Republic of the Congo
2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
In 2014, the Republic of the Congo made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government launched the National Action Plan to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons, which aims to improve enforcement activities related to child trafficking. The Government also began implementing a social safety net program to improve access to health and education services for poor families, and assumed a greater financial responsibility for a school feeding program that targeted 215,000 children. However, children in the Republic of the Congo are engaged in child labor, including in domestic work and the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation.
Children in the Republic of the Congo are engaged in child labor, including in domestic work. Children are also engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation.(1-7) Table 1 provides key indicators on children's work and education in the Republic of the Congo.
|Working children, ages 5 to 14 (% and population):||27.9 (286,137)|
|School attendance, ages 5 to 14 (%):||90.2|
|Children combining work and school, ages 7 to 14 (%):||29.9|
|Primary completion rate (%):||73.0|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2012, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015.(8)
Source for all other data: Understanding Children's Work Project's analysis of statistics from Deuxième Enquête Démographique et de Santé du Congo (EDSC-II) Survey, 2011-2012.(9)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Production of cassava,* sugar cane,* white beans,* endives,* bananas,* and pineapples* (10)|
|Catching and smoking fish* (3, 4, 11, 12)|
|Raising livestock* (10)|
|Industry||Production of charcoal by burning wood* (10)|
|Work in stone quarries, including breaking stones* (1, 3, 12)|
|Services||Domestic work (3, 4)|
|Working in bakeries* (1, 3, 12)|
|Market vending (3, 4, 12)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Commercial sexual exploitation sometimes as a result of human trafficking (1, 3-6, 13)|
|Farming, including the production of cocoa, as a result of human trafficking* (1, 4, 13)|
|Forced labor in domestic work, bakeries, fishing, and market vending each sometimes as a result of human trafficking* (1-4, 7, 13)|
* Evidence of this activity is limited and/or the extent of the problem is unknown.
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a) (c) of ILO C. 182.
Many children are trafficked to the Republic of the Congo, mainly from West African countries such as Benin or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.(1-3, 5, 14) Fewer victims were identified during the reporting period than in the previous year, especially from Benin. However, this could be due to the efficacy of public awareness campaigns and increased training for law enforcement officials, or it could be a result of human trafficking rings developing more sophisticated methods.(13) Children are also trafficked internally from rural areas to the cities of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire for forced labor, with the expectation that they will receive an education and care.(1, 3, 13) Additionally, information on children's work is limited as there has never been a national child labor survey or similar research conducted in the Republic of the Congo.(15)
Although the Constitution stipulates that free and compulsory education be provided until age 16, parents may be required to pay for books, uniforms, and school fees, which may limit children's access to education.(3, 4, 16) During the reporting period, there were reports of sexual abuse in schools.(4) Education access was also a challenge for refugees and indigenous children, who were largely excluded from accessing public education due to long distances from established schools and a lack of means to pay for school-related fees.(4, 17, 18) Discrimination, linguistic barriers, lack of birth certificates, and academic calendars that conflict with seasonal patterns of hunting and gathering also presented challenges for indigenous children's access to school.(18)
Additionally, Mbata ya Bakolo, a law enforcement operation launched in April 2014 to deport illegal immigrants, has been criticized for its use of physical violence and creating an environment that prevents nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) living in Brazzaville from enjoying their rights, such as access to education.(19-21) Amnesty International documented allegations that police asked school personnel to refuse education to children from the DRC. Other parents from the DRC stopped sending their children to school out of fear of deportation.(19)
The Republic of the Congo has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).
|ILO C. 138, Minimum Age||✅|
|ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor||✅|
|UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict||✅|
|UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography||✅|
|Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons||✅|
The Government has established laws and regulations related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 4).
