Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, Guinea-Bissau made moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The National Guard began training border officials on how to detect human trafficking situations and created grassroots committees within villages near border locations to aid in identifying human traffickers using illegal border crossings. The newly developed case management and referral system, under the lead of the National Institute for Women and Children, was also used by 28 institutions during the reporting period, and although the National Emergency Plan for the Prevention and Combat of Trafficking in Persons expired in 2021, it continued to be implemented and contributed toward the identification and reintegration of 198 child trafficking victims at the national and transnational levels. However, children in Guinea-Bissau are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in forced begging. Children also engage in child labor in agriculture. Prohibitions against the commercial sexual exploitation of children do not meet international standards since the prostitution of children is not criminally prohibited in the country's legal framework. In addition, even though a new labor code was put into effect in 2022, the minimum age for work is not in compliance with international standards since the law's minimum age protections do not apply to children without a work contract. Furthermore, law enforcement officials do not receive sufficient resources to adequately conduct inspections and prosecute cases of child labor, and social programs do not fully address the extent of the problem in the country.
Table 1 provides key indicators on children's work and education in Guinea-Bissau. Data on some of these indicators are not available from the sources used in this report.
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||18.8 (Unavailable)|
|Attending School (%)||5 to 14||97.6|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||20.6|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||Unavailable|
Primary completion rate was unavailable from UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2023. (1)
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization’s analysis of statistics from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 6 (MICS6), 2019. (2)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Farming, including the production of cashews (3-6)|
|Services||Domestic work (3,4,8,9)|
|Street work, including shoe-shining and vending (10)|
|Working as mechanics, including maintaining and repairing automobiles (4,7)|
|Working in nightclubs, including dishwashing and custodial work (7,11)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (12,13)|
|Forced labor in domestic work, agriculture, mining, and street work, including begging (8,9,13)|
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.
According to the latest national child labor survey, more than 169,200 children between the ages of 5 and 17 work; 85 percent of these children work in agriculture. (4) Organized networks of human traffickers affiliated with Koranic schools also force boys to beg within the country and in Senegal, and, to a lesser extent, in The Gambia, Guinea, and Mali. Although many Koranic school teachers provide religious education as traditionally intended, some force students, known as talibés, to beg on the streets for money and food. (8,13-15) Most talibés originate from the areas of Bafatá and Gabú in the eastern region of the country. (13,14,16) Bissau-Guinean boys are forced to work in street vending domestically; they are also transported by human traffickers to Senegal for forced labor in agriculture, mining, and street vending, particularly in the cities of Kolda and Ziguinchor. In addition, boys from Guinea-Bissau and from neighboring countries are forced to beg and harvest cashews domestically. (6,8,13) Furthermore, girls are subjected to forced labor in street vending and domestic work, and children in the Bijagós, an archipelago largely devoid of government and law enforcement presence, are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Children are also vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation in bars and hotels on mainland Guinea-Bissau. (9,13,15)
During the reporting period, school closures due to teacher strikes limited children's access to education. Reports also indicate that during the cashew harvesting season, children who assist their families are less likely to attend school. (6,11,17,18) Other educational barriers included inadequate school infrastructure and long distances to schools, particularly in rural areas. (5) In addition, in May 2022, the President of Guinea-Bissau dissolved parliament, and while parliamentary elections have been scheduled for June 2023, the government's ability to address the worst forms of child labor may have been impacted. (19,20)
Guinea-Bissau has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).
|Table 3. Ratification of International Conventions on Child Labor|
|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||✓|
The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor (Table 4). However, gaps exist in Guinea-Bissau's legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including minimum age protections that do not apply to children working without a contract.
