a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The revised labor law entered into force January 1. 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 right to strike has several constraints. The law prohibits third parties from organizing strikes. The decision to strike must be supported by a majority of trade union members and a notice of the date, duration, and number of strikers should be delivered to management at least five days before the intended date of strike. The law prohibits strikes unrelated to matters regulated by a collective agreement.
The government inconsistently enforced laws providing for the rights of collective bargaining and freedom of association. Penalties, largely fines, were not commensurate with those for similar violations of civil rights and penalties were sometimes applied against violators. Labor dispute settlement committees resolved most disputes between individual workers and management. These committees comprise representatives of the local government, the employer, and the employee, who is joined by a representative of the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU). The CMTU reported the court process was so lengthy many workers abandoned their cases due to time and expense. The CMTU reported that some union organizers did not feel thoroughly protected by the law and that some individuals had faced retaliation for union activity.
In March state-employed low-wage service workers peacefully demonstrated in Ulaanbaatar to protest the government’s decision to outsource some state services to private companies which resulted in the reclassification of some government workers as contractors. Demonstrators, with the support of the CMTU, demanded a transfer of their full salaries, including add-ons and bonuses, and a further increase of salaries and pensions through a change in the related law.
Although foreign migrant workers enjoy the same rights as citizens according to the law, they reported that they did not receive the same level of protection against labor law violations as the general population.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
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. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Inspection was not adequate, and inspectors did not perform unannounced inspections or enforce the law in the informal sector.
There were isolated reports of forced child labor, including in forced begging, but there were no prosecutions for child forced labor during the year; see section 7.c. There was one prosecution of an alleged adult forced labor crime.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on national origin, 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 in the workplace.” The law prohibits employers from refusing employment to or dismissing an individual diagnosed with HIV or AIDS unless the condition makes it difficult to perform job duties. The law also prohibits women from working in occupations that require heavy labor or exposure to chemicals that could affect infant and maternal health. The law does not recognize refugee status so there are no laws protecting refugees or stateless persons from employment discrimination.
The government enforced the law inconsistently, and discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on sex and disability, as well as on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations and penalties were rarely applied against violators. Workers had the right to take discrimination cases to court, but the judicial process was slow and ineffective. The NHRC reported it received 13 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace and conducted inspections at one of the workplaces. The NHRC referred one case to police for investigation.
According to the latest census conducted by the National Statistical Office in 2020, monthly wages for men were, on average, 20 percent higher than those for women.
Although the law requires workplaces with more than 25 employees to employ a minimum of 4 percent of persons with disabilities or pay a fine, NGOs reported reluctance to hire them persisted. They also noted the government itself failed to meet the quota. Members of the disability community noted that, even when hired, the lack of accessible public transport made it difficult for persons with disabilities to hold a job (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).
The Labor Ministry’s Department for the Development of Persons with Disabilities is responsible for developing and implementing employment policies and projects for persons with disabilities. Government organizations and NGOs reported employers’ attitude toward employing persons with disabilities had not improved and that many employers still preferred to pay fines to the Employment Support Fund maintained by the Labor Ministry rather than employ persons with disabilities.
NGOs, the NHRC, and members of the LGBTQI+ community reported companies rarely hired LGBTQI+ persons who were open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBTQI+ persons who revealed their status in the workplace frequently faced discrimination, including the possibility of dismissal. Illegally dismissed LGBTQI+ persons rarely sought legal redress to avoid disclosing their status and increasing the risk of discrimination.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Wage and Hour Laws: The National Tripartite Committee, which comprises the government, the CMTU, and the Federation of Employers, annually establishes a national minimum wage that is above the poverty line. The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours and the payment of overtime, but payment of overtime was rarely enforced. The revised labor law covers workers in the informal sector, although it was inconsistently enforced.
Occupational Safety and Health: Laws on labor, cooperatives, and enterprises establish occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, which apply equally to local and foreign workers. GASI noted many standards were outdated and no longer appropriate for the main industries in the country. It was not reported if OSH experts actively identified unsafe conditions in addition to responding to workers’ complaints.
Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger safety without jeopardy to their employment. The CMTU raised concerns that, due to restrictions at the border, coal-truck drivers often faced very poor labor conditions caused by waiting at the border in their trucks, sometimes for a month, without proper lodging. The government stated it has continued to improve the conditions in the area.
As of August, 232 persons have been involved in industrial accidents, 31 of which resulted in death, representing an increase of 88 and 17, respectively, from the previous year.
Following the death of five construction workers at construction sites in the same week in June, CMTU held a press conference highlighting the lack of occupational safety protocols and demanding additional oversight from government agencies like GASI.
Wage, Hour, and OSH Enforcement: The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage, overtime, and OSH laws. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection enforced the law in the public sector, but the CMTU reported that many workers in the private sector received less than the wage promised by their employers, particularly at smaller companies in rural areas. Workers in the construction sector, in which work is constrained to a few months each year due to extreme winters, were sometimes pressured to work long hours, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
GASI acknowledged that fines imposed on companies for not complying with labor standards or for concealing accidents were not commensurate with those for similar violations and did not compel management compliance. Penalties were sometimes applied against violators.
Labor inspectors assigned to GASI’s regional and local offices were responsible for enforcement of all labor regulations and had the authority to compel immediate compliance. Inspectors generally did not conduct inspections in the informal sector. GASI reported its inspectors, faced with large investigative workloads, needed better training on investigative techniques and evidence collection. GASI reported some of the planned inspections for the year were not conducted on time due to lack of authority and instructions. Following the deputy prime minister’s order in May, GASI increased the number of labor inspectors analyzing and assessing workplace conditions and producing recommendations. As of August, there were a total of 86 labor inspectors in the country, a number that was insufficient to enforce compliance. GASI lacked the authority to perform unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions and the law requires it to give 48 hours advance notification to employers before conducting an inspection.
Through August, GASI provided 321 training sessions, forums, and public awareness sessions to more than 9,642 employees of 1,378 companies and private enterprises.
Informal Sector: The law applies to the informal sector, but it was not enforced, and workers in it have no assured rights. According to the ILO, the informal sector employed 480,000 persons, or 46 percent of all employed workers. Subsistence agriculture, herding, and artisanal mining make up the biggest components of the informal sector. The law on pensions allows small family businesses and workers in the informal economy, such as herders, to participate in pension and social benefit programs. These categories of workers were able to access health care, education, social entitlements, and an optional form of social security.