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São Tomé and Príncipe

2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Minimal Advancement

In 2013, São Tomé and Príncipe made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Government agencies developed a list of hazardous activities along with a plan of action to raise awareness on the worst forms of child labor; however the plan is still under review. Children in São Tomé and Príncipe are engaged in child labor in domestic service and street work. The Government continued to fund social programs for families with vulnerable children, but current government programs do not target all sectors in which child labor occurs.

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I. Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of Child Labor

Children in São Tomé and Príncipe engage in child labor in domestic service and in street work.(1-8) Table 1 provides key indicators on children's work and education in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Table 1. Statistics on Children's Work and Education
Working children, ages 5 to 14 (% and population) : 15.4 (6,218)
School attendance, ages 5 to 14 (%): 68.8
Children combining work and school, ages 7 to 14 (%): 13.7
Primary completion rate (%): 104.0

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2013, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2014. (9)
Source for all other data: Understanding Children's Work Project's analysis of statistics from Multiple Cluster Survey 2, 2000. (10)

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 Activities unknown* (8)
Fishing,* activities unknown (1, 8)
Industry Carpentry, woodworking (1, 2, 8)
Services Domestic service (1-8)
Street work, including begging (1-3, 8)
Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡ Commercial sexual exploitation* (11)

*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.

On the island of São Tomé, some children who work in domestic service are as part of a Mina Quía, the cultural practice of sending a child to work in another family's home. Limited evidence suggests that many children who work in a Mina Quía are victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.(8) However, many children still attend school while in a Mina Quía.(8)



II. Legal Framework for the Worst Forms of Child Labor

São Tomé and Príncipe has ratified most 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 14 Law on Individual Labor Contracts; Law 6/92 (8, 12)
Minimum Age for Hazardous Work Yes 18 Law on Individual Labor Contracts, Law 6/92 (8, 12)
List of Hazardous Occupations Prohibited for Children No    
Prohibition of Forced Labor Yes   Constitution; Penal Code (3, 13-15)
Prohibition of Child Trafficking Yes   Penal Code (15)
Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children No   Penal Code (15)
Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities Yes   Penal Code (15)
Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment N/A*    
Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service Yes 17 Constitution (16, 17)
Compulsory Education Age Yes 15 Basic Education System Law (6, 7)
Free Public Education Yes   Constitution; Basic Education System Law (8, 13)

*No conscription or no standing military.

The Government does not have a hazardous list of occupations; however, during 2012-2013, a government team developed a list of hazardous activities along with a plan of action to raise awareness on the worst forms of child labor. The Government is reviewing this proposed list and continues to work towards final approval.(18)

The Penal Code does not protect children ages 14 to 18 from commercial sexual exploitation.(11, 16, 19) It does prohibit a person from engaging in a sexual act with a child younger than 14 as well as directing a child younger than 14 to engage in a sexual act.(14) The Penal Code also explicitly penalizes engaging in or facilitating sexual acts with a child under 14 for profit or gain.(14)

While the compulsory education age in São Tomé and Príncipe is 15 years old, limited evidence suggests that some schools do not provide education through grade six.(11) Children who stop attending school before reaching the minimum age for employment are especially vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, as they are not in school but may not legally work either.



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
Ministry of Health and Social Affairs' Department of Labor Inspection (MSSA) Enforce labor laws, including those regarding child labor; members are from other government agencies, including immigration officials, the police, tax administration officials, social workers, and members of the social security administration.(1, 5-7) Department of Labor Inspection receives complaints about regarding the worst forms of child labor.(5)
Ministry of Justice and Public Administration Affairs Enforce criminal laws related to the worst forms of child labor.(6, 7)
Immigration, Police, Tax Administration, Social Work, Social Security, and others Address child labor issues in ad hoc inspections teams from listed agencies.(18)

In 2013, research could not determine whether law enforcement agencies in São Tomé and Príncipe took actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms.