|Minimum Age for Work||Yes||16||Article 116 of the Labor Code (24)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||16||Order 2224 of 1953; Article 68 of the Child Protection Code (6, 25)|
|Prohibition of Hazardous Occupations and/or Activities for Children||Yes||Article 68 of the Child Protection Code; Order 2224 of 1953 (6, 25)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Article 4 of the Labor Code; Article 68 of the Child Protection Code (24, 25)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Article 60 of the Child Protection Code (25)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||Yes||Article 334 of the Penal Code; Articles 65-68 of the Child Protection Code (25, 26)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Articles 68-70 of the Child Protection Code (25)|
|Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment||N/A*|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service||Yes||18||Legislation title unknown (15, 27)|
|Compulsory Education Age||Yes||16||Article 23 of the Constitution of 2002 (16)|
|Free Public Education||Yes||Article 23 of the Constitution of 2002 (16)|
The Labor Code allows the Ministry of Education to issue waivers allowing the employment of a child under age 16 after consulting with a labor inspector and examining the type of work.(15, 24) Although ILO C.182 requires signatory countries to periodically review and revise their list of hazardous work for children, the Republic of the Congo's list of hazardous work dates back to Order 2224 of 1953. Research did not find a publically available version of this law.(6, 25) Additionally, Article 68 of the Child Protection Code only prohibits hazardous work for children under age 16. This means that children ages 17 to 18 may be legally employed in work that is likely to jeopardize their physical, mental, or moral health.(25)
The Government drafted a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in 2013 that is being considered by the Parliamentary Committee.(3) Article 60 of the Child Protection Code currently prohibits the recruitment, harboring, transportation, transfer, and receipt of victims of child trafficking. It also criminalizes child trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.(25)
The Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5).
|Ministry of Labor and Social Security||Enforce child labor laws and monitor officially registered businesses.(3)|
|National Police||Enforce criminal laws against child labor, forced labor, human trafficking, and the use of children in illicit activities.(3)|
|Ministry of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity (MSA)||Enforce laws related to child trafficking, and identify and provide social welfare assistance victims.(3) In the case of the MSA's Departmental Directorate of Social Affairs (DDAS), lead efforts to combat human trafficking in Pointe-Noire, including trafficking in persons for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.(13)|
|Ministry of Justice and Human Rights||Enforce criminal laws against the worst forms of child labor.(3)|
Law enforcement agencies in the Republic of the Congo took actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms.
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2014, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MOL) employed 12 full-time inspectors and an unknown number of part-time inspectors, a decrease from the 17 full-time and 11 part-time inspectors employed in 2013, which is insufficient to adequately enforce labor laws throughout the country.(3, 10) The inspectors did not receive any training in 2014, nor have they received any recent training specifically focused on child labor. The MOL received less funding in 2014 than in prior years, although the exact amount is not known.(3) Resources were limited and inspectors were not routinely reimbursed for travel-related expenses.(3, 29) Article 155 of the Labor Code permits unannounced visits, but inspections occurred infrequently, were typically carried out only in response to complaints, and were limited to the formal sector in urban areas although the Labor Code extends to the informal sector.(3, 4, 24) Inspectors have the ability to assess penalties according to Article 154 of the Labor Code, but it is not known how many penalties were assessed in 2014.(3, 24) There is no official referral mechanism between labor enforcement agencies and social welfare services. The Government also did not provide any information about the number of inspections carried out or the number of violations of child labor laws.(3)
Criminal Law Enforcement
The Ministry of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity (MSA), MOL, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and the National Police work together to enforce criminal laws against child labor. The MSA did not provide information regarding the number of investigators or its funding in 2014, although it noted that its funding had been significantly decreased since 2013 and was insufficient to adequately address the scope of the child labor problem.(3) Local police and National Police academies provide training for officers on identifying victims and perpetrators of human trafficking, as well as the arrest and prosecution of violators, using a procedures manual created by the MSA and UNICEF in 2011. In November, UNODC provided training to more than three dozen law enforcement, judicial personnel, and government officials on the draft anti-trafficking law.(13) However, the MOL noted that additional training is needed, since a limited understanding of the Child Protection Code among criminal law enforcement officials and judges continues to hinder enforcement.(1, 13)
