 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.

The minimum wage was 240,000 tugriks ($92) per month and applied to both public- and private-sector workers. According to the CMTU, the minimum wage did not provide an adequate standard of living.

Laws on labor, cooperatives, and enterprises set 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. Enforcement of minimum wage, working hours, and occupational safety and health laws and regulations was limited due to the small number of labor inspectors. According to GASI neither the penalty nor the number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. GASI reported its inspectors, faced with large investigative workloads, needed better training on investigative techniques and evidence collection. Inspectors generally did not conduct inspections in the informal sector.

GASI acknowledged that fines imposed on companies for not complying with labor standards or for concealing accidents were insufficient to induce management to resolve problems. The CMTU also reported government agencies and enterprises often failed to comply with regulations requiring them to allocate budget resources to workplace safety. Moreover, safety experts responsible for labor safety and health were often inexperienced or had not received training.

The law on pensions allows for participation by small family businesses and workers in the informal economy (such as herders) 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.

Many workers received less than the minimum wage, particularly at smaller companies in rural areas. The CMTU also expressed concern workers in the construction sector, in which work is constrained to a few months because of the extreme winters, were sometimes pressured to work long hours, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Many foreign workers, the majority of whom were Chinese mining and construction workers, reportedly worked in conditions that did not meet government regulations. GASI reported it inspected workplace health and safety conditions for foreign workers but did not have the authority to monitor wages or inspect living conditions.

The status of an estimated 600 workers from the DPRK was largely unknown; secrecy surrounded their contractual agreements, labor rights, and compensation. NGOs reported the government assumed little jurisdiction over DPRK workers’ contracts, relying on agreements with the DPRK government and the actions of intermediary companies. These workers were employed in many sectors, especially during the summer, reportedly in harsh working and living conditions. Observers and government officials stated that DPRK laborers likely failed to receive the minimum wage, often worked in substandard conditions, and had much of their wages paid directly to the DPRK government.

Reliance on outmoded machinery, poor maintenance, and management errors led to frequent industrial accidents, particularly in the construction, mining, and energy sectors. According to the NHRC, lack of proper labor protection and safety procedures in the construction sector made it particularly susceptible to accidents. The CMTU stated that workers had limited awareness of their legal right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.

GASI provided safety training to companies and private enterprises. According to GASI, the training resulted in a decrease in industrial accidents in accident-prone sectors such as light industry, food, health, and education.

Montenegro

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

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. In order to represent workers in collective bargaining at the enterprise level, a union must count as members at least 20 percent of the workforce in the enterprise. To act as a worker representative in a particular 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.

The government generally enforced the law. Penalties for violations were sufficient to deter most violations.

While the government generally respected freedom of association, employers often intimidated workers engaged in union activity. 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. In some cases, workers 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. Unpaid wages, factory closures, and growing poverty led to large-scale strikes. Trade unions claimed that 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 sufficiently stringent to deter violations compared to penalties 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.). There were no prosecutions or convictions.

Also see the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

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; or work that “may have a harmful effect or involve increased risk for their health and lives,” although the law allows employees between the ages of 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 under the law were adequate to deter violations. The Labor Inspectorate investigated compliance with the child labor law only as part of a general labor inspection regime. The government did not collect data specifically on child labor. Apart from forced begging, in 2017 inspectors found 40 children between the ages of 15 and 18 working in the informal economy without proper employment contracts, mainly during the summer. The labor inspectors, however, did not report these violations of child labor laws and returned the children to their parents.

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, and in restaurants and cafes or in sifting through trash cans. While many working children were from the country, a large percentage of those between the ages of seven and 16 were from nearby countries, mainly Kosovo and Serbia. Police generally returned the children they apprehended to their families. The ombudsman noted progress in the efforts of police and social centers to prevent begging.

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 and 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. Begging was readily observable, particularly in Podgorica and the coastal areas during the summer. Police seldom pressed charges against the 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 that 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 www.dol.gov/ilab/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. Persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment despite affirmative action programs that provided significant financial incentives to employers to hire persons with disabilities. According to the state employment agency, only 2 percent of persons with disabilities were employed. 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 that employers often chose to pay fines rather than employ a person with a disability.

Women were, at times, subject to discrimination based on their marital status, pregnancy, or physical appearance. Employers did not respect all of 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 as judges as well as 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.

Bosniaks, who accounted for 9 percent of the country’s population, 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, Macedonia, and Albania to work on construction sites and in agriculture. There were also instances of discrimination against unregistered domestic and foreign workers.

According to the National Statistics Office, the national monthly minimum wage, 193 euros ($222), 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, but seasonal workers often worked much longer.