Limited evidence suggests that coordination between the Department of Labor Inspection and other agencies is a significant challenge in São Tomé and Príncipe; however, there is a referral system for children to the Department of Social Services within the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (MSSA).(18)

Labor Law Enforcement

The Department of Labor Inspection forms ad hoc teams for labor exploitation cases. The teams include 15 labor inspectors who work throughout the country.(18, 20) During the reporting period, no inspections were carried out involving child labor, and no complaints of child labor were received.(18)

In 2013, the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration Reforms received a budget of $15.3 million; however, it is unknown how much of the budget was allocated for investigations.(18) The MSSA lacks basic equipment for conducting inspections and daily operations; it is housed in a single office, has outdated and malfunctioning computers, and does not have a vehicle.(5, 7)

Criminal Law Enforcement

No cases of child labor were found during the reporting period, therefore no penalties or citations were issued.(18)



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

The Government has established mechanisms 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
Directorate of Social Protection and Solidarity Carry out support programs for families to ensure children attend school and administer the Deprived Mothers program ( Mães Carenciadas). Currently working on a draft of worst forms of child labor list.(8)

As of 2012 the Government was working to form a tripartite committee to combat child labor; however, it is unknown if this committee has been formed. In 2013, the Government organized workshops and seminars to raise awareness and coordinated efforts to advance a list of the worst forms of child labor.(21) A delegation from São Tomé and Príncipe led by the Minister of Health and Social Affairs and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, and NGOs participated in the third Global Conference on Child Labor in Brazil.(18)



V. Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of São Tomé and Príncipe has established policies related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 7).

Table 7. Policies Related to Child Labor
Policy Description
National Action Plan and List of Worst Forms of Child Labor (TIP) Includes a regulatory framework with public policies aimed at the eradication of child labor. Created from São Tomé and Príncipe 's South-South partnership with Brazil and the United States.(22) The National Action Plan and List of Worst Forms of Child Labor are currently awaiting approval and have not yet been implemented.(21)
Community of Portuguese-Speaking countries (PALOP) São Tomé and Príncipe and other members of the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries have approved four target areas in which they will focus their efforts to combat child labor: the exchange of information and experiences, awareness-raising campaigns, use of statistical methodologies to collect child labor data, and technical cooperation and training.(23-25)



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

In 2013, the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe funded and 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
Centers that provide shelter, education, and skills training*‡ Government-run centers with land, buildings, social work staff, and school stipends for approximately 250 at-risk children, including street children and orphans.(5-7, 26)
Disadvantaged Mothers Program (Mães Carenciadas)*‡ Government program that provides microcredit loans to families in need. Also offers subsidies for children of mothers who are heads of household to attend school up until 15 years of age, the compulsory age for basic education in São Tomé and Príncipe.(8)
XIV Government Program (Programa do XIV Governo)* Government program that seeks to provide more training and educational opportunities, improve the quality of education, provide infrastructure for education and provide technical and professional training, all in basic and secondary education.(8)
Education for All Program*‡ Government program includes comprehensive data collection to better understand the current state of education in the country, teacher training, and a campaign to sensitize parents to the importance of education.(27)
Program for low-income families*‡ Program funded by UNICEF and the Governments of São Tomé and Príncipe to help poor mothers and help low-income families keep their children in school.(28)
Registry to document undocumented minors‡ Ministry of Justice and State Reform and UNICEF campaign to create a registry to document undocumented minors, allowing further inspection by the General Inspection of Labor in cases of child labor.(8)
Media campaign Government media campaign against child labor, which continued throughout the reporting period.(3)

*The impact of this program on child labor does not appear to have been studied.
‡Program is funded by the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe

The Government does not have programs that specifically target children domestic service and street work.



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 São Tomé and Príncipe (Table 9).

Table 9. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including Its Worst Forms
Area Suggested Action Year(s) Suggested
Laws Approve the draft list of hazardous occupations in which children younger than age 18 are prohibited from working. 2009 - 2013
Amend the law to protect all children younger than age 18 from commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography. 2009 - 2013
Enforcement Address the resource needs of the MSSA to effectively conduct inspections and enforce child labor laws. 2009 - 2013
Coordination Establish the tripartite committee to combat child labor to coordinate government efforts to combat the worst forms of child labor. 2010 - 2013
Government Policies Adopt the National Action Plan and List of Worst Forms of Child Labor to address the worst forms of child labor, particularly for children working in agriculture, domestic service, and commercial sexual exploitation. 2009 - 2013
Social Programs Assess the impact of existing education programs and programs for low-income families on child labor. 2011 - 2013
Ensure all children have access to schools. 2010 - 2013
Conduct research to determine the activities carried out by children in agriculture, to inform policies and programs. 2013
Develop new and expand existing programs to reach more children in the worst forms of child labor, particularly those in domestic service and street work. 2009 - 2013



1. U.S. Embassy- Libreville. reporting, March 12, 2010.

2. Reis, C. "Trabalho infantil começa a ser cada vez mais frequente em São Tomé e Príncipe." ionline.pt [online] June 16, 2010 [cited February 3, 2012]; http://www1.ionline.pt/conteudo/64787-trabalho-infantil-comeca-ser-cada-vez-mais-frequente-em-sao-tome-e-principe.

