Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Eritrea

2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

No Advancement – No Efforts and Complicit in Forced Child Labor

In 2016, Eritrea made no efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and was also complicit in the use of forced child labor. In addition to not making any efforts, Eritrea is receiving an assessment of no advancement due to its continued requirement that children in grades 9 to 11 participate in a national program called Maetot, where they engage in compulsory labor in agricultural, environmental, and hygiene-related public works projects. Children were also forced to enroll in the Government’s compulsory military training program. The Government does not make law enforcement data publicly available and national laws and regulations do not identify hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children.  In addition, the Government does not have a mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address the worst forms of child labor.

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Children in Eritrea engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in forced labor.(1, 2) Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in Eritrea. Data on some of these indicators are not available from the sources used in this report.

Table 1. Statistics on Children’s Work and Education

Children

Age

Percent

Working (% and population)

5 to 14

Unavailable

Attending School (%)

5 to 14

Unavailable

Combining Work and School (%)

7 to 14

Unavailable

Primary Completion Rate (%)

 

39.1

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2015, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2016.(3)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis, 2016.(4)

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

Farming, including the production of corn, wheat, and sorghum (1, 5)

Herding livestock (1)

Industry

Small-scale manufacturing (6, 7)

Mining (8)

Services

Domestic work (1, 6)

Working in garages, bicycle repair shops, tea and coffee shops, and metal workshops (1, 6, 9)

Street work, including selling cigarettes, newspapers, and chewing gum; cleaning cars; begging; and transporting goods on donkey carts or tricycles (1, 10, 11)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor

Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (7, 12)

Compulsory participation in Active National Service or the Popular Army prior to the age of 18 for military training, and in agricultural and domestic work (1, 12-16)

Forced labor, including in agriculture and begging (8, 12, 13, 16, 17)

‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.

The Ministry of Education operates a national program, Maetot, under which children in grades 9 to 11 are required to engage in compulsory labor in public works projects during their summer holidays, in some cases for as long as 2 months.(1, 12, 16, 18) Adolescents may be required to dig irrigation ditches or canals, maintain agricultural terracing, or produce and maintain school furniture.(1, 16)

The Proclamation on National Service No. 82/1995 establishes compulsory military training and service, known as Active National Service, for all citizens ages 18 to 40.(19) To graduate from high school and meet the compulsory training component of National Service, students are required to complete their final year of schooling (grade 12) at the Sawa Education and Military Training Camp; these students have typically reached age 18, but some are reportedly younger.(1, 12, 13, 15, 19) Limited evidence suggests that military training includes military discipline and procedures, weapons training, and a 2- to 4-week war simulation.(15) Research found that some students are forced to conduct agricultural activities on government-owned farms, in addition to their military training, and girls may be subject to forced domestic work in military training centers.(16)

The uncertain length of service, inability to earn higher wages in the private sector, and notoriously harsh working conditions in the National Service provoked a significant number of youth, including unaccompanied minors, to flee Eritrea and may have also encouraged many to resort to the use of international smuggling or human trafficking networks.(12, 13, 15, 20-22) Adolescent children who attempted to leave Eritrea were sometimes detained or forced to undergo military training, despite being younger than the minimum age of 18 for compulsory military recruitment.(12, 15, 21)

Children face difficulty accessing education due to a shortage of schools; the inability to afford uniforms, supplies, and transportation; and a lack of birth registration, which is required to attend school.(1, 23)

Research did not find information on whether the Government made an effort to collect or publish data on the worst forms of child labor.

Eritrea 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 laws and regulations related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 4). However, gaps exist in Eritrea’s legal framework to adequately protect children from child labor.

