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ETHIOPIA

1. Child Labor in Ethiopia

In 1999, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 53.7 percent (3.9 million) of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working in Ethiopia.660 Children in Ethiopia work both in the informal and formal sectors. Despite the government’s assurances that children are not engaging in economic activities in the formal sector, particularly on government- owned plantations,661 a joint study conducted by the ILO regional office in Addis Ababa and the Eastern Africa Multidisciplinary Advisory Team (EAMAT) discovered children working on state-owned farms.662 Children were found working on cotton, sugarcane, coffee, and tea plantations.663

Children work long hours on plantations for little pay, usually without any meal breaks, and are often exposed to environmental toxins that can be detrimental to their health, especially on cotton farms. The cotton plantations are located in the kolla zone, where children tend to be at a higher risk of malaria, yellow fever and snakebites.664

In urban areas of Ethiopia, children are found working as domestic servants, street peddlers, and as employees in private enterprises.665 Children have also been reportedly shipped to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East to work as house servants or nannies.666 Children working as domestic servants, most of whom are girls, are often victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, including rape.667

Girls as young as 11 years old are recruited to work in the commercial sex industry in brothels, bars, and hotels, where they are at great risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV infection. Furthermore, the underground child sex trade and sex tourism in Ethiopia is reportedly on the rise, and more organized than once believed.668 Children’s involvement in the commercial sex trade occurs mainly in resort towns and truck stops in Addis Ababa.669

Recruitment of children into the armed forces was reported to occur in Ethiopia in 1999, prior to the border conflict with Eritrea, but there is no evidence that underage recruitment by the government continues to take place.670 Although the Ministry of Defense does not permit individuals under the age of 18 to enlist, the policy is difficult to enforce since an estimated 95 percent of Ethiopians have no birth certificates.671 Children as young as 14 years of age are reportedly allowed to join local militias.672

2. Children’s Participation in School

Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Ethiopia. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect a child’s participation in school.673 In 1996, the gross primary school enrollment rate was 42.9 percent, and the net primary school enrollment rate was 32.4 percent.674 Gender disaggregated data indicate that gross primary enrollment was higher for boys (55 percent) than for girls (31 percent).675 For children that have the opportunity to go to school, over 40 percent drop out of school before reaching the second grade of primary school.676

Although primary school and secondary education are officially free in Ethiopia, there are not enough schools to accommodate students.677 Most schools are located in urban districts, so children living in rural areas of Ethiopia do not have the same educational opportunities available to them. In 1999, there were 8,120 primary schools in the country that operated in 3 daily shifts to accommodate all the students.678 Class sizes averaged between 80 and 100 students.679

One of the major reforms in Ethiopia’s education system is the decentralization of education responsibilities to provincial authorities.680 This devolution to “ethnic federalism” allows provincial governments to use their primary ethnic language for instruction in schools, instead of Amharic.681 The Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) has expressed concern that the switch to ethnic federalism will result in a dearth of qualified teachers, and will hinder the implementation of an effective education policy since most of the teachers to date (and most of their members) have been trained and certified in Amharic.682

3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement

Ethiopia’s Labour Proclamation No. 42/1993 sets the basic minimum working age at 14 years.683 The Proclamation also sets forth laws on the working conditions of young workers, defined as children between the ages of 14 and 18.684 Employers are forbidden to employ young workers where the environment or nature of the job may pose health risks or endanger children’s lives in any way. Some prohibited activities defined in the proclamation are transporting goods by air, land, or sea, working with electric power generation plants, and quarrying in mines.685 Moreover, the work hours of children should not exceed seven hours a day; overtime work is prohibited; and children may not work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., during weekly rest days, and on public holidays.686

Enforcement of child labor laws is reportedly weak, due in large part to an insufficient number of labor inspectors. Currently, about 50 labor inspectors in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) enforce all the country’s labor laws in the formal sector, and the government maintains child labor is not a problem in the formal economy.687

Since 1942, the Constitution of Ethiopia forbids slavery and prohibits the forced or compulsory labor of children.688 Ethiopia’s Penal Code (Articles 605 through 613) includes provisions specifically dealing with the issues of child trafficking, child prostitution, and bonded child labor.689 The trafficking of women and children is illegal under Article 605, and is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years with fines up to 10,000 birr ($US1,250).690

Ethiopia ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on May 27, 1999.691

4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling

a. Child Labor Initiatives

Ethiopia does not yet have a national agenda concerning child labor, and is not yet a participating country in the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) program.692 The ILO regional office in Addis Ababa organized a Child Labor Forum to bring together Ethiopian Government ministries, United Nations agencies, trade unions and employer organizations, embassies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).693

Through the ILO, the Italian Government has allocated funding for small research and demonstration projects. These include a project to prevent and eliminate child labor on plantations in rural Ethiopia (to be implemented by the National Federation of Farms, Plantations, Fishery and Agro-Industry Trade Unions) and a project to assess the magnitude and nature of domestic child labor in Addis Ababa (to be implemented by the Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine at Addis Ababa University).694

The Forum on Street Children in Ethiopia (FSCE) works with 20 NGOs to help street children, victims of child prostitution, and child laborers. FSCE has established child protection units (CPUs) in police stations to educate law enforcement officials on the rights of children, and to assist children when they become victims of crime.695 In addition, FSCE runs a drop-in center that provides counseling and rehabilitation services, along with a “safe-home,” for children who are victims of prostitution.696

