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Papua New Guinea

2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Minimal Advancement

In 2013, Papua New Guinea made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government and six provincial governments committed to establish Provincial Child Labor Committees to combat child labor at the local level. In July 2013, Parliament passed the People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Act; however, the Act has not yet come into force. Children in Papua New Guinea continue to engage in the worst forms of child labor, particularly in forced domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation. Papua New Guinea does not have a comprehensive list of hazardous occupations from which children are prohibited. Additionally, Papua New Guinea's child labor laws are not effectively enforced, and the lack of compulsory education may increase the risk of children's involvement in the worst forms of child labor.

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I. Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of Child Labor

Children in Papua New Guinea are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, particularly in forced domestic service and in commercial sexual exploitation.(1-6) Data on key indicators on children's work and education are not available from the sources used in this report.

Table 1. Statistics on Children's Work and Education
Working children, ages 5 to 14: Unavailable
School attendance, ages 5 to 14 (%): Unavailable
Children combining work and school, ages 7 to 14 (%): Unavailable
Primary completion rate (%): Unavailable

Source for primary completion rate: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2014. (7)
Source for all other data: Understanding Children's Work Project's analysis, 2014. (8)

Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.

Table 2. Overview of Children's Work by Sector and Activity
Sector/Industry Activity
Agriculture Working on tea,* coffee,* cocoa,* copra,* oil palm,* and rubber plantations* (1, 2, 9, 10)
Services Domestic service (2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11-13)
Street work, vending, chopping firewood for sale, moving furniture, loading and unloading boxes from containers, carrying heavy bags of food, scavenging for scrap metal, begging (1-3, 5, 10, 14, 15)
Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡ Commercial sexual exploitation, including working in bars and night clubs, brothels, and pornography, sometimes as a result of trafficking (2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 13)
Unspecified forced labor as a result of trafficking* (2, 3, 10)
Forced domestic service (2, 3, 5, 6, 11-13)

*Evidence of this activity is limited and/or 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.

A number of children in urban areas, such as Mount Hagen, work as porters for market taxis and carry extremely heavy loads. Children living in informal settlements on the outskirts of Port Moresby, who have been orphaned by AIDS or abandoned by their families, are particularly vulnerable to this type of employment.(10, 16-18)

Some children working in domestic service are held in indentured servitude in order to pay off family debts.(2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 14) These children work long hours, lack freedom of mobility, do not have access to medical treatment, and do not attend school.(14)

Limited evidence suggests that members of the Papua New Guinea police are responsible for committing acts of sexual violence against children, and for facilitating trafficking by accepting bribes and ignoring victims forced into commercial sexual exploitation or labor.(2-4, 10, 14, 19, 20) There are reports that the threat of sexual violence against young girls, and the shame and stigma that follows this violence, prevents many girls from attending school.(10, 21)



II. Legal Framework for the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Papua New Guinea has ratified some key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).

Table 3. Ratification of International Conventions on Child Labor
Convention Ratification
ILO C. 138, Minimum Age
ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor
UN CRC
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 relevant laws and regulations related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 4).

Table 4. Laws and Regulations Related to Child Labor
Standard Yes/No Age Related Legislation
Minimum Age for Work Yes 16 Article 103 of Employment Act (22)
Minimum Age for Hazardous Work Yes 16 Articles 103 and 104 of Employment Act, Article 6 of Lukautim Pikinini (Child) Act (22)
List of Hazardous Occupations Prohibited for Children No    
Prohibition of Forced Labor Yes   Article 43 of Constitution, Criminal Code (23, 24)
Prohibition of Child Trafficking No    
Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Yes   Criminal Code, Sexual Offenses and Crimes Against Children Act (23)
Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities No    
Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment N/A*    
Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service Yes 16 Defence Act (25)
Compulsory Education Age No    
Free Public Education No    

*No conscription or no standing military.

