Skip to page content
Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Bookmark and Share


Download the Report
Download a PDF of the Zimbabwe report.

English (PDF)

2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2012, Zimbabwe made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Zimbabwe ratified the CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and released a Child Labor Survey Report. Zimbabwe maintained large-scale social programs, including Phase II of the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the Basic Education Assistance Model Program. However, the Government has not sufficiently funded these efforts. In addition, Zimbabwe continues to lack specific social programs targeting sectors in which the worst forms of child labor are most prevalent. Education is not compulsory or free, which may increase children's vulnerability. Children continue to engage in the worst forms of labor, particularly in hazardous activities in agriculture and in mining.


Learn More: Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor | Previous Reports:

Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Children in Zimbabwe are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, primarily in hazardous activities in agriculture and in mining.(3-8) Although evidence is limited, some children reportedly work in the production of tea, cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane. A Government survey in Zimbabwe stated that children working in agriculture may be exposed to toxic chemicals, use dangerous machinery and tools, lack protective gear, and carry heavy loads.(3, 4, 6, 8-10) While evidence is limited, it is reported that children in Zimbabwe also work in cattle herding.(3, 8) Children herding livestock may suffer injuries such as being bitten, butted, gored, or trampled by animals.(11, 12) In addition, there are isolated reports of children engaged in cattle herding being exposed to sexual abuse.(3)

Although information is limited, there are reports of children working in gold, chrome, and tin mines, and extracting material from underground passages and quarries.(3, 5-7, 13) Children engaged in mining work long hours and use dangerous chemicals, such as mercury, cyanide, and explosives.(3, 4, 13)

While information is limited, children are also reported to be involved in fishing and fishing-related activities.(3, 10, 14) Children in fishing may work long hours, perform physically demanding tasks, and face dangers such as drowning.(15, 16)

According to the UNICEF, approximately 100,000 of Zimbabwe's 1.3 million orphans survive on their own in child-headed households. There are reports of children working on the streets, but specific information on hazards is unknown.(3, 4, 7, 8, 17) Although information is limited, there are also reports that children living on the streets engage in illicit activities, such as drug smuggling, gambling, and commercial sexual exploitation.(3, 4, 18, 19)

Children are trafficked within Zimbabwe and to border towns and neighboring countries in which they are forced to work in agriculture and domestic service and to engage in commercial sexual exploitation.(18, 19) Children working as domestic servants may work long hours, without any days off, and are at risk of harassment and sexual abuse.(4) There are reports of Zimbabwean children being sexually exploited by taxi and truck drivers in exchange for transportation to and across unofficial border crossings with South Africa.(18, 20)

Laws and Regulations on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Labour Relations Act of 2002 sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years.(3, 21) However, children ages 13 to 15 may work as apprentices or perform work in a school or a technical or vocational institution.(3, 4, 21) The Labour Relations Act prohibits employers from hiring a person younger than age 18 to perform hazardous work, which is defined as any work likely to jeopardize that person's health, safety, or morals.(3, 21) Hazardous work is also defined in the Children's Protection and Adoption Amendment Act of 2001 (Adoption Act) as any work that jeopardizes or interferes with the education of a child. According to the Adoption Act, hazardous work involves contact with hazardous substances; underground mining; exposure to extreme heat, cold, or noise; night work; and the use of electronically powered hand tools, cutting tools, or grinding blades.(22) The National Service Act of 1979 prohibits persons younger than age 18 from either compulsory or voluntary military service.(23)

Zimbabwe's Constitution and Labour Relations Act prohibit forced labor. The Labour Relations Act includes exceptions in some cases, including the fulfillment of court orders and armed service requirements.(21, 24)

The Criminal Code prohibits engaging a child in the use or dealing of dangerous drugs and bars sexual relations with children younger than age 16.(3, 25) Laws do not prohibit sexual relations with children between the ages of 16 and 18.