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.

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, and other administrative regulations.

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. Penalties for violation of wage and hour rules consisted of minor fines and were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for violations of occupational health and safety standards were generally a sufficient deterrent 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.

Employment in the construction, energy, wood-processing, transportation, and heavy industries presented the highest risk of injury. 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

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution provides workers with the rights to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions.

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 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 allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining. 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 the majority of unionized and nonunionized workers. Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions. 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, the result of employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages.

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.

The government did not adequately enforce labor laws due to a lack of inspection personnel and resources. Inspectors’ role as mediators of labor conflicts significantly limits the amount of time they can spend proactively inspecting worksites and remediating any violations they uncover. Inspectors do not have punitive power and cannot levy fines or other punishments. Upon action of the state prosecutor, the courts can force the employer to take remedial actions through a court decree. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Enforcement procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

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

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor.

On October 2, the domestic workers law passed in 2016 went into effect. The law provides new protections to domestic workers, including limits on working hours and a minimum wage. Penalties for violating this law start with a fine and, in cases of repeated offense, can include one to three months’ imprisonment.

In the past, authorities did not adequately enforce laws against forced or compulsory labor, although it was too soon to assess the impact of the new law. Labor inspectors did not inspect small workshops and private homes where the majority of such violations occurred, as the law requires a warrant to search a private residence. The new law establishes a conciliation process that labor inspectors can conduct for disputes between domestic workers and their employers, but it lacks time limits for resolving those disputes. The small number of inspectors, the scarce resources at their disposal, and the broad geographic dispersion of sites also limited effective enforcement of the law.

Local NGOs reported that an undetermined number of vulnerable migrant domestic workers filed suits against their former employers. These suits included significant indicators of potential trafficking abuses, such as withholding passports or wages. Information on disposition of these cases was not available.

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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The law established a minimum age for employment and the government effectively enforced these laws. In 2016 parliament passed a law that went into effect on October 2 prohibiting children under the age of 16 from working as domestic servants and strictly limiting the work of children under the age of 18. 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 sufficient to deter violations.

The overwhelming majority of child laborers worked in rural areas, according to the government’s statistical agency, the High Planning Commission.

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 (see section 7.e.). 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.

In some cases employers subjected children to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as the result of human trafficking (see section 6, Children); forced domestic work, sometimes as the result of human trafficking; and forced labor in the production of artisan crafts and construction.

For more information see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings .

The labor code prohibits discrimination regarding employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, or disability. The law does not address age or pregnancy.

Discrimination occurred in all categories prohibited by law, as the government lacked sufficient human and financial resources to enforce these laws effectively. Migrant worker organizations reported that some migrants experienced discrimination in hiring, wages, or conditions of employment.

The minimum wage was 108 dirhams ($11.30) per day in the industrialized sector, 70 dirhams ($7.30) per day for agricultural workers, and 65 dirhams ($6.50) per day for domestic workers. The World Bank established the absolute poverty level threshold wage as 70 dirhams ($7.30) per day. Including traditional holiday-related bonuses, workers generally received the equivalent of 13 to 16 months’ salary each year.

The law provides for a 44- to 48-hour maximum workweek with no more than 10 hours in a single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including a prohibition on night work for women and minors. The law prohibits excessive overtime.

Occupational health and safety standards, reviewed and enforced by the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Integration, are rudimentary, except for a prohibition on the employment of women and children in certain dangerous occupations. The law prohibits persons under the age of 18 from hazardous work in 33 areas, including working in mines, handling dangerous materials, transporting explosives, and operating heavy machinery.

Many employers did not observe the legal provisions for 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. The country’s 394 labor inspectors attempted to monitor working conditions and investigate accidents, but lack of resources prevented effective enforcement of labor laws. Penalties were generally not sufficient to deter violations.

According to NGOs no major workplace accidents occurred during the year. There were, however, numerous media reports of accidents, sometimes fatal, on construction sites that had substandard standards or lacked safety equipment. In the formal sector, workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

Mozambique

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide that workers, with limited exceptions, may form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law requires government approval to establish a union. The government has 45 days to register employers’ and workers’ organizations, a delay the International Labor Organization (ILO) deemed excessive. Although the law provides for the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining, such collective bargaining contracts covered less than 5 percent of the workforce. Workers in defense and security services, tax administration, prison workers, the fire brigade, judges and prosecutors, and the President’s Office staff members are prohibited from unionizing. 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 (EPZ) 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 may end strikes in addition to the unions and workers themselves. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination; however, it does not explicitly provide for reinstatement of workers terminated for union activities. The government respected the legal prohibition of antiunion discrimination.

Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers were only able to exercise a few of these rights. There are strict legal constraints on workers’ meetings in the workplace. Unions regularly negotiated wage increases and organized strikes.

Lack of resources hampered the government’s efforts to enforce many of its labor laws. Government efforts included fining companies that violated labor laws and the expulsion of foreign supervisors who allegedly did not follow the law. Fines were not sufficient to deter violators.

The International Trade Union Confederation criticized the government’s prohibition of strikes by EPZ workers and the government’s designation of EPZ workers as “essential.” The ILO had previously criticized the government’s definition of “essential services” workers as being too broad.

The largest trade union organization, the Organization of Mozambican Workers (OTM), was perceived as biased in favor of the government and ruling party Frelimo.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. If convicted of trafficking in persons, which includes forced labor, the penalty is 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government did not enforce these laws effectively. There was limited evidence of forced labor and forced child labor in the domestic 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 then exploited in domestic servitude and sex trafficking. In addition, there was a significant rise in Ethiopians trafficked through Mozambique for the purpose of labor exploitation in South Africa. In December 2017 alone, security forces apprehended 41 Ethiopian citizens in Tete Province being smuggled into South Africa for labor exploitation and discovered the bodies of 19 other Ethiopians in Sofala Province who were believed to be victims of trafficking.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor; however, gaps exist in the legal framework to protect adequately children from the worst forms of child labor. Children are not permitted to work in occupations that are unhealthy, dangerous, or require significant physical effort; however, the government has no official list of prohibited job activities or occupations. The minimum working age without restrictions is 18. 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 education and training and provide conditions of work that are not damaging to their physical and moral development. Children between ages 12 and 14 may work under special conditions authorized by the Ministries of Labor, Health, and Education. Children under age 18 may work up to seven hours a day for a total of 38 hours a week. By law children must be paid at least the minimum wage or a minimum of two-thirds of the adult salary, whichever is higher.

The Ministry of Labor regulates child labor in the formal sector, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Labor inspectors may obtain court orders and have police enforce compliance with child labor provisions. There were no mechanisms in place for submitting complaints regarding hazardous and forced child labor. Violations of child labor provisions are punishable by fines ranging from one to 40 months of the minimum wage. Such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Enforcement mechanisms generally were inadequate in the formal sector due to resource constraints and nonexistent in the informal sector. In August 2017 the Ministry of Labor conducted a seminar with civil society and private-sector participants in which a list of hazardous activities and a national plan to fight the worst forms of child labor were completed. In October 2017 parliament approved the plan.

The labor inspectorate and police lacked adequate staff, funds, and training to investigate child labor cases, especially in areas outside the capital, where a majority of the abuses occurred. No labor inspectors specialized in child labor issues; however, they all received child labor training. Inspectors earned low wages (like many 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 prostitution and abuse prevention to police officers and additional training to labor inspectors on trafficking identification and prevention.

Child labor remained a problem. 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. Due to economic necessity, especially in rural areas, children worked in agriculture, as domestic employees, or in prostitution.

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

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced applicable law. Penalties (such as fines) were sufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment 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/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.

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

The lowest government-mandated industry-based minimum wage was 3,183 meticais ($53) a month and may be adjusted as needed. The poverty line was 540 meticais (nine dollars) a month per household member. Workers generally received benefits, such as transportation and food, in addition to wages. The OTM estimated that a minimum livable monthly wage to provide for a family of five was 8,000 meticais ($133). 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 apply to foreign workers holding work permits.

The government sets occupational health and safety (OSH) standards that were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Health and environmental laws protect workers in the formal sector; however, they do not apply to the informal economy, which comprised an estimated 95 percent of the workforce. 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.

The Ministry of Labor 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 Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and OSH standards in the informal economy, since the Ministry of Labor only regulates the formal sector. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Agricultural workers were among the most vulnerable to poor work conditions and wage theft. The lack of frequent and enforced sanctions for violations created little deterrence for violations. Despite the relatively low number of inspectors, some businesses reported frequent visits by labor inspectors citing capricious violations and threats of fines in order to receive bribes.

During the year there was a significant increase in the number of work accidents in the areas of construction, public works, and manufacturing, some of which resulted in the death or permanent disability of workers. According to the General Labor Inspectorate, in the fourth quarter of 2017 there was a 1.4 percent increase in accidents. Out-of-court settlements of disputes between workers and employers included 1,656 mediated conflicts, of which 1,385 ended in agreement and 271 in deadlock. The reduction in the number of cases was a direct consequence of the intensification of prevention actions, through lectures and advisory services to workers and employers on labor legislation.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future