Table 4. Laws and Regulations on Child Labor

Standard

Meets International Standards: Yes/No

Age

Legislation

Minimum Age for Work

No

14

Article 68 of the Labour Proclamation (24)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

No

 

 

Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children

No

 

 

Prohibition of Forced Labor

Yes

 

Articles 565 and 605 of the Penal Code (25)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

Articles 605–607 of the Penal Code (25)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

No

 

Articles 594–595, 604–605, and 609 of the Penal Code (25)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

No

 

Article 510 of the Penal Code (25)

Minimum Age for Military Recruitment

 

 

 

State Compulsory

Yes

18

Articles 7 and 8 of the Proclamation on National Service (19)

 

State Voluntary

N/A

 

 

 

Non-State Compulsory

No

 

Article 282(d) of the Penal Code (25)

 

Compulsory Education Age

No

 

 

Free Public Education

No

 

 

In May 2015, the Government announced that it was considering the establishment of a new Criminal Code that contains prohibitions on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. However, the Code has not yet been proclaimed.(26) Laws regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children are insufficient because the procurement and offering of a child for prostitution and the use, procurement, and offering of a child for the production of pornography and pornographic performances are not criminally prohibited.(25)

The law’s minimum age protections do not apply to children working outside formal employment relationships, such as those who are self-employed.(24, 27)

Article 69 of the Labour Proclamation authorizes the Minister to issue a list of activities prohibited to children under age 18; however, the Government has not determined by national law or regulation the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.(24, 28) Laws related to the use of children in illicit activities are not sufficient because offering and procuring a child for the production and trafficking of drugs are not criminally prohibited.(25) Minimum age for voluntary military service is not applicable to Eritrea because all citizens ages 18 to 40 have the compulsory duty of performing Active National Service under the Proclamation on National Service No. 82/1995.(19)

The Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5). However, gaps in labor law and criminal law enforcement remain and most enforcement information is not available.

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare

Enforce child labor laws.(26) According to the Government, child labor inspectors operate in every administrative zone.(29)

Popular Army

Perform night patrols and refer cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children or other exploitative practices to the Eritrean Police.(10, 18)

Eritrean Police

Enforce laws and investigate referred cases of child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children.(10, 18)

National Security Administration

Work with the Eritrean police to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children.(30)

Labor Law Enforcement

Research did not find information on whether labor law enforcement agencies in Eritrea took actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms (Table 6).

Table 6. Labor Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Labor Law Enforcement

2015

2016

Labor Inspectorate Funding

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspectors

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Dedicated Inspectors

Unknown

Unknown

Inspectorate Authorized to Assess Penalties

Unknown

Unknown

Training for Labor Inspectors

   

Initial Training for New Employees

Unknown

Unknown

Training on New Laws Related to Child Labor

N/A

Unknown

Refresher Courses Provided

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspections

Unknown

Unknown

Number Conducted at Worksite

Unknown

Unknown

Number Conducted by Desk Reviews

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations Found

Unknown

0 (29)

Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed

Unknown

0 (29)

Number of Penalties Imposed that Were Collected

Unknown

Unknown

Routine Inspections Conducted

Unknown

Unknown

Routine Inspections Targeted

Unknown

Unknown

Unannounced Inspections Permitted

Unknown

Unknown

Unannounced Inspections Conducted

Unknown

Unknown

Complaint Mechanism Exists

Unknown

Unknown

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services

Unknown

Unknown

Criminal Law Enforcement

Research did not find information on whether criminal law enforcement agencies in Eritrea took actions to combat the worst forms of child labor (Table 7).

Table 7. Criminal Law Enforcement Efforts Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement

2015

2016

Training for Investigators

   

Initial Training for New Employees

Unknown

Unknown

Training on New Laws Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Unknown

Unknown

Refresher Courses Provided

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Investigations

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Violations Found

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Prosecutions Initiated

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Convictions

Unknown

Unknown

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services

Unknown

Unknown

Research found no evidence that the Government has established mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor, including its worst forms.

The Government has established policies related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 8).

