Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, Botswana made moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government ratified the International Labor Organization's Labor Inspection Convention and the Labor Inspection (Agriculture) Convention, which outline mandates to promote effective labor inspection systems, including in the agricultural sector in which child labor is prevalent in the country. The Ministry of Labor also provided comprehensive information on its labor law enforcement efforts and partnered with a local non-governmental organization to conduct targeted inspections in key districts where there have been reports of child labor on commercial farms and cattle posts. However, children in Botswana are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and forced labor in cattle herding and domestic work. Key gaps remain in the country’s legal framework, including the lack of a minimum age for compulsory education and a list of hazardous work activities for children. The government also did not provide information on its criminal law enforcement efforts for inclusion in this report. In addition, the design and implementation of social programs to address child labor are insufficient to fully address the scope of the problem, especially in commercial sexual exploitation, cattle herding, and domestic work.
Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in Botswana. Data on some of these indicators are not available from the sources used in this report.
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||Unavailable|
|Attending School (%)||5 to 14||Unavailable|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||Unavailable|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||94.6|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2015, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2023. (1)
Data were unavailable from International Labor Organization's analysis, 2023. (2)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Herding and spraying of cattle and goats (3-5)|
|Farming, including rearing livestock, mending fences, and molding bricks (5)|
|Services||Street work, including vending (6)|
|Domestic work (7,8)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (5,9-11)|
|Forced labor in cattle herding (11)|
|Forced labor in domestic service (11)|
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.
Children in Botswana are victims of commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. (9,12) Research indicates that some children residing in the Dukwi Refugee Camp are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation around the camp, as they await decisions regarding their refugee status. (6,11) Some parents in poor rural communities send their children to engage in domestic work in cities, or at farms or cattle posts, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. (11) Children, particularly from the San minority ethnic group, work on commercial farms in the Ghanzi Region, tending to and herding cattle. (7,9) An NGO reported that one of the work activities children perform on commercial farms is the "dipping" (spraying) of cattle, a process to remove ticks and flies. Such work may expose children to hazardous chemicals. (7) On some farms, employers may withhold food rations unless children perform work. (3,7,12) Children working in domestic service settings are exposed to various conditions that are indicative of forced labor, including confinement; denial of promised educational opportunities and basic necessities; and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. (11)
Botswana law provides for free basic education, and the costs of books, uniforms, and other materials may be waived for children from poorer families. However, insufficient transportation to schools in remote regions of Botswana and a lack of materials in indigenous languages create educational barriers for children from minority ethnic groups. (5,9,13,14) In addition, school enrollment requires an identity document, such as a birth certificate or national identity card. (12) The government allows all children to enroll in primary education, even without these documents; however, migrant children and children born outside of health care facilities, or whose parents did not register them at birth, may not be able to enroll in secondary schools or register for national exams. (5,9,15) Schools also often lack adequate resources for students with disabilities. Children of the San ethnic group have limited access to educational facilities, must travel long distances to reach schools, and encounter language barriers and prejudice within schools, which cause children to drop out. (9,14,16,17) Moreover, pervasive physical and sexual abuse, including gender-based violence within schools, by both teachers and peers, contributes to children leaving education early and becoming vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. (3,6,18,19)
Botswana 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||✓|
During the reporting period, the government acceded to the ILO Labor Inspection Convention (C. 81) and the Labor Inspection (Agriculture) Convention (C. 189), which outline principles for development of strong labor inspection systems, including in the agricultural sector in which child labor occurs in Botswana. (5,20)
The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor (Table 4). However, gaps exist in Botswana's legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including the lack of a compulsory education age that is consistent with the minimum age for work.
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||Yes||15||Articles 2 and 107 of the Employment Act (21)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||18||Articles 2 and 110 of the Employment Act (21)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||No|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Articles 2 and 71 of the Employment Act; Section 114 of the Children’s Act; Articles 9 and 10 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act; Section 262 of the Penal Code (21-24)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Section 114 of the Children’s Act; Article 175 of the Penal Code; Articles 9 and 10 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act (22-24)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||No||Sections 25 and 57–59 of the Children’s Act; Sections 9 and 10 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act (22,23)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Section 60 of the Children’s Act (23)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||18||Section 17 of the Botswana Defense Force Act (25)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||N/A*|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||Yes||Section 26 of the Children’s Act (23)|
|Compulsory Education Age||No|
|Free Public Education||Yes||Section 18 of the Children’s Act (23)|
* Country has no conscription (25)
The Employment Act allows children to conduct light work activities at age 14, with restrictions on the number of hours a child can work during a single day and in a week, and includes a requirement that the Labor Commissioner approve any forms of work outside of domestic service; however, the government has yet to determine the conditions or types of light work activities permitted for children. (13) Additionally, while the Employment Act prohibits night work and underground work for children, the government has not determined by national law or regulation the types of hazardous work prohibited for children. (10,14,21) In addition, legal protections for children from commercial sexual exploitation do not meet international standards because the use of children for prostitution is not criminally prohibited. (23) Despite the provision of free basic education, there is not a compulsory education age, which may increase children's vulnerability to child labor. (14)
The government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor (Table 5). However, gaps exist within the operations of enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate enforcement of their child labor laws.
