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Bureau of International Labor Affairs


I. Overview

A 1988 census found that among 10 to 14 year olds in Tanzania, 13.2 percent work.1 Child labor is used in the export-oriented industries of gemstone mining, cotton ginneries, and sisal processing.

II. Child Labor in Export Industries

Child Labor in Tanzania, a 1992 report by the International Labor Organization which documents the use of child labor in variety of sectors, is the most authoritative source of information on child labor in Tanzania.

Sisal Plantations

Sisal is one of Tanzania's leading exports.2 For at least the last quarter century, large numbers of children have worked on Tanzania's sisal plantations. A survey of Ubena Sisal Estates in the Coastal Region revealed that 30 percent of the workers were children. Child workers age 12 to 14 perform various labor-intensive activities including cultivation, transplanting, weeding, carrying wet fibers from machines, and collecting fibers ejected from the brushing machines.3

The last two activities involve the processing of the sisal. The United States imported over $2 million in twine, cord, rope and cable made of sisal binders and fibers in 1993.4

Children commonly assist their parents in the fields from a very young age and are later employed independently in their own right. Children on the sisal plantations work up to 11 hours a day with no specified rest periods, six days a week. They receive half the adult wage and often lack adequate nourishment and lodging. Only half of the child workers surveyed completed primary school. They had a high incidence of skin and respiratory problems. No protective clothing was provided for the workers.5

The ILO report concluded, "..there is a consensus among many groups, ranging from the Association of Tanzanian Employers to the Women's Program of JUWATA, that severe problems do exist relating to child labor on plantations in general."6 Some of the worst forms of child labor in Tanzania were found on these plantations where children are exposed to chemicals, machinery, long working hours, and hard physical work.7 There are also dated reports of children working under conditions of bonded labor on commercial plantations.8

Gemstone Mining

The American Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam reported that child labor is "likely" in the gemstone industry in Tanzania.9 Tanzania exports cut and uncut gemstones to the United States. Further investigation is needed.

Cotton Ginneries

Cotton is one of Tanzania's leading exports.10 Children reportedly work in cotton ginneries where they often sit in cramped positions for 11 to 12 hours feeding the machines.11 The United States imports small amounts of cotton in the form of yarn and woven fabric,12 but it is unclear whether the cotton ginneries using child labor are involved in export production.

III. Laws of Tanzania

A. National Child Labor Laws

Employment Ordinance No. 47 of 1955 sets the basic minimum age for employment at 12 years of age and requires that 12 to 14 year old child workers receive a daily wage, work on a day-to-day basis, are provided transportation home each evening, and obtain permission to work from their parents. Children are forbidden from working in any occupations which are dangerous or injurious to their health as well as in many industrial occupations.13 Given the low basic minimum age of 12 and the numerous loopholes for industrial work, Tanzania's child labor laws fall short of international standards.

The Ministry of Labor and Youth Development is charged with enforcing child labor laws in Tanzania. Due to a shortage of funds, labor inspectors are not able to operate effectively.14 Enforcement of child labor provisions is further impaired by the many grey areas and loopholes found in the legislation and a prevailing cultural acceptance of child labor.15

B. Education Laws

The Universal Primary Education policy of 1974 mandates compulsory education for children between the ages of 7 and 13.16 The Primary School Compulsory Education and Enrollment Rules provide penalties for parents and children who fail to comply.17 Despite these stringent laws, there has been a marked decrease in the number of children enrolled in primary school since the mid-1980s due to lax enforcement, reduced spending on education, and society's growing lack of faith in the educational system as a means for occupational preparation.18

C. International Conventions

The Government of Tanzania recently ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.19 Tanzania has ratified ILO Convention No. 59 Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment in Industry but has not yet ratified ILO Convention No. 138 Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment.20

IV. Programs and Efforts To Address Child Labor

The Government of Tanzania has yet to put into effect a comprehensive national policy to protect working children and to remove child laborers from dangerous occupations. Existing programs address only limited aspects of child labor but lack adequate funding. However, the Government of Tanzania has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO to launch a national action program under the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC).21

To date, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Tanzania have done relatively little on child labor issues. However, the Tanzania Welfare Counselling Mission (TAWECOMI) has initiated a counselling program for street children; the Family Planning Association of Tanzania (UMATI) has established counselling and training centers to help pregnant school drop-outs; and Sauti wa Siti, a women's organization, has sponsored a program to provide vocational training and sought to document child labor.22

1 Out of the total population of 10 to 14 year olds in Tanzania (2,984,228), 395,372 worked. The number of working children was almost equally divided between males and females. Child Labor in Tanzania (Geneva: International Labor Organization, 1992) 8 [hereinafter Child Labor in Tanzania].

2 The World Fact Book 1993 ( Central Intelligence Agency, 1993) 378 [hereinafter The World Fact Book].

3 Child Labor in Tanzania at 13.

4 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Merchandise Trade - Imports by Commodity (June 1994).

5 Child Labor in Tanzania at 13.

6 Id. at 14.

7 Id. at 5.

8 Id. at 13.

9 American Embassy-Dar es Salaam unclassified telegram no. 006537, November 23, 1993.

10 The World Fact Book at 378.

11 Id. at 12.

12 U.S Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Merchandise Trade - Imports by Commodity (June 1994).

13 Child Labor in Tanzania at 21.

14 Id. at 21.

15 Id. at 22.

16Id. at 14.

17 Id. at 14-15.

18 The Basic Education Statistics Tanzania (BEST) which chart enrollment in primary schools from 1961-1989 show a steady increase in enrollment between 1969 (486,470) and 1983 (3,553,144) and then a steady drop in enrollment between 1983 and 1989 (3,252,934). Child Labor in Tanzania at 29-31.

19 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993 (U.S. Department of State, February, 1994) 297.

20 List of Ratifications by Convention and by Country (as at 31 December 1992) (Geneva: International Labor Organization, 1993).

21 IPEC: Reflections on the Past, Pointers to the Future (Geneva: International Labor Organization, 1994) 22.

22 Child Labor in Tanzania at 22-23.