There were no prosecutions during the reporting period, although investigators conducted at least four investigations related to child trafficking.(3, 10, 13) The MSA reported that five children had been rescued from child trafficking in 2014, at least three of whom had been repatriated or reunited with their families.(13) There were 10 cases pending against child traffickers in early 2014, but they were all released without prosecution and there were no convictions during the reporting period.(3) It is difficult to prosecute offenders because the high court that hears all child trafficking cases did not meet regularly during the reporting period. Thus, penalties for violating child labor laws may not serve as a sufficient deterrent to child labor.(1, 3) Moreover, falling oil prices have decreased the Government's budget, which depends greatly on oil revenue; so budgets for ministries responsible for child labor issues were diminished in 2014.(3, 13)
Although there was no formal referral mechanism, the National Police and the MSA coordinated with local NGOs when victims of child trafficking were identified. After victims were rescued, the Magistrate of Pointe-Noire worked with the Anti-Trafficking Coordinating Committee for Pointe-Noire to assign the victim to a foster family or to a children's shelter for care.(1, 13)
Although the Government has established a Task Force and Anti-Trafficking Coordinating Committee, research found no evidence of mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor, including all its worst forms (Table 6).
|Coordinating Body||Role & Description|
|MSA Task Force||Coordinate efforts to combat child trafficking, including training law enforcement, raising public awareness, and repatriating and reintegrating victims of child trafficking. Composed of the representatives of the MSA, other government agencies, the National Police, border patrol agents, and NGOs.(3, 10)|
|Anti-Trafficking Coordinating Committee for Pointe-Noire||Coordinate all anti-trafficking efforts in Pointe-Noire; comprising government representatives and civil society organizations.(30) In 2014, comprised representatives from the DDAS; the Social and Cultural Advisor to the mayor of Pointe-Noire; an Imam; and a representative from a local NGO that combats human trafficking.(13)|
Although the MSA continues to maintain its Task Force to combat child trafficking, it is in danger of being disbanded due to funding issues.(3) The Anti-Trafficking Coordinating Committee for Pointe-Noire received approximately $14,000 to fund its prevention and protection efforts, which is significantly less than the $69,000 it had received in 2013.(13) Weak interministerial coordination, reduced funding, and poor recordkeeping continue to challenge the Government's efforts to reduce child labor, including human trafficking.(10, 13) Research found no evidence of other mechanisms to coordinate the Government's efforts to address child labor, including its worst forms.
Research discovered that several members of the DDAS, who are members of the Anti-Trafficking Coordinating Committee for Pointe-Noire, were allegedly complicit in a child trafficking ring involving officials at the Consulate of Benin in Pointe-Noire and Government officials in Cotonou, Benin.(13) In at least four cases, DDAS officials were accused of conspiring with the Secretary General of the Consulate of Benin to place children rescued from situations of child trafficking with host families who are part of the original human trafficking network. In at least one instance, DDAS officials allegedly conspired to obtain a falsified passport from Cotonou for one of the children in order to disguise the victim as an adult and therefore deem the victim unprotected by the provisions of the Child Protection Law.(13)
The Government of the Republic of the Congo has established policies related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 7).
|National Action Plan to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons (2014-2017)†||Aims to establish a National Commission to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons; develop systems for monitoring and evaluation; strengthen the legal framework; and provide social services to victims of human trafficking.(31) Includes public awareness campaigns, training law enforcement officials, and improving enforcement activities related to child trafficking.(3)|
|National Development Plan (2012-2016)*||Develops core strategies to set national priorities for poverty reduction and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. As part of the strategy, aims to expand employment opportunities for youth; attain universal primary education by 2015; and reduce child mortality.(32, 33)|
* Child labor elimination and prevention strategies do not appear to have been integrated into this policy.
† Policy was approved during the reporting period.
Although the Government has adopted the National Action Plan to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons, research found no evidence of a policy on other worst forms of child labor.