The minimum age for hazardous work in Papua New Guinea is inconsistent with ILO C. 182, which states that hazardous work by children under the age of 18 should be prohibited. There is no comprehensive list of hazardous work from which children are prohibited, but the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) has been developing one since late 2012 for inclusion in amendments to the Employment Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.(2, 4, 10, 12, 14, 15). In addition, DLIR drafted a set of regulations called the National Common Rule, which would cover child labor issues. However, the Government has yet to enact any of this legislation.(10) There is a lack of harmony among existing laws and policies on protections against hazardous child labor. For example, the Child Act prohibits and sets penalties for the engagement of a child (defined as a person under age 18) in "harmful child labor," which includes hazardous work; however, the Employment Act does not prohibit injurious work by 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds.(10) The Child Welfare Act prohibits street trading by children of any age between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., or at any time on a Sunday.(26)

Papua New Guinea does not have legislative provisions for offenses committed against children for the purpose of labor exploitation; laws that explicitly forbid the sale and trafficking of children; or legal instruments that prohibit the use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production and trafficking of drugs.(3, 11, 12, 14, 27, 28) In July 2013, Parliament passed the People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Act. Once enacted, the law will criminalize smuggling and trafficking in persons, provide assistance and protection for victims, and augment penalties for smugglers and traffickers such as increased imprisonment for offenses that involve children under the age of 18 years.(20, 29). The law will not come into force until it has been certified by the Speaker of Parliament and endorsed by the Governor General.(20)

Although free education through grade 10 has been Government policy since 2011, and was extended through grade 12 the following year, it is not guaranteed by law; in practice, many schools charged fees for books, uniforms, and other supplies.(10, 24, 30-32) Education is not compulsory, which makes children especially vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, as they are not required to be in school nor are they allowed to legally work until they are age 16.(4, 15)



III. Enforcement of Laws on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5).

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement
Organization/Agency Role
Department of Labor and Industrialized Relations (DLIR) Implement and enforce child labor laws. Approximately 30 labor inspectors cover child labor in addition to other labor law violations.(10)
Department of Religion, Youth, and Community Development (DRYC) Enforce the Lukautim Pikinini (Child) Act of 2009.(10)
Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Sexual Offenses Squad Enforce laws against commercial sexual exploitation of children and use of children in illicit activities.(10)

Law enforcement agencies in Papua New Guinea took actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms.

Labor Law Enforcement

The DLIR Child Labor Unit announced by the Government in 2012 had not yet been established. There were approximately 30 labor inspectors, but according to international observers, this was not enough to enforce child labor laws effectively.(10) No child labor inspections or complaints were pursued. Research did not uncover information on funding or training for any of the relevant agencies during the reporting period.(10) DLIR participated in an effort to raise awareness on child labor at the provincial level of government by explaining DLIR's ongoing internal initiatives on labor law and enforcement reform. DLIR circulated its draft Child Labor Inspection Form and Child Labor Referral Form for piloting by provincial officials.(33)

Criminal Law Enforcement

There were no prosecutions or convictions of the worst forms of child labor.(10) Through support and funding from IOM, the Government conducted three regional trainings for law enforcement personnel on trafficking in persons.(20) In January 2014, the Government opened an investigation into a possible child trafficking case regarding two girls in a rural village who were unwillingly given in marriage as recompense to the family of a deceased teacher.(20)

Both the ILO Committee of Experts and senior staff at the Department of Religion, Youth, and Community Development have noted that enforcement is ineffective because of inadequate resources and cultural acceptance of child labor.(12, 14, 16, 20, 26) Inadequate technical capacity and coordination among enforcement agencies constitute additional obstacles to effective enforcement.(1, 4, 10, 26)



IV. Coordination of Government Efforts on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government has established a mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address child labor, including its worst forms (Table 6).