Table 8. Key Policies Related to Child Labor

Policy

Description

Comprehensive Child Policies

Aims to prevent and eliminate child labor in Eritrea. Aligns with the UN Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework.(18)

‡ The Government had other policies that may have addressed child labor issues or had an impact on child labor.(31, 32)

Although it does not appear that there are any laws that provide for free and compulsory education, there is a policy that sufficiently provides for free and compulsory education.(32)

Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement the Comprehensive Child Policies. The Government’s compulsory military training requirement for Active National Service for students in grade 12 may diminish the impact of Eritrea’s policies to combat the worst forms of child labor on all those wishing to obtain high school diplomas. In addition, the Government’s continued use of compulsory labor through the Maetot program may also diminish these efforts.

In 2016, the Government participated in one program that may contribute to the prevention or elimination of child labor (Table 9).

Table 9. Key Social Programs to Address Child Labor

Program

Description

UNICEF Country Program (2013–2016)

UNICEF program, in collaboration with the Government, that improved the quality of basic education.(23) UNICEF also worked with the Ministry of Labor to provide social integration and counseling services to approximately 3,500 children vulnerable to street work.(33)

Although the Government participates in a program that targets children vulnerable to street work, the scope of this program is insufficient to fully address the extent of the problem. Furthermore, research found no evidence of programs that target children working in agriculture and domestic work and that specifically address 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 Eritrea (Table 10).

Table 10. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including its Worst Forms

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ratify ILO C. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

2013 – 2016

Establish a minimum age for hazardous work and determine the types of hazardous work prohibited for children, in consultation with employers' and workers' organizations.

2015 – 2016

Ensure that all children are protected by minimum age laws, including those who are self-employed.

2010 – 2016

Ensure that procuring and offering a child for prostitution and using, procuring, and offering a child for the production of pornography and pornographic performances are criminally prohibited.

2014 – 2016

Ensure that procuring and offering a child for the production and trafficking of drugs are criminally prohibited.

2013 – 2016

Ensure that the law criminally prohibits the recruitment of children under 18 by non-state armed groups.

2016

Establish by law an age up to which education is compulsory that is the same as the minimum age for work.

2016

Establish by law free basic public education.

2016

Enforcement

Collect data on labor and criminal law enforcement and make the data publicly available.

2009 – 2016

Coordination

Establish a coordinating mechanism to combat the worst forms of child labor.

2009 – 2016

Government Policies

Ensure that the Comprehensive Child Policies are implemented.

2009 – 2016

Ensure that children under age 18 are not recruited into Active National Service.

2009 – 2016

Cease requiring children to perform compulsory labor under the Maetot program during the school break.

2009 – 2016

Social Programs

Ensure that all children have access to education by building more schools, removing financial barriers, and increasing birth registration.

2010 – 2016

Conduct research on child labor, including its worst forms.

2009 – 2016

Expand existing programs to address the scope of children in street work. Institute programs to address child labor, including in agriculture and domestic work, and the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation.

2009 – 2016

1.         U.S. Department of State. "Eritrea," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2015. Washington, DC; April 13, 2016; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/252891.pdf.

2.         ILO. Children in hazardous work: What we know, what we need to do. Geneva; 2011. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_155428.pdf.

3.         UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed December 16, 2016; http://data.uis.unesco.org/. Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. This ratio is the total number of new entrants in the last grade of primary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population at the theoretical entrance age to the last grade of primary education. A high ratio indicates a high degree of current primary education completion. The calculation includes all new entrants to the last grade (regardless of age). Therefore, the ratio can exceed 100 percent, due to over-aged and under-aged children who enter primary school late/early and/or repeat grades. For more information, please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.

4.         UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Analysis received December 15, 2016. 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, please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.

5.         U.S. Department of State official. reporting, February 7, 2012.

6.         U.S. Department of State. "Eritrea," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2014. Washington, DC; June 20, 2014; http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2014/index.htm.

7.         U.S. Department of State. "Eritrea," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2013. Washington, DC; February 27, 2014; https://2009-2017.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper.