In 2014, the Government of the Republic of the Congo funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms. The Government has other programs that may have an impact on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 8).
|Foster Families Program‡||MSA- and UNICEF-funded program that provides small stipends to foster families of child trafficking victims, with an annual budget of $100,000. Victims, regardless of national origin, are provided with medical care, shelter, and residency status while the Government tries to locate their relatives.(10, 13)|
|Awareness-Raising Activities‡||MSA program that provides training to community members and social workers on child trafficking issues and offers social assistance to victims of child trafficking. Also conducts anti-trafficking awareness-raising activities through television, banners, and public events.(3, 13)|
|Safety Net Program (LISUNGI)†‡||Government national safety net program that, in partnership with the World Bank, provides poor families with improved access to health and education services.(3) Includes a pilot cash transfer program to cover 5,000 households and an evaluation system to measure the change in situation for beneficiaries.(34, 35) Will receive a $15million contribution from the Government.(36)|
|Government School Feeding Program*‡||Funded by the Government of the Republic of the Congo and the U.S. Government's McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, and implemented by the International Partnership for Human Development to provide school lunches and reduce poverty-related dropouts. Will receive $9 million from the Government of the Republic of the Congo between 2012 and 2014, and will target approximately 215,000 students.(3, 10)|
|Cost Free Identity Document Policy*‡||Government-funded program that issues free birth certificates, citizenship, and nationality documents.(13)|
* The impact of this program on child labor does not appear to have been studied.
† Program was launched during the reporting period.
‡ Program is funded by the Government of the Republic of the Congo.
Although the Government has implemented programs to assist victims of child trafficking, research found no evidence that it has carried out programs to assist children engaged in forced labor in bakeries, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation. Additionally, current funding levels are not sufficient to address the scope of child labor, including its worst forms, in the Republic of the Congo; existing social programs will only be sustainable if the Government is able to maintain its funding commitments with its partners.(3, 10)
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, in the Republic of the Congo (Table 9).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Make the list of hazardous work prohibited to children publically available and ensure that all children under age 18 are prohibited from engaging in hazardous occupations or activities.||2009 2014|
|Enforcement||Strengthen enforcement of child labor laws by:
|Make information publicly available about the number of investigators employed, investigations conducted, violations found, and penalties assessed.||2010 2014|
|Establish a formal referral mechanism between law enforcement agencies and social welfare services.||2014|
|Coordination||Ensure coordinating bodies such as the MSA's Task Force and the Anti-Trafficking Coordinating Committee for Pointe-Noire have enough resources to function adequately.||2014|
|Establish a coordinating mechanism to combat all forms of child labor.||2009 2014|
|Investigate allegations of government officials who are involved in a child trafficking ring with officials at the Consulate of Benin in Pointe-Noire and ensure no Republic of the Congo officials are complicit in perpetuating the worst forms of child labor.||2014|
|Government Policies||Integrate child labor elimination and prevention strategies into the National Development Plan.||2009 2014|
|Adopt a policy that addresses all relevant worst forms of child labor, such as forced labor in bakeries, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation.||2013 2014|
|Social Programs||Conduct a national child labor survey or similar research to determine the activities carried out by working children to inform policies and programs.||2013 2014|
|Ensure all children have access to education by ensuring that:
|Assess the impact that existing programs may have on child labor.||2013 2014|
|Institute programs to address the worst forms of child labor such as forced labor in bakeries, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation.||2009 2014|
|Ensure budgetary resources are adequate to address the scope of child labor and child trafficking in the Republic of the Congo.||2012 2014|
2.Integrated Regional Information Networks. "BENIN-CONGO: Deal to stem child trafficking." IRINnews.org [online] September 21, 2011 [cited January 25, 2012]; http://www.irinnews.org/report/93784/benin-congo-deal-to-stem-child-trafficking.
6.ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Congo (ratification: 2002) Published: 2014; accessed March 29, 2014; http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.