3. U.S. Department of State. "São Tomé and Príncipe," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2013. Washington, DC; February 27, 2014; http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220151.

4. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) São Tomé and Príncipe (ratification: 2005) Submitted: 2013 ; accessed January 14, 2014; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:13201:0::NO:13201:P13201_COUNTRY_ID:103341.

5. U.S. Embassy- Libreville. reporting, March 30, 2011.

6. U.S. Embassy- Libreville. reporting, January 19, 2012.

7. U.S. Embassy- Libreville. reporting, January 23, 2013.

8. IPEC-CPLP. Estudo sobre a aplicação das Convenções n. 138 e n. 182 da OIT e suas recomendações na legislação nacional dos países da CPLP . Geneva; 2013. http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Informationresources/WCMS_222484/lang--en/index.htm.

9. 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.

10. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original data from Multiple Cluster Survey 2, 2000. 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.

11. Childs Rights Information Network. São Tomé and Príncipe: Children's Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review. Geneva, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; January 31, 2011. http://ftp.crin.org/resources/infoDetail.asp?ID=23920&flag=report#.

12. Government of São Tomé and Príncipe. Regime Jurídico das Condições Individuais de Trabalho , enacted June 11, 1992. http://www.legis-palop.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=62&Itemid=76&limitstart=10.

13. Government of São Tomé and Príncipe. Constitução da República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe , enacted January 25, 2003. http://www.gov.st/data/filestorage/docs/constistp.pdf.

14. U.S. Embassy- Libreville official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 12, 2013.

15. Government of São Tomé and Príncipe. São Tomé and Príncipe Penal Code Law 6/2012, enacted November 6, 2012.

16. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (no. 182) São Tomé and Príncipe (ratification: 2005) Submitted: 2013 ; accessed January 14, 2014; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:13201:0::NO:13201:P13201_COUNTRY_ID:103341.

17. Child Soldiers International. "Appendix II: Data Summary Table on Recruitment Ages of National Armies," in Louder Than Words: An Agenda for Action to End State Use of Child Soldiers. London, UK; 2012; http://www.child-soldiers.org/global_report_reader.php?id=562.

18. U.S. Embassy- Libreville. reporting, February 13, 2014.

19. UN OHCHR. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: São Tomé and Príncipe. Geneva; March 16, 2011. Report No. A/HRC/17/13. http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/17/13&Lang=E.

20. U.S. Embassy- Libreville official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. July 14, 2011.

21. U.S. Department of State. E-mail communication to USDOL Official. May 22, 2014.

22. Sarres, C. "Brasil colabora com São Tomé e Príncipe em plano de combate ao trabalho infantil." agenciabrasil.ebc.com [online] October 10, 2013 [cited January 14, 2014]; http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/noticia/2013-10-10/brasil-colabora-com-sao-tome-e-principe-em-plano-de-combate-ao-trabalho-infantil.

23. Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. Declaração de Luanda . Luanda, Ministras e os Ministros do Trabalho e dos Assuntos Sociais dos Países da Comunidade de Língua Portuguesa; March 29, 2011. http://www.cplp.org/id-2281.aspx.

24. Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. Resolução sobre a Prevenção e a Eliminação da Exploração do Trabalho Infantil na CPLP . Luanda; March 29, 2011. http://www.cplp.org/Default.aspx?ID=2281.

25. Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. II Reunião de pontos focais para área do Trabalho Infantil da CPLP. Maputo; October 28, 2010. http://www.cplp.org/Default.aspx?ID=2281.

26. U.S. Embassy- Libreville. reporting, March 10, 2011.

27. ILO-IPEC. Supporting Actions to Meet the 2015 Targets to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Lusophone Countries in Africa. Technical Progress Report. Geneva; October 2011.

28. U.S. Embassy- Libreville official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 21, 2012.

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