|Organization/Agency||Role & Activities|
|Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs||Enforces child labor laws and conducts inspections under the Employment Act. (21,26) Facilitates coordination with local leaders and law enforcement officers. Posts labor inspectors to District Council offices to carry out their duties. (26) Coordinates with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), and MLGRD's District and Municipal Council Child Welfare Divisions, to respond to cases of child labor and place children in safe environments. (6,26,27) During the reporting period, the Ministry of Labor partnered with a local NGO to conduct targeted inspections in the Ghanzi and Kgalagadi Districts, where child labor has been reported on commercial farms and cattle posts. Research, however, indicates a need for increased inspections in these districts given their geographical size. (5)|
|Botswana Police Service (BPS)||Responds to cases of labor law violation, including child labor violations, based on referrals from the Ministry of Labor. (28) Investigates cases of the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking. (26) During the reporting period, BPS established four child-friendly police stations, increasing the total number of such stations to five. (29) BPS also conducted educational campaigns in schools to teach teachers and students about trafficking in persons. (30)|
|Ministry of Justice||Monitors suspected human trafficking cases and leads the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee. (11)|
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in Botswana took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the operations of the Ministry of Labor that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including insufficient human resource allocation.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||Unknown (9)||Unknown (5,31)|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||Unknown (9)||50 (5)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||No (21)||No (21)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||Unknown (9)||No (5)|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||Unknown (9)||1,007 (5)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||Unknown (9)||0 (5)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||Unknown (9)||N/A (5)|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||Unknown (9)||N/A (5)|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Yes (9)||Yes (5)|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||Unknown (9)||Yes (5)|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (21)||Yes (21)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (21)||Yes (21)|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||Yes (9)||Yes (5)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||Yes (9)||Yes (5)|
Under the Employment Act, child labor violations are criminal offenses, resulting in 12 months imprisonment; as such, Botswana labor inspectors refer violations to police for investigation and imposition of penalties. (21)
Research indicates that Botswana does not have an adequate number of labor inspectors to carry out their mandated duties. (32,33) Some of Botswana's largest administrative districts have only one or two labor inspectors, which likely hinders monitoring of farms and cattle posts where there is evidence of child labor. (3,28) Furthermore, labor inspectors are not authorized to inspect domestic households, and some labor inspectors have faced obstacles in accessing large farms, such as locked gates or denial of entry, inhibiting their ability to identify underage workers. (3,6) Although two labor officers participated in a workshop organized by a local NGO on child labor concepts, the rest of the labor inspectorate did not receive comprehensive training during the reporting period. (5)
Criminal Law Enforcement
Research did not find information on whether criminal law enforcement agencies in Botswana took actions to address child labor (Table 7).
|Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Training for Criminal Investigators Provided||Yes (9)||Unknown (5)|
|Number of Investigations||Unknown (9)||Unknown (5)|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||1 (34)||Unknown (5)|
|Number of Convictions||1 (34)||Unknown (5)|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||Yes (34)||Unknown (5)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (9)||Yes (5)|
The lack of child-friendly courts and social workers in Botswana leads to delays in processing cases, few referrals, and limited psychosocial support to child victims of exploitation. (29) The government did not provide criminal law enforcement data during the reporting period.