7.Carter-Cone, M. "Child Trafficking: Looking at the Republic of the Congo Through an Open Lens." localozarks.com [online] May 20, 2012 [cited October 25, 2012]; http://localozarks.com/child-trafficking-looking-at-the-republic-of-the-congo-through-an-open-lens/.
8.UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total. [accessed February 10, 2014]; http://www.uis.unesco.org/Pages/default.aspx?SPSLanguage=EN. Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary school. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. For more information, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.
9.UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original data from Demographic and Health Survey, Analysis received February 13, 2014. Reliable statistical data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms. As a result, statistics on children's work in general are reported in this chart, which may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on sources used, the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.
14.ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Congo (ratification: 2002) Published: 2014; accessed January 23, 2015; http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.
17.Mbossa-Okandze, E. "Coopération Unicef-Congo : Visite de travail à Brazzaville de Manuel Fontaine, nouveau directeur régional." La Semaine Africaine, Brazzaville, September 27, 2013. http://www.lasemaineafricaine.net/index.php/national/6773-cooperation-unicef-congo-visite-de-travail-a-brazzaville-de-manuel-fontaine-nouveau-directeur-regional.
18.Anaya, J. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples: The situation of indigenous peoples in the Republic of the Congo. UN Human Rights Council; July 11, 2011. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/IPeoples/SR/A-HRC-18-35-Add5_en.pdf.
19.Amnesty International. Operation Mbata Ya Bakolo: Mass Expulsions of Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Congo. London; 2015. http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/congo_b_report_final_mbata_ya_operation.pdf.
20.De Solère Stintzy, E. "RDC Congo : Mbata ya bakolo, un retour fortement conseillé." Jeune Afrique, August 21, 2014. http://www.jeuneafrique.com/46654/politique/rdc-congo-mbata-ya-bakolo-un-retour-fortement-conseill/.
21.Chitera, P. "Beatings, rape and mass Congo deportation." Al Jazeera, Kinshasa, June 28, 2014. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/06/beatings-rape-mass-congo-deportation-2014623133336329944.html.
22.Kibangula, T. "Congo RDC : comprendre l'opération « Mbata ya bakolo » à Brazzaville en 10 questions." Jeune Afrique, May 5, 2014. http://www.jeuneafrique.com/163994/politique/congo-rdc-comprendre-l-op-ration-mbata-ya-bakolo-brazzaville-en-10-questions/.
25.Government of the Republic of the Congo. Law No. 4- 2010 of 14 June 2010 for the protection of the Child- Republic of the Congo, enacted June 14, 2010.
29.ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81) Congo (ratification: 1999) Published: 2014; accessed January 23, 2015; http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.
32.IMF. "Book 1: Growth, Employment and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper," in Republic of Congo: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, National Development Plan 2012 2016. Washington, DC; 2012; http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2012/cr12242.pdf.
33.IMF. "Book 3: Macroeconomic and Budgetary-Financing Framework of the Strategy," in Republic of Congo: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, National Development Plan 2012 2016. Washington, DC; 2012; [source on file].
34.Pana. "Projet Lisungi cofinancé par le Congo Brazzaville et la Banque mondiale." Le Tam Tam, January 16, 2015. http://letamtam-media.info/2015/01/16/projet-lisungi-cofinance-par-le-congo-brazzaville-et-la-banque-mondiale/.
35.Douniama, PW. "Lutte contre la pauvreté: lancement de la campagne d'identification des ménages éligibles au projet Lisungi." adiac-congo.com [online] January 12, 2014 [cited January 23, 2015]; http://www.adiac-congo.com/print/content/lutte-contre-la-pauvrete-lancement-de-la-campagne-didentification-des-menages-eligibles-au.
36.The World Bank. WB to Help Republic of Congo set up National Safety Net System to Benefit the Poorest Households. Press Release. Washington, DC; January 29, 2014. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/01/29/wb-republic-congo-national-safety-net-system-households.
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