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||No||16||Articles 1, 3, 288, 347, 350, and 520 of the Labor Code (21)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||18||Articles 354 and 355 of the Labor Code (21)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||Yes||Articles 354 and 355 of the Labor Code (21)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Articles 2–4 and 15 of the Law to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking; Article 106 of the Penal Code (22,23)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Articles 2–4 and 15 of the Law to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking (23)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||No||Articles 3–5 and 15 of the Law to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking; Articles 134 and 136 of the Penal Code (22,23)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Articles 3 and 7 of the Decree on Narcotic Substances (24)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||17||Article 31 of Law No. 4/99 (25)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||Yes||Article 2 of Law No. 4/99 (25)|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||No|
|Compulsory Education Age||Yes||15‡||Articles 12 and 13 of the Education System Law (26)|
|Free Public Education||No||Article 12(2) of the Education System Law (26)|
‡ Age calculated based on available information (26,27)
In 2022, a new Labor Code went into effect raising the minimum work age to 16; however, the law only applies to workers who perform work under a formal employment agreement, which does not conform to international standards that require all children to be protected by the minimum age to work. (21,28)
The law also does not sufficiently prohibit commercial sexual exploitation because the use of children in prostitution is not criminally prohibited. (22,23) In addition, the Education System Law states that basic education is compulsory and lasts 9 years; however, it only makes basic education free through grade six, leaving children in grades seven through nine without access to free basic education. (26) Moreover, as the minimum age for work is 16, children age 15 are vulnerable to exploitative child labor because they are not required to attend school while also not legally permitted to work. (21,26)
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 Public Administration||Enforces child labor legislation in collaboration with the Ministries of the Interior and Justice, and the National Institute for Women and Children (IMC). (5,7)|
|Ministry of the Interior’s Public Order Police and National Guard||Enforce laws related to the worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking, and refer relevant cases to IMC and NGOs for referral to social services providers. (7)|
|Judicial Police’s Women and Children Brigade||Investigates cases involving the worst forms of child labor, apart from child trafficking, and refers these to IMC and NGOs. Comprising 10 officers. (5,7,29)|
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in Guinea-Bissau took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the operations of the Ministry of Labor and Public Administration that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including insufficient allocation of financial and human resources.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||Unknown||Unknown|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||33 (5)||24 (29)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||Yes (30)||Yes (30)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||Unknown||Yes (7)|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||156 (5)||Unknown|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||0 (5)||Unknown|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||N/A||Unknown|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||N/A||Unknown|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Unknown||Unknown|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||No (5)||Unknown|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (30)||Yes (30)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (5)||Unknown|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||No (5)||Yes (7)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||No (5)||Yes (7)|
In 2022, the Ministry of Labor and Public Administration, along with the ILO, conducted a week-long training initiative for approximately 100 technicians from different government departments, trade unions, and employers; the trainings promoted actions related to Decent Work, such as addressing forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Participants discussed various topics, including the minimum age for work. (31)
Reports indicate that the number of labor inspectors is insufficient to target the scope of the problem in the country. Although the government provides salaries to labor inspectors, there is no additional budget to conduct investigations, which severely hindered the Ministry of Labor and Public Administration's ability to enforce child labor laws. (7) Reports also indicate that labor inspectors often rely on their personal means, including using their own vehicles and paying for their own gas, to perform labor inspections. Furthermore, due to a lack of funding, inspectors respond mainly to complaints rather than initiating targeted inspections based on risk-prone sectors and patterns of serious incidents. (7) In 2022, there were no child labor specific inspections identified. (7)
Criminal Law Enforcement
In 2022, criminal law enforcement agencies in Guinea-Bissau took actions to address child labor (Table 7). However, gaps exist within the operations of the criminal enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate criminal law enforcement, including insufficient allocation of financial resources.
|Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Training for Criminal Investigators Provided||No (5)||Yes (7)|
|Number of Investigations||0 (11)||8 (7)|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||0 (5)||8 (7)|
|Number of Convictions||0 (11)||0 (7)|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||N/A (5)||0 (7)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (5)||Yes (7)|
During the reporting period, the National Guard began training border officials on how to detect potential human trafficking situations and created grassroots committees within villages near border locations to aid in identifying human traffickers utilizing illegal border crossings. In addition, the National Guard conducted four separate human trafficking presentations on national radio, including on the identification and support available for human trafficking victims. (32) The Judicial Police created an anonymous hotline to identify child victims of abuse, including victims of child labor violations, and an awareness campaign was conducted over the radio and in schools to inform the public about the hotline. (7) However, reports indicate that criminal enforcement agencies lacked an operating budget and had very limited resources, hindering criminal law enforcement from investigating cases outside of the capital of Bissau, including in Gabú and Bafatá, where child labor is known to occur. (5,7,33,34)
The government has established a key mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8). However, gaps exist that may hinder the adequate coordination of efforts to address child labor, including the lack of an established stakeholder responsible for the standardized and consistent entry of cases into the referral and case management system.
