Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Eritrea

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Eritrea

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

No Advancement – Efforts Made But Complicit in Forced Child Labor

In 2017, Eritrea made efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, but was also complicit in the use of forced child labor. The government worked with the UN to approve a Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework and launch a social program that aims to prevent children from exploitation. However, despite initiatives to address child labor, Eritrea is receiving this assessment because it continued to require children from grades 9- 12 who may be younger than 18 years to participate in a national program called Maetot, where they engage in compulsory labor in agricultural, environmental, and hygiene-related public works projects. In addition, children were 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 agricultural labor.(11) 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 (%)

 

42.5

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2015, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2018. (1)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis, 2018. (2)

 

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, activities unknown (3)

Herding livestock (4; 3)

Industry

Small-scale manufacturing (5)

Mining, including gold (6; 7)

Services

Domestic work (5)

Working in auto mechanic shops, bicycle repair shops, tea and coffee shops, metal workshops, grocery stores, and open markets (5; 8; 4; 3)

Street work, including vending, cleaning cars, and begging (9; 10; 4)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor

Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (11)

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 (12; 13; 14; 15; 11)

Forced labor, including in begging (11)

‡ 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 from grades 9-12 who may be younger than 18 years are required to engage in compulsory labor in public works projects during their summer holidays. (14; 11) Some children may be required to work on roads, dams, canals, and irrigation projects. (14)

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. (16) 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. (12; 13; 16; 11) Limited evidence suggests that military training includes military discipline and procedures, weapons training, and a 2- to 4-week war simulation. (13) Previous reports 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. (14)

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; 17; 18; 19; 11; 20; 3) 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. (13; 11; 21; 3) Children face difficulty accessing education due to a shortage of schools and the inability to afford uniforms, supplies, and transportation. (22; 23; 24)

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 (Table 4). However, gaps exist in Eritrea’s legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including the minimum age for work.

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 (25)

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 (26)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

Articles 605–607 of the Penal Code (26)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

No

 

Articles 594–595, 604–605, and 609 of the Penal Code (26)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

No

 

Article 510 of the Penal Code (26)

Prohibition of Military Recruitment

 

 

 

State Compulsory

Yes

18

Articles 7 and 8 of the Proclamation on National Service (16)

 

State Voluntary

N/A

 

 

 

Non-State

No

 

Article 282(d) of the Penal Code (26)

 

Compulsory Education Age

Yes

14‡

 

Free Public Education

No

 

 

‡ Age calculated based on available information (27; 28; 29)

 

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. (30; 31) 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. (26)

The law’s minimum age protections do not apply to children working outside formal employment relationships, such as those who are self-employed. (25; 32) 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. (25; 33) 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. (26) 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. (16)

The government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor (Table 5). However, research was unable to find information on law enforcement agencies’ efforts to enforce Eritrea’s child labor laws.

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare

Enforce labor laws. (30) According to the government, child labor inspectors operate in every administrative zone. (34)

Popular Army

Perform night patrols and refer cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children or other exploitative practices to the Eritrean Police. (9; 35)

Eritrean Police

Enforce laws and investigate referred cases of child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children. (9; 35)

National Security Administration

Work with the Eritrean police to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children. (36)

 

Labor Law Enforcement

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

Table 6. Labor Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Labor Law Enforcement

2016

2017

Labor Inspectorate Funding

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Labor 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

Unknown

Unknown

Refresher Courses Provided

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspections Conducted

Unknown

Unknown

Number Conducted at Worksites

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations Found

0 (34)

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations for which Penalties were Imposed

0 (34)

Unknown

Number of Child Labor 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

 

Although there is no available inspection data, sources indicate that inspections are conducted among government businesses. (37)

Criminal Law Enforcement

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

Table 7. Criminal Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement

2016

2017

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.

The government has established one policy related to child labor (Table 8). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including adoption and implementation.

Table 8. Key Policies Related to Child Labor‡

Policy

Description

Education Sector Development Plan (2013–2017)

Establishes 8 years of free and compulsory education for all children. (24)

‡ The government had other policies that may have addressed child labor issues or had an impact on child labor. (38)

 

Although the government worked with UNICEF in 2013 to develop a Comprehensive Child Policy that includes the goal of preventing and eliminating child labor, research found that the policy has not been adopted or implemented. (39; 40)

The government’s compulsory military training requirement for Active National Service for students in grade 12 may inhibit efforts to combat the worst forms of child labor for all those wishing to obtain high school diplomas. In addition, the government’s continued use of compulsory labor through the Maetot program may also impede these efforts.

In 2017, the government participated in one program that may contribute to eliminating or preventing child labor (Table 9). However, gaps exist in this social program, including adequacy of efforts to address the problem in all sectors.