Table 6. Mechanisms to Coordinate Government Efforts on Child Labor
Coordinating Body Role & Description
National Human Trafficking Committee (NHTC) Coordinate efforts to combat trafficking in persons. Members include the Office of the Prime Minister and NEC, Department for National Planning and Monitoring, Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority, Customs, Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, DLIR, Office of the Public Prosecutor, National Council of Women, Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council, State Solicitor, Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs, Department for Community Development, Salvation Army, City Mission/Haus Ruth, Anglicare, Save the Children, World Vision, IOM, UNHCR, UNHCHR, UNICEF, UN Women, and U.S. Embassy Port Moresby.(20)

During the reporting period, the NHTC coordinated logistics for an anti-trafficking seminar that brought together officials from seven government agencies.

Although the Government has established a human trafficking coordinating body, research found no evidence of a mechanism to combat child labor in all of its worst forms. In 2013, the DLIR Child Labor Desk that was to have been established in 2012 to liaise among the relevant agencies was not yet in place.(10) The DLIR chaired a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) on Child Labor for the regional TACKLE child labor project that ended in 2013. As of 2012, DLIR had endorsed the establishment of a new permanent, interagency committee on child labor, but research found no evidence that the Secretary of DLIR has signed the endorsement.(4, 10)



V. Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Papua New Guinea has established policies related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 7).

Table 7. Policies Related to Child Labor
Policy Description
Universal Basic Education Plan 2010-2019* Aims to ensure that all children complete nine years of basic, quality education from age 6; to reduce poverty through education; and to build Government capacity to manage education.(31) Key objectives include building infrastructure, including more classrooms and staff housing and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities at school; providing teacher training; providing over-age children access to basic education; and abolishing all school fees by 2015. Plan also includes a goal that the Government will fully fund basic education by 2015.(31, 34, 35)
Vision 2050* Sets a long-term strategy for Papua New Guinea's socioeconomic development. Pillars of the plan include "Human Capital Development, Gender, Youth, and People Empowerment".(36) Prioritizes education access, knowledge and technology growth, community empowerment, access to credit, bringing more people into the formal economy, and equitable development in rural areas where poverty is highest.(36)
Medium Term Development Strategy 2011-2015* Establishes a 5-year plan for development, in line with Vision 2050, and including budgets, targets and outputs.(37) Plan designates responsible authorities for implementation. Education and public utility infrastructure improvements given highest priority.(37)

*The impact of this policy on child labor does not appear to have been studied.

There is no overall policy to combat child labor. The National Action Plan on Child Labor (NAP) has been in draft form since 2012. Reportedly, DLIR was finalizing the NAP to submit for Parliamentary approval in early 2014.(4, 10)



VI. Social Programs to Address the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2013, the Government of Papua New Guinea participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms (Table 8).

Table 8. Social Programs to Address Child Labor
Program Description
Decent Work Country Programme 2013-2015† Implemented by the Government, the Trade Union Congress, and the Employers' Federation through technical assistance from the ILO and cooperation with the Australian Government. Seeks to establish a national employment strategy. Explicitly recognizes the relationship between education and child labor, and prioritizes youth employment services.(38) Concrete measures to be taken include finalizing child labor provisions in the draft Employment Bill and drafting a hazardous work list and the formalization of the Child Labor Unit in DLIR.(38) Key youth employment initiative is to provide business training to out-of-school youth, particularly those who are marginalized or disabled. During the reporting period, the Decent Work strategy paper was finalized.(38)
Global Action Program on Child Labor Issues Project USDOL-funded project implemented by the ILO in approximately 40 countries to support the priorities of the Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor by 2016. Established by the Hague Global Child Labor Conference in 2010. Aims to strengthen legal protections and social service delivery for child domestic workers. In 2013, the project disseminated awareness-raising materials and a global report on child domestic workers on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labor.(39)
Tackling Child Labor through Education (TACKLE) project Jointly launched by the European Commission and the ILO to combat child labor through education in 12 African and the Caribbean countries and the Pacific group of states (ACP). (40) Aims to improve government capacity to implement and enforce child labor laws and policy, and to work with social partners and civil society towards these goals.(41) Closed in Papua New Guinea in August 2013 after 6 years of activity. During the reporting period, the project visited six provinces in Papua New Guinea to raise awareness on child labor, provide technical assistance, get input for a national hazardous work list, and raise awareness on draft legislation on child labor.(33) DLIR and six provincial governments committed to establish Provincial Child Labor Committees to combat child labor at the local level.(33) Under TACKLE, the NGOs Mercy Works (in partnership with the Government) and the Young Women's Christian Association implemented direct action programs to empower children working in the markets and living in the informal settlements.(18)
Urban Youth Employment Project* Partially Government-funded World Bank project to provide training, temporary jobs, and skill development through apprenticeships in a variety of fields and 2-year placements on public works projects. Project targets 13,500 disadvantaged youth in and around Port Moresby.(42) In 2013, 250 youths received pre-employment training and about 50 percent of those were placed in trainee positions; to-date, 1300 youths have received basic life skills training.(42)