8.         UN General Assembly Human Rights Council. Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea. New York; June 10, 2013. Report No. A/HRC/23/L.17. http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/d_res_dec/A_HRC_23_L17.doc.

9.         Bizet, D. "Everyday Eritrea: Resilience in the face of repression." aljazeera.com [online] April 21, 2016 [cited January 5, 2017]; http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/03/everyday-eritrea-resilience-face-repression-160310083414592.html.

10.       U.S. Department of State official. reporting, December 18, 2013.

11.       Saba, M. "Eritrea, the forced recruitment of street children: how to kill a generation." munkhafadat.com [online] January 17, 2015 [cited November 18, 2015]; http://munkhafadat.com/en/2015/01/eritrea-the-forced-recruitment-of-street-children-how-to-kill-a-generation/.

12.       U.S. Department of State. "Eritrea," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2016. Washington, DC; June 30, 2016; http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2016/258763.htm.

13.       UN General Assembly Human Rights Council. Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea. Geneva; July 22, 2015. Report No. A/HRC/RES/29/18. http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/29/18.

14.       Human Rights Watch. "Eritrea," in World Report 2016. New York City; 2016; https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/Eritrea.

15.       Amnesty International. Just Deserters: Why Indefinite National Service in Eritrea Has Created a Generation of Refugees. London; December 2, 2015. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr64/2930/2015/en/.

16.       UN General Assembly Human Rights Council. Report of the Detailed Findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. Geneva; June 5, 2015. Report No. A/HRC/29/CRP.1. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIEritrea/Pages/ReportCoIEritrea.aspx.

17.       U.S. Department of State. "Eritrea," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2014. Washington, DC; June 25, 2015; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/236568.pdf.

18.       U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 21, 2014.

19.       Government of Eritrea. Proclamation of National Service, Proclamation No. 82/1995, enacted October 23, 1995. http://www.africanchildforum.org/clr/Legislation%20Per%20Country/eritrea/eritrea_natservice_1995_en.pdf.

20.       Igunza, E. "First risky step in an Eritrean's journey to Europe." BBC.com [online] July 17, 2015 [cited July 20, 2015]; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33525280.

21.       Amnesty International. "Eritrea," in Amnesty International Report 2015/16: The State of the World's Human Rights. London; 2016; https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/2552/2016/en.

22.       Médecins Sans Frontières. Dying to Reach Europe: Eritreans in search of safety. New York; 2017. https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/sites/usa/files/report_dying_to_reach_europe.pdf.

23.       UNICEF. Eritrea Country Programme Document 2013-2016; February 8, 2013. http://www.unicef.org/about/execboard/files/2013-PL1-Eritrea_CPD-final_approved-English.pdf.

24.       Government of Eritrea. The Labour Proclamation of Eritrea, No. 118/2001, enacted 2001. [Source on file].

25.       Government of Eritrea. The Penal Code, No. 158 of 1957, enacted 1957. [Source on file].

26.       U.S. Department of State official. reporting, January 14, 2016.

27.       ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Eritrea (Ratification: 2000) Published: 2015; accessed November 18, 2015; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:13100:0::NO:13100:P13100_COMMENT_ID:3175515:NO.

28.       ILO Committee of Experts. Observation concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Eritrea (Ratification: 2000) Published: 2015; accessed November 18, 2015; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:13100:0::NO:13100:P13100_COMMENT_ID:3175511:NO.

29.       U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 26, 2017.

30.       U.S. Department of State official. reporting, February 13, 2015.

31.       UN. Government of the State of Eritrea-United Nations Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework. Asmara; November 2012. http://www.unicef.org/about/execboard/files/ERI_GOSE-UN_SPCF_28th_Nov_2012.pdf.

32.       Ministry of Education. Education Sector Development Plan 2013-2017. February 2013. http://www.globalpartnership.org/content/eritrea-education-sector-development-plan-2013-2017.

33.       U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 21, 2015.

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