The government has established a key mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8). However, gaps exist that hinder the effective coordination of efforts to address child labor, including a lack of information on steps the coordination mechanism has taken to address child labor during the reporting year.
|Coordinating Body||Role & Activities|
|Advisory Committee on Child Labor||Oversees government policies and efforts to prevent and eliminate child labor. Reports to the government three to four times a year. (9) Includes representatives from government agencies, various NGOs, worker federations, and employer organizations. (9) Led by the Ministry of Labor, with participation from MLGRD, Ministry of Finance, and the Office of the President. (15) At the local level, child labor coordination is handled through Child Labor Committees that include social workers; schoolteachers; members of the Village Development Committees, which are local government structures; labor inspectors; and community leaders, including chiefs and priests. (9) Research could not determine whether the Advisory Committee on Child Labor was active during the reporting period. (5,9,35)|
The Ministry of Defense, Justice, and Security leads a counter‐trafficking in persons coordinating body, which includes representatives from the labor inspectorate and social services. (9)
The government has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including the lack of a policy to address all worst forms of child labor.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|Anti-Human Trafficking National Action Plan (2018–2022)||Supervised and coordinated by the Ministry of Defense, Justice, and Security. Encouraged interagency collaboration in eliminating and preventing trafficking in persons in Botswana, particularly trafficking of women and children, through the establishment and maintenance of a Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee. (31,36) Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement the plan during the reporting period.|
Research indicates that the government is not actively supporting implementation of key national policies for the prevention and elimination of child labor. (5,9) Child labor elimination and prevention strategies are not included in relevant national policies, including the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan and the Botswana National Youth Policy. (37,38) Although Botswana had a policy to address trafficking in persons, research found no evidence of a policy related to other worst forms of child labor.
In 2022, the government funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including inadequate programs to address the full scope of the problem.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|Government-Funded Programs to Prevent and Eliminate Child Labor†||Government-funded programs that aim to prevent child labor and increase protections for vulnerable children. These include: NGO-run shelters that cater to human trafficking survivors, including children; the National School Feeding Program, which provides meals to children (grades one through seven) in all public primary schools in the country; the Remote Area Development Program, which provides a second meal to school children living in remote areas and children from marginalized communities; the Orphan Care Program, which provides orphans with meals and subsidizes the cost of school fees and transportation costs; and the Needy Children and Needy Students program, managed by MLGRD, which provides families with free meals, toiletries, and school uniforms. (26) Research indicates that these programs were active during the reporting period, but the government did not publish specific activities undertaken to implement them. (5,31)|
|Addressing Child Labor in Botswana*||U.S. Embassy-Gaborone-funded project, implemented by Humana People to People, a local NGO operating in Botswana that aims to raise local awareness and increase community engagement on child labor concerns, in coordination with Botswana's Minister of Labor. (39) Targets Gantsi and Tsabong, areas with high levels of poverty and close proximity to farms. During the reporting period, the project held a launch and awareness-raising event in commemoration of World Day Against Child Labor, held sensitization and training workshops, and coordinated targeted labor inspections with the Ministry of Labor's inspectorate. (39,40)|
For information about USDOL’s projects to address child labor around the world, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/ilab-project-page-search
* Program was launched during the reporting period.
† Program is funded by the Government of Botswana.
There are no government-run shelters that cater to child survivors of human trafficking. While the government funds and contracts with NGO-run shelters that serve this population, it does not directly provide such services. (9) An NGO reported that established shelters lack resources to attend to the needs of older children. (4) Although Botswana has programs that target child labor, the design and implementation of these programs are insufficient to fully address the scope of the problem, especially in commercial sexual exploitation, cattle herding, and domestic work.
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Botswana (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Ensure that the law's light work provisions specify the activities and conditions in which light work may be undertaken by children age 14 and above.||2016 – 2022|
|Determine by national law or regulation the types of hazardous work prohibited for children, after consultation with employers' and workers' organizations.||2009 – 2022|
|Ensure that the law criminally prohibits the use of a child for prostitution.||2020 – 2022|
|Establish by law an age up to which education is compulsory that extends to the age of 15, the minimum age for employment.||2010 – 2022|
|Enforcement||Increase the number of labor inspectors from 50 to 72 to provide adequate coverage of approximately 1.1 million workers.||2020 – 2022|
|Ensure that the labor inspectorate has sufficient human and financial resources to adequately enforce labor laws, including on farms and cattle posts.||2020 – 2022|
|Establish a mechanism to assess civil penalties.||2022|
|Institutionalize training for all labor inspectors, including training on laws related to child labor.||2022|
|Ensure that labor inspectors have authorization to access worksite premises and are able to conduct inspections at farms and domestic households.||2018 – 2022|