Provisions of the Sexual Offenses Act, the Children's Act, and the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act prohibit sexual offenses against children, such as child pornography, prostitution, and other forms of child sexual abuse. The Sexual Offenses Act and Children's Act prohibit procurement of an individual for prostitution inside the country and transporting a person outside of the country with the intention of engaging them in prostitution.(3, 18, 25) Although traffickers can be prosecuted under the aforementioned laws and other immigration and abduction laws for commercial sexual exploitation, there is no legislation in Zimbabwe specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons for purposes other than sexual exploitation.(3, 13, 18) During the reporting period, the Attorney General's Office drafted a more comprehensive piece of legislation that would cover trafficking in persons for both sexual and labor exploitation. However, the bill has not been presented to Parliament. (3, 13, 18)

Zimbabwean law does not provide free schooling or establish a compulsory age for education for children.(3, 8, 26) The lack of free and compulsory education may put children at risk for the worst forms of child labor, as they are not required to be in school but are also not legally permitted to work. School fees are often prohibitively expensive and limit access to education.(27)

In February 2012, Zimbabwe ratified the CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.(28)

Institutional Mechanisms for Coordination and Enforcement

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare chairs the Government's national steering committee to address the worst forms of child labor. The committee includes several government ministries, international organizations, and civil society groups, such as worker and employer organizations.(27) However, due to a lack of funding, this committee did not meet during the reporting period. A separate committee composed of government ministries related to children's issues met on a quarterly basis.(3) The Government also has an inter-ministerial task force on trafficking in persons. Research did not find evidence that the task force was active during 2012.(18)

The Department of Social Welfare within the Ministry of Labor (MOL) is responsible for enforcing labor laws. The MOL employs approximately 123 labor inspectors for investigating labor-related violations, including those violations involving child labor laws, although many of the labor inspector positions are unfilled due to high turnover.(3) However, the MOL reports that labor inspectors lack the necessary resources to carry out inspections, such as office facilities for maintaining records, transportation, and fuel.(3) While the funding and training labor inspectors receive has increased, these resources remain inadequate for the inspectors to be able to inspect, investigate, and prosecute violations of child labor laws.(3) In addition, the MOL does not disaggregate labor violations by age. Therefore, the number of violations related to child labor is unknown.(3) The MOL did not report any child labor investigations during the reporting period, but stated that violators would face harsh fines and risked the closure of their business.(3)

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) shares responsibility with the MOL and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs (MOJ) for enforcing laws against the worst forms of child labor of a criminal nature.(3, 18) The ZRP has Victim Friendly Units in every district. The Victim Friendly Units are trained to address issues related to child labor. In addition, the ZRP has an anti-trafficking desk at the Interpol National Central Bureau office to conduct transnational trafficking investigations.(3) However, according to the most recent reporting available, it appears the ZRP did not investigate any such cases.(18) The lack of investigations relative to the scope and prevalence of child trafficking in Zimbabwe suggests inadequate enforcement. The MOJ oversees all courts, including labor courts. Victim Friendly Courts also address trafficking and child victim cases.(29)

Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government launched a National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor (Child Labor Action Plan) in 2011, and in 2012, the Government released a Child Labor Survey Report as a part of the Child Labor Action Plan.(3) The Child Labor Action Plan includes activities aimed at strengthening the analysis of child labor issues and the creation of an entity to coordinate responses to the findings of the analysis of child labor issues.(9, 29). However, a member of the national steering committee reports that resources have not been allocated to implement the plan and no further action has been taken during the reporting period.(3, 30) In addition, research did not demonstrate that the results of the Child Labor Survey have been used to inform policies and programs in Zimbabwe.