|Coordinating Body||Role & Activities|
|Interministerial Commission to Fight Child Labor||Coordinates the government’s efforts to prevent and eliminate child labor. (35) In 2022, held four meetings to validate the Decent Labor report. (36)|
In 2022, under the lead of the National Institute for Women and Children (IMC), a referral and case management system implemented to improve coordination efforts was utilized by 28 institutions. A total of 515 cases were reported and managed within the system; however, the lack of an established stakeholder responsible for the standardized and consistent entry of data and the broad range of cases entered made it difficult to isolate child labor cases. (7)
The government has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including implementation.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|National Policy for the Protection of Children and Adolescents (2021–2032)||Guides the government’s policies for addressing violence toward children, including the worst forms of child labor. (37) Although the plan has not yet been approved by the Council of Ministers, research indicated that it was implemented during the reporting period. (38)|
|National Emergency Plan for the Prevention and Combat of Trafficking in Persons||Aims to prevent and reduce human trafficking by strengthening legislation, coordinating actions and initiatives among government agencies, promoting the coordination and collaboration of relevant stakeholders, and improving protective services and assistance to victims. Led by the IMC with the collaboration of national and international NGOs and relevant government entities. (39) Although the plan officially expired in 2021, it continued to be implemented during the reporting period, including through the rescue and reintegration of 198 child trafficking victims at the national and transnational levels. In addition, awareness and advocacy activities on human trafficking issues, particularly those related to children, continued. (38)|
|Code of Conduct Against Sexual Exploitation in Tourism||Seeks to raise awareness of commercial sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking in Guinea-Bissau, including in the Bijagós Archipelago, Bubaque, São Domingos, and Bissau. (36) Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement the Code of Conduct Against Sexual Exploitation in Tourism during the reporting period.|
In 2022, the government funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating and preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including the inadequacy of programs to address the full scope of the problem.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|Friends of the Child Association Shelters (Associação dos Amigos da Criança)†||Donor-funded shelters, with government support, in Bissau and Gabú. (32) Operated by a national NGO providing social services to vulnerable children, including victims of the worst forms of child labor. In 2022, conducted a campaign to identify Bissau-Guinean children found begging in Senegal. (7,32)|
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 is funded by the Government of Guinea-Bissau.
‡ The government had other social programs that may have included the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor. (40)
In 2022, the IOM completed a project supporting the development and implementation of a national strategic plan to prevent and protect victims of human trafficking. Outcomes included the capacity building of 60 border authorities and stakeholders on child trafficking and national referral mechanisms for the protection of victims. (7) The project also supported the return of 164 talibé children from Senegal and helped conduct a census of 780 talibé children throughout 22 Koranic schools. (7) However, reports suggest that the government did not conduct any national public awareness-raising campaigns on human trafficking, including child trafficking. (34) Reports also indicate that due to funding constraints, services provided by shelters may not have met quality-of-care standards. (41) In addition, although Guinea-Bissau has programs that target child labor, the scope of these programs is insufficient to fully address the extent of the problem.