Table 9. Key Social Programs to Address Child Labor

Program

Description

UNICEF Country Program (2017–2021)*

UNICEF program, in collaboration with the government, which expands access to quality basic education for all children, and protects children from violence, exploitation and abuse. (39)

* Program was launched during the reporting period.

 

Research found no evidence of programs that target children working in agriculture, domestic work, and street 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 in Eritrea (Table 10).

Table 10. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

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

2013 – 2017

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 – 2017

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

2010 – 2017

Criminally prohibit procuring and offering a child for prostitution and using, procuring, and offering a child for the production of pornography and pornographic performances.

2014 – 2017

Criminally prohibit procuring and offering a child for the production and trafficking of drugs.

2013 – 2017

Criminally prohibit the recruitment of children under 18 by non-state armed groups.

2016 – 2017

Establish by law free basic public education.

2016 – 2017

Enforcement

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

2009 – 2017

Coordination

Establish coordinating mechanisms to combat child labor.

2009 – 2017

Government Policies

Adopt and implement the Comprehensive Child Policy.

2009 – 2017

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

2009 – 2017

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

2009 – 2017

Social Programs

Ensure that all children have access to education by building more schools and removing financial barriers to attendance.

2010 – 2017

Collect and publish data on the extent and nature of child labor to inform policies and programs.

2009 – 2017

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

2009 – 2017

1. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed March 3, 2018. http://data.uis.unesco.org/. For more information, please see "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.

2. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Analysis received January 12, 2018. Please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.

3. Save the Children. Young Invisible Enslaved: The Child Victims at the Heart of Trafficking and Exploitation in Italy. November 2016. https://www.savethechildren.net/sites/default/files/libraries/young%20invisible%20enslaved%204%20low.pdf.

4. U.S. Department of State official. Reporting, January 24, 2018.

5. U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2014: Eritrea. Washington, DC. June 20, 2014. https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2014/226719.htm.

6. UN General Assembly Human Rights Council. Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea. 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.

7. Haile, Milkias, et al. Adverse Health Effects of Mercury Use on Illegal Gold Miners: A Study in Garasi, Eritrea. Advances in Biochemistry, 5(2) (2017). http://article.sciencepublishinggroup.com/pdf/10.11648.j.ab.20170502.11.pdf.

8. Didier Bizet. Everyday Eritrea: Resilience in the face of repression. aljazeera.com. April 21, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/03/everyday-eritrea-resilience-face-repression-160310083414592.html.

9. U.S. Department of State official. Reporting, December 18, 2013.

10. Makeda Saba. Eritrea, the forced recruitment of street children: how to kill a generation. munkhafadat.com. January 17, 2015. http://munkhafadat.com/en/2015/01/eritrea-the-forced-recruitment-of-street-children-how-to-kill-a-generation/.

11. U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2017: Eritrea. Washington, DC. June 27, 2017. https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2017/271184.htm.

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

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

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

15. —. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea: Note by the Secretariat. July 24, 2017: A/HRC/35/39. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/220/61/PDF/G1722061.pdf?OpenElement.

16. 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.

17. Emmanuel Igunza. First risky step in an Eritrean's journey to Europe. BBC.com. July 17, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33525280.

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

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

20. Eric Reidy. The Eritrean children who cross borders and deserts alone. IRIN. July 27, 2017. https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2017/07/27/eritrean-children-who-cross-borders-and-deserts-alone.

21. Amnesty International. Eritrea 2016/2017. February 22, 2017. https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/eritrea/report-eritrea/.

22. 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.

23. U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2016: Eritrea. Washington, DC. March 3, 2017. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265464.pdf.

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

25. Government of Eritrea. The Labour Proclamation of Eritrea, No. 118/2001. Enacted: 2001. [Source on file].

26. —. The Penal Code, No. 158 of 1957. Enacted: 1957. [Source on file].

27. Education Policy and Data Center. Eritrea. https://www.epdc.org/country/eritrea.

28. UNESCO. Eritrea- Education System. http://uis.unesco.org/country/ER.

29. ILO Committee of Experts. Observation (CEACR) - adopted 2017, published 107th ILC session (2018). https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:13100:0::NO:13100:P13100_COMMENT_ID:3338792:NO.

30. U.S. Department of State official. Reporting, January 14, 2016.

31. —. E-mail communication to USDOL official. January 31, 2018.

32. 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.

33. —. 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.

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

35. —. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 21, 2014.

36. —. Reporting, February 13, 2015.

37. —. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 29, 2018.

38. UN. The Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework (SPCF) Between The Government of the State of Eritrea and The United Nations 2017-2021. January 2017. https://www.unicef.org/about/execboard/files/ERITREA-SPCF-2017-2021.pdf.

39. UN Economic and Social Council. Country programme document. July 15, 2016. https://www.unicef.org/about/execboard/files/2016-PL20-Eritrea-CPD-ODS-EN.pdf.

40. U.S. Department of State official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 28, 2014.

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