In 2012, the Government participated in the World Day Against Child Labor.(3) The Government of Zimbabwe also continued to address child labor in its broader poverty reduction, education, and social policy efforts.(3) These efforts occurred in part through the implementation of Zimbabwe's ongoing UN Development Assistance Framework 2012-2015.(31) In the framework, support is provided to the Government regarding the utilization of the Child Labor Survey in development planning.(31)

In 2011, the Government launched Phase II of the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (2011-2015) (NAP OVC II). The NAP OVC II includes a focus on equity and access to quality education for children.(32-34) It aims to assist 80,000 people, including by providing protection services to 25,000 children.(32, 34) The policy prescribes a three-pronged approach to assisting at-risk children, including: providing child protection and health services, delivering conditional cash transfers, and continuing the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) program.(7, 29, 35) The BEAM program provides basic financial assistance to its enrollees for costs such as tuition and examination fees.(36)

Social Programs to Eliminate or Prevent the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Research found no evidence that the Government of Zimbabwe implemented programs that specifically address the worst forms of child labor. However, the Government participates in a few key social programs that assist vulnerable children and increase educational access, and could potentially have an impact on reducing the worst forms of child labor.

The NAP OVC II provides a cash transfer program that encourages families to keep children in school. The Government of Zimbabwe, with funding from the European Commission and the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden, and Britain, provided immediate food and health services to high-risk families, including child-headed households.(32, 34) The NAP OVC II also provides for protection services for child victims of abuse, violence, and exploitation.(34, 35) The BEAM program, which aims to keep children in school and to recruit children to enroll who lack access to school as a result of economic hardship, was also continued through the NAP OVC II.(13, 34) However, while international donors continued supporting primary school children, the Government failed to meet its obligation of supporting secondary school students with school fees. The Government only funded the first of three school terms for secondary students during the reporting period.(3) Additionally, the UNICEF reports that a gap remains in the full national coverage of the program.(3, 37)

The overall impact of these programs on the elimination of the worst forms of child labor is unknown.

With funding from the USAID, the Government of Zimbabwe implemented the Building National Response Capacity to Combat Human Trafficking in Zimbabwe project. The project supports awareness-raising efforts and works to strengthen the national referral system for protection and victim reintegration services, with a special focus on children.(38)

Despite these efforts, Zimbabwe's social programs do not specifically target children working in the worst forms of child labor, such as in agriculture and mining.

Based on the reporting above, the following actions would advance the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in Zimbabwe:


Suggested Actions

Year(s) Action Recommended

Laws and Regulations

Enact the current anti-trafficking legislative proposal to bar trafficking of children for both sexual and labor exploitation.

2009, 2011, 2012

Establish an age or specified length of study for free and compulsory education that is consistent with Zimbabwe's minimum age for work.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Revise laws to prohibit sexual relations with a person below the age of 18.


Coordination and Enforcement

Ensure the steering committee and the inter-ministerial task force on trafficking in persons actively coordinate to address the worst forms of child labor and trafficking in persons.

2011, 2012

Collect, analyze, and disseminate information on inspection activities to combat child labor and their results.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Provide adequate resources for child labor inspections, combatting child trafficking, and implementing enforcement efforts.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012


Provide free education to children until they have reached the minimum age to work.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Allocate appropriate resources to implement the Action Plan to Combat Child Labor.

2010, 2011, 2012

Utilize the results of the Child Labor Survey Report to inform policies and programs.


Social Programs

Assess the overall impact that existing programs such as those under the NAP OVC II may have on the worst forms of child labor and address any gaps to ensure full national coverage.

2011, 2012

Create programs that address the worst forms of child labor, particularly in mining and agriculture.

2010, 2011, 2012

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

2. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. February 5, 2013. 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.

3. U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, February 12, 2013.

4. Government of Zimbabwe Ministry of Labour and Social Services. Report on the Rapid Assessment Study of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Zimbabwe. Quantitative Study. Harare; September 2008, Published June 2011. [hard copy on file].

5. Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe: Mining Industry Attracts Child Labour as Economy Picks Up." [online] October 14, 2010 [cited May 23, 2012];

6. Musandirire, S. The Nature and Extent of Child Labour in Zimbabwe: A Case Study of Goromonzi District Farms in Zimbabwe [Masters of Arts mini diss.]: University of Fort Hare; March 2010.

7. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in Zimbabwe: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Zimbabwe. Geneva; October 19-21, 2011.

8. U.S. Department of State. "Zimbabwe," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2012. Washington, DC; April 19, 2012;

9. U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, November 24, 2010.

10. Government of Zimbabwe. 2011 Child Labour Survey Report. Harare; 2012.

11. International Labour Office. Livestock Production, International Labour Organization, [online] January 31, 2012 [cited November 2, 2012];

12. Gender Equity and Rural Employment Division. Children's Work in the Livestock Sector: Herding and Beyond. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2013.

13. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Zimbabwe (ratification: 2000) Published: 2011; accessed November 20, 2012;

14. U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 31, 2013.

15. International Labour Office. Children in hazardous work: What we know, what we need to do. Geneva, International Labour Organization; 2011. While country-specific information on the dangers children face in fishing is not available, research studies and other reports have documented the dangerous nature of tasks in fishing and their accompanying occupational exposures, injuries and potential health consequences to children working in the sector.

16. International Labour Office. Fishing and Aquaculture, International Labour Organization, [online] January 31, 2012 [cited November 2, 2012];

17. UNICEF. Eastern and Southern Africa Feature Story for Zimbabwe, [online] September 2, 2009 [cited May 23, 2012];

18. U.S. Department of State. "Zimbabwe," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2012. Washington, DC; June 19, 2012;

19. Recently, RS. "Living Hell for Vulnerable Children." [online] August 4, 2011 [cited May 23, 2012];

20. Integrated Regional information Networks. "South Africa-Zimbabwe: Undocumented Kids Alone in a New Country." [online] March 8, 2007 [cited May 23, 2012];

21. Government of Zimbabwe. Labour Relations Amendment Act, 17, enacted 2002. [Hard Copy on File].

22. ILO NATLEX National Labor Law Database. Children's Protection and Adoption Amendment Act; accessed May 23, 2012;

23. International Humanitarian Law: National Implementation. National Service Act: Acts 19/1979, 22/2001; accessed May 24, 2012;

24. Government of Zimbabwe. Constitution of Zimbabwe, enacted April 20, 2000. [previously online] [hard copy on file].

25. Government of Zimbabwe. Sexual Offences Act, 8, enacted 2001. [Hard Copy on File].

26. U.S. Embassy- Harare official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. July 5, 2011.

27. U.S. Embassy- Harare official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. November 19, 2010.

28. UN Treaty Collection. Ratification of 11c. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography; accessed October 26, 2012;

29. U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, January 19, 2012.

30. Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe: Child Labour on the Rise." [online] February 24, 2012 [cited October 30, 2012];

31. United Nations. Development Assistance Framework 2012-2015. Harare; 2011.

32. Sandra Nyaira, Tatenda Gumbo, Sithandekile Mhlanga. "Zimbabwe and Donors Launch Program to Relieve Vulnerable Children." [online] May 23, 2011 [cited 2012];

33. Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe: Thousands of Girls Forced Out of Education." [online] November 7, 2011 [cited May 23, 2012];

34. UN News Centre. Zimbabwe's Orphans to Benefit from UN-Backed Cash Grant Programme. Press Release. New York; September 28, 2011.

35. Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Poverty Alleviation Scheme Targets Kids." [previously online] December 16, 2012 [cited [copy on file].

36. Government of Zimbabwe Ministry of Labour and Social Services. National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Project Document. Harare; 2011. [on file].

37. UNICEF. Zimbabwe launches 1st national scale cash grant programme for children and families. Press Release. Harare; September 27, 2011.

38. IOM. IOM Launches New Project to Assist Zimbabwe Counter-Trafficking Efforts, IOM, [online] January 21, 2011 [cited May 23, 2012];