*The impact of this program on child labor does not appear to have been studied.
†Program was launched during the reporting period.

Although the Government has implemented programs in domestic service and among communities vulnerable to street work, research found no evidence that it has carried out programs to assist children in commercial sexual exploitation or agricultural labor.



VII. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, in Papua New Guinea (Table 9).

Table 9. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including Its Worst Forms
Area Suggested Action Year(s) Suggested
Laws Adopt a comprehensive list of hazardous work from which children under age 18 are prohibited. 2009 - 2013
Reform child labor legislation to conform to international child labor conventions, including by raising the minimum age for hazardous work to 18, and expanding the law to prohibit the abduction, kidnapping, or procurement of children for the purpose of labor exploitation. 2011 - 2013
Enact the People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Act. 2011 - 2013
Establish a compulsory school age for all children that is equivalent to or greater than the minimum age for work. 2009 - 2013
Harmonize laws and policies on protections against hazardous child labor. 2013
Enforcement Provide inspectors with the authority, training, and resources to enforce labor laws and other laws required to protect children from the worst forms of child labor. 2009 - 2013
Coordination Establish a coordinating mechanism to combat all the worst forms of child labor, in addition to the NHTC's coordination of efforts to combat human trafficking. 2009 - 2013
Government Policies Finalize and implement the draft National Action Plan to Eliminate Child Labor. 2009 - 2013
Assess the impact that existing policies may have on child labor. 2013
Social Programs Institute programs that address the worst forms of child labor, with a particular focus on children engaged in commercial sexual exploitation and agricultural work. 2010 - 2013
Assess the impact that the Urban Youth Employment Project may have on child labor in Papua New Guinea. 2013



1. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, February 14, 2011.

2. ILO-IPEC. Child Labour in Papua New Guinea: Report on the rapid assessment in Port Moresby on commercial sexual exploitation of children and children working on the streets . Geneva; 2011. http://www.ilo.org/suva/what-we-do/publications/WCMS_178379/lang--en/index.htm.

3. U.S. Department of State. "Papua New Guinea," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2012. Washington, DC; June 19, 2012; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/192597.pdf.

4. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, February 15, 2013.

5. U.S. Department of State. "Papua New Guinea," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2012. Washington, DC; April 19, 2013; http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper.

6. U.S. Department of State. "Papua New Guinea," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2011. Washington, DC; May 24, 2012; http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=186299.

7. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total. [accessed February 4, 2013]; 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.

8. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. 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 inicators used in this report, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

9. Child Labor Information Bank. Child Labor by Industry or Occupation: Papua New Guinea; accessed January 15, 2013; http://www.endchildlabor.org/db_infoBank.cfm.

10. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, January 16, 2014.

11. ITUC. Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Papua New Guinea. Geneva; November 18, 2010. http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/report_PNG-final.pdf.

12. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Papua New Guinea (ratification: 2000) Published: 2011 ; accessed January 11, 2012; http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.

13. ILO Committee of Experts. Observation on the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Papua New Guinea (ratification: 2000) Published: 2014; accessed http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.

14. ILO Committee of Experts. Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Papua New Guinea (ratification: 2000) Published: 2012; accessed http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.

15. ILO Committee of Experts. Observation Regarding Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Papua New Guinea (ratification: 2000) Published: 2014; accessed http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.