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affair is working with the Ethiopian Central Statistical Authority (CSA) and ILO-IPEC’s Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labor to conduct a national household survey on child labor.697

b. Educational Alternatives

The Ethiopian Government aims to provide universal primary education by the year 2020.698 An Educational Sector Development Program was adopted in 1999 to construct new schools, increase the availability of textbooks in local languages, train additional teachers, and expand vocational training.699 At the moment, the Ethiopian Government does not plan to modify its three-shift school day with both primary and secondary schools conducting sessions during the morning, afternoon, and evening.700

Public spending on education as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) was 4 percent in 1996.701

5. Selected Data on Government Expenditures

The following bar chart presents selected government expenditures expressed as a percentage of GNP. The chart considers government expenditures on education, the military, health care, and debt service. Where figures are available, the portion of government spending on education that is specifically dedicated to primary education is also shown.702

While it is difficult to draw conclusions or discern clear correlations between areas of government expenditure as a percentage of GNP and the incidence of child labor in a country, this chart and the related tables presented in Appendix B (Tables 14 through 19) offer the reader a basis for considering the relative emphasis placed on each spending area by the governments in each of the 33 countries profiled in the report.


660 International Labor Organization, Yearbook of Labour Statistics (Geneva, Switzerland, 2000). In 2001, Ethiopia’s Central Statistics Office conducted a child labor survey (of children between the ages of 5 and 17) in consultation with International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC). Results from the national child labor survey in Ethiopia should be available early 2002. E-mail correspondence from ILO-IPEC to U.S. Department of Labor official [10/15/01]. ILO-IPEC: Results of Ethiopia SIMPOC.

661 U.S. Embassy-Addis Ababa, unclassified telegram no. 003616, October 18, 2000.

662 “A Study on Child Labour in Rural Ethiopia,” Working Paper No. 1, ILO/EAMAT (Addis Ababa, 1999), 4-10 [hereinafter “A Study on Child Labour in Rural Ethiopia”].

663 For example, on the Bebeka Coffee Plantation an estimated 490 children, ranging from 7 to 16 years of age were found working on the farm; s ee “A Study on Child Labour in Rural Ethiopia” at 4.

664 “A Study on Child Labour in Rural Ethiopia” at 3,5,6.

665 “A Study on Child Labour in an Urban District of Addis Ababa,” ILO-EAMAT Working Paper on Child Labour No. 2 (Addis Ababa, 2000), 6 [hereinafter “A Study on Child Labour in an Urban District of Addis Ababa”].

666 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999, Sections 5, 6c, and 6f. ( www.state.gov/ www/global/ human_rights/1999_hrp_report/ethiopia.html) [hereinafter Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia ].

See also El Barometer, “Human and Trade Union Rights in the Education Sector” (Brussels: Education International, 1998), 46 [hereinafter El Barometer ].

667 “A Study on Child Labour in an Urban District of Addis Ababa” at 3.

668 U.S. Embassy-Addis Ababa, unclassified telegram no. 001343, April 17, 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 001343]. See Also Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia.

669 Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia.

670 Ibid.

671 Interview with Seife Tadelle, president, Ethiopian Youth League, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 8, 2000. See Also Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia.

672 Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia .

673 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, See Chapter 1, Introduction.

674 World Development Indicators.

675 In 1996, net primary enrollment rates were also higher for boys (40.1 percent) than for girls (24.8 percent). See Ibid.

676 Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia .

677 El Barometer at 45. See also U.S. Embassy-Addis Ababa, unclassified telegram no. 001965, June 8, 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 001965].

678 “A Study on Child Labour in Rural Ethiopia” at 1.

679 El Barometer at 45.

680 Devolution of education responsibilities from national to provincial authorities began in 1993.

681 Eighty local languages are spoken in Ethiopia; see El Barometer at 45. See also Interview with Girma Abebe, Foreign Service national at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 7, 2000.

682 Interview with Girma Abebe, Foreign Service national at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 7, 2000.

683 Negarit Gazeta , Proclamation No. 42/1993, Part 6, Chapter 2, Article 89 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Negarit Gazeta of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia), 295.

684 Ibid.

685 Ibid.

686 Ibid.

687 Interview with Getaneh Mitiku, Head of Ethiopian Department of Labor, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 7, 2000.

688 Country Reports 1999—Ethiopia.

689 Interview with Tilahun Teshome, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Addis Ababa University, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 10, 2000.

690 The exchange rate on August 7, 2000, was US$1.00 = 8 birr.

691 For a list of which countries profiled in Chapter 3 have ratified ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, see Appendix C.

692 Unclassified telegram 001343.

693 The forum meets three times a year. See unclassified telegram 1343.

694 “Initiatives on Child Labour in Ethiopia,” ILO Addis Ababa (Addis Ababa: ILO, 2000) 1 [fact sheet on file].

695 Interview with Fassil W. Mariam, executive director, Forum on Street Children in Ethiopia (FSCE), by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 7, 2000.

696 Unclassified telegram 001343.

697 The survey includes 2000 sample sites, 547 of which will be in urban areas. Interview with Dr. Abdulaki Hasen, General Manager of the Ethiopian Central Statistical Authority, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 9, 2000.

698 Unclassified telegram 001965.

699 Ibid.

700 Ibid.

701 World Development Indicators 2000 .

702 See Chapter 1, Section C, 5, for a fuller discussion of the information presented in the box. See also Appendix B for further discussion, and Tables 14 through 19 for figures on government expenditure over a range of years.