|Publish information about criminal law enforcement efforts related to the worst forms of child labor, including information regarding the training for criminal investigators, number of investigations related to child labor, number of prosecutions and convictions related to child labor, and penalties imposed in criminal cases related to child labor.||2017 – 2022|
|Ensure that criminal law enforcement bodies have sufficient resources, personnel, and adequate training to address the worst forms of child labor.||2022|
|Coordination||Ensure that the Advisory Committee on Child Labor is active and able to carry out its intended mandate of overseeing government policies and efforts to prevent and eliminate child labor.||2018 – 2022|
|Government Policies||Adopt a policy that addresses all relevant worst forms of child labor, such as commercial sexual exploitation, forced child labor, and child labor in agriculture.||2022|
|Ensure activities are undertaken to implement key policies related to child labor and child wellbeing and publish results from activities implemented during the reporting period.||2017 – 2022|
|Integrate child labor elimination and prevention strategies into relevant policies, such as the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan and the Botswana National Youth Policy.||2011 – 2022|
|Social Programs||Collect and publish data on the extent and nature of child labor in all sectors and activities to inform effective policies and programs.||2013 – 2022|
|Enhance efforts to remove educational barriers and make education accessible for all children by taking measures to reduce travel distances to reach schools; addressing language barriers and ethnic discrimination, including a lack of school materials in indigenous languages; preventing physical and sexual violence in schools; increasing resources for students with disabilities; and expanding birth registration and national identification for migrants and children born outside of health facilities.||2020 – 2022|
|Ensure that activities are undertaken to implement all key social programs related to child labor, including the shelters for victims of human trafficking, the National School Feeding Program, the Remote Area Development Program, the Orphan Care Program, and the Needy Children and Needy Students Program, and publish results from activities implemented during the reporting period.||2020 – 2022|
|Establish official government-run shelters to assist child survivors of the worst forms of child labor, while ensuring that shelters have sufficient resources to attend to the care of older children.||2020 – 2022|
|Develop programs to fully address the scope of child labor in commercial sexual exploitation, domestic work, and cattle herding.||2012 – 2022|
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed March 15, 2023. For more information, please see "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- ILO. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Analysis received March 2023. Please see "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. November 5, 2020.
- NGO official. Interview with USDOL official. February 5, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. March 7, 2023.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. January 28, 2020.
- NGO official. Interview with USDOL official. February 2, 2021.
- NGO official. Interview with USDOL official. February 9, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. January 13, 2022.
- ILO CEACR. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Botswana (ratification: 2000). Published: 2022.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2022: Botswana. Washington, D.C., July 19, 2022.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2021: Botswana. Washington, D.C., July 1, 2021.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Direct Request concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Botswana (ratification: 1997). Published: 2019.
- U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2020: Botswana. Washington, D.C., March 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 27, 2020.
- Cultural Survival. Observations on the State of Indigenous Human Rights in Botswana. January 2018.
- Molosiwa, Annah Anikie and Dipotso Galeforolwe. Child rearing practices of the San communities in Botswana: potential lessons for educators. AlterNative, 2018.
- Diraditsile, Kabo and Morena J. Rankopo. Students’ Views and Experiences on Child Sexual Abuse in Botswana: Implications for Educational Research and Policy Implementation. 2018.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 2, 2021.
- ILO. Botswana ratifies two key conventions on labour inspection. January 10, 2023.
- Government of Botswana. Employment Act. Enacted: 1982.
- Government of Botswana. Anti-Human Trafficking Act. Enacted: 2014, Amended 2018. Source on file.
- Government of Botswana. Children's Act, No. 8. Enacted: 2009.
- Government of Botswana. Penal Code, 1964 (Law No. 2 of 1964) (as amended up to Act No. 14 of 2005). Enacted: 1964.
- Government of Botswana. Botswana Defence Force Act, No. 23. Enacted: 1977.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. February 8, 2019.
- U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 28, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. January 15, 2021.
- UNICEF. Country Office Annual Report- Botswana. New York. 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. April 27, 2023.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 22, 2023.
- ILO. ILO Labor Force Statistics (LFS) – Population and labour force. Accessed January 31, 2023. Other: Labor force data is government-reported data collected by the ILO. Please see "Labor Law Enforcement: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- UN. World Economic Situation and Prospects. 2023 Statistical Annex. New York, 2023. Please see “Labor Law Enforcement: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. November 18, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Gaborone. Reporting. March 11, 2022.
- Government of Botswana. Anti-Human Trafficking National Action Plan. 2018–2022. Source on file.
- Government of Botswana, Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs. National Youth Policy. February 1996. Source on file.
- Government of Botswana. Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan 2015–2020. April 2015. Source on file.
- Baaitse, Francinah. For the Love of Children: Project launched to end child labour in Botswana. The Voice. August 26, 2022.
- Humana. People to People Botswana. Post. Facebook. July 29, 2022.