16. Wilson, C. "Poverty Drives Child Labour." Inter Press Service, Port Moresby, July 17, 2012. http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/poverty-drives-child-labour/.

17. U.S. Department of State. "Papua New Guinea," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2013. Washington, DC; 2014;

18. ILO-IPEC. Summary of KRA3 - Action Programmes in Papua New Guinea. Geneva; July 2-3, 2013.

19. Human Rights Watch. "Papua New Guinea," in World Report- 2012. Washington, DC; January 12, 2012; http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012.

20. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, January 21, 2014.

21. International Regional Information Networks. "Papua New Guinea: Sexual violence forcing girls out of school." IRINnews.org [online] April 6, 2012 [cited January 15, 2013]; http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95249/PAPUA-NEW-GUINEA-Sexual-violence-forcing-girls-out-of-school.

22. Government of Papua New Guinea. Employment Act, enacted 1978.

23. Government of Papua New Guinea. Criminal Code Act 1974, No. 262 of 9999, enacted 2002.

24. Government of Papua New Guinea. Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, enacted 1975. http://www.paclii.org/pg/legis/consol_act/cotisopng534/.

25. Child Soldiers International. Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers. Oxford, United Kingdom; 2012. www.child-soldiers.org.

26. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 26, 2010.

27. U.S. Department of State. "Papua New Guinea," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2011. Washington, DC; June 27, 2011; http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2011/164233.htm.

28. U.S. Department of State. "Papua New Guinea," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2013. Washington, DC; 2013;

29. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby. reporting, February 16, 2012.

30. Government of Papua New Guinea. Lukautim Pikinini (Child) Bill, enacted April 2010.

31. Ministry of Education National Executive Council. Achieving Universal Education for a Better Future: Universal Basic Education Plan 2010-2019. Port Moresby; December 2009. https:// www.globalpartnership.org/content/papua-new-guinea-universal-basic-education-plan-2010-2019.

32. U.S. Embassy- Port Moresby official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 21, 2014.

33. ILO-IPEC. Snap shot of the Joint Child Labour/Common Rule Roadshow 03 April - 03 May 2013. Geneva; May 20, 2013. http://www.ilo.org/suva/what-we-do/publications/WCMS_213633/lang--en/index.htm.

34. UNICEF. Papua New Guinea Overview: Country Programme, UNICEF, [online] [cited March 14, 2014]; http://www.unicef.org/png/overview.

35. UNICEF East Asia & Pacific. Moving Towards Universal Primary Education in Papua New Guinea UNICEF, [online] [cited March 13, 2014]; http://www.unicef.org/eapro/media_5982.html.

36. Government of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea Vision 2050. National Strategic Plan Taskforce. Port Moresby; 2011. http://www.treasury.gov.pg/html/publications/files/pub_files/2011/2011.png.vision.2050.pdf.

37. Government of Papua New Guinea. Medium Term Development Plan 2011-2015: Building the Foundations for Prosperity. Port Moresby; 2011. http://www.treasury.gov.pg/html/publications/files/pub_files/2011/2011-2015.png.mtdp.pdf.

38. ILO. Papua New Guinea Decent Work Country Programme. Geneva; December 2013. http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/program/dwcp/download/png.pdf.

39. ILO-IPEC. Global Action Program on Child Labor Issues. Technical Progress Report. Geneva; October 2013.

40. ILO-IPEC. Tackling Child Labor Through Education in African, Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP) States, ILO, [online] [cited March 12, 2014]; http://www.ilo.org/ipec/projects/global/tackle/lang--en/index.htm.

41. ILO. The Tackle Project, Tackling Child Labour through Education. Project Brief. Brussels; June 2011. http://www.ilo.org/brussels/key-documents/WCMS_169293/lang--en/index.htm.

42. World Bank. Papua New Guinea: Urban Youth Employment Project, World Bank, [online] August 11, 2013 [cited March 14, 2014]; http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/08/12/papua-new-guinea-urban-youth-employment-project.

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