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Guinea-Bissau (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Ensure that the minimum age for work applies to all children, including children without a formal employment agreement.||2015 – 2022|
|Ensure that laws criminally prohibit the use of a child for prostitution.||2021 – 2022|
|Ensure that the law criminally prohibits the recruitment of children under age 18 by non-state armed groups.||2016 – 2022|
|Ensure that all nine years of basic education are free.||2015 – 2022|
|Raise the compulsory education age from 15 to 16 to be consistent with the minimum age for employment.||2018 – 2022|
|Enforcement||Ensure that the number of law enforcement officials is sufficient to address the scope of the problem, and that both law and criminal enforcement officials receive adequate resources to inspect, investigate, and prosecute cases of child labor throughout the country, including in Bafatá and Gabú, where child labor is known to occur.||2009 – 2022|
|Strengthen the labor inspectorate by initiating routine inspections and targeting inspections based on the analysis of data related to risk-prone sectors and patterns of serious incidents.||2016 – 2022|
|Publish information on labor enforcement data for the reporting period, including the amount of funding provided to the labor inspectorate, the number of labor inspections conducted at worksite, the number of child labor violations, penalties imposed and collected for child labor violations, whether routine inspections were conducted and targeted, and whether unannounced inspections were conducted.||2009 – 2022|
|Coordination||Establish a stakeholder to be responsible for standardized and consistent data entry into the referral and case management system to ensure child labor cases can easily be identified.||2022|
|Government Policies||Ensure a policy that addresses all relevant worst forms of child labor, like the National Policy for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, is approved.||2022|
|Ensure that activities are undertaken to implement the Code of Conduct Against Sexual Exploitation in Tourism and publish results from activities implemented during the reporting period.||2017 – 2022|
|Social Programs||Significantly increase efforts to raise national awareness of human trafficking, including child trafficking.||2018 – 2022|
|Ensure that facilities, including shelters, have adequate resources to assist victims of the worst forms of child labor.||2015 – 2022|
|Expand existing programs to address the scope of the child labor problem, including in street work, particularly begging, and agriculture.||2009 – 2022|
|Enhance efforts to eliminate barriers and make education accessible for all children by improving school infrastructure and providing transportation, particularly in rural areas.||2019 – 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. Original data from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 6 (MICS6), 2019. Analysis received March 2023. Please see "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Plano de Desenvolvimento Agrícola Regional de Quinara. (2017–2021). 2017.
- Institute National De Statistique, ILO-IPEC, UNICEF. Rapport Final: Enquête nationale sur le travail des enfants en Guinée-Bissau. March 15, 2014. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. February 3, 2022.
- Sidibé, Alcene. Campanha de Caju e Fanado Aumentam a Taxa de Abandono Escolar na Região de Bafatá. Radio Jovem. January 13, 2018. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. February 7, 2023.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Guinea-Bissau (ratification: 2008). Published: 2019.
- Peyton, Nellie. Underpaid and abused, Guinea-Bissau's domestic workers seek protection. Reuters, February 22, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. January 28, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 27, 2022.
- Atlantic Federation of African Press Agencies. Tráfico de crianças/Secretário Executivo da AMIC diz que o fenómeno é uma realidade na Guiné-Bissau. July 29, 2020.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2023: Guinea-Bissau. Washington, D.C., June 15, 2023.
- Peyton, Nellie. Tradition or trafficking? Guinea-Bissau children suffer in Senegal's Islamic schools. March 5, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. March 4, 2020.
- Somos! Mais de 70 crianças guineenses resgatadas da mendicidade no Senegal. September 5, 2019.
- O País. Guiné-Bissau: Profissionais da Saúde e Educação em greve geral. October 10, 2022. October 10, 2022.
- DW. Educação: Guiné-Bissau ruma ao "descalabro" com ensino "desmembrado." January 22, 2022.
- Aljazeera. Guinea Bissau president dissolves parliament in new political row. May 17, 2022.
- APA News. Guinea-Bissau postpones legislative elections. December 17, 2022.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Codigo do Trabalho. 2022. Source on file.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Código Penal, Lei n.° 4/93. Enacted: October 13, 1993. Source on file.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Lei da prevenção e combate ao tráfico de pessoas, em particular mulheres e crianças, Lei n.° 12. Enacted: July 6, 2011.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Legislação Relativa a Estupefacientes, Decreto-Lei n.° 2-B/93. Enacted: October 28, 1993. Source on file.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Lei do Serviço Militar Obrigatório, Lei n.° 4/99. Enacted: September 7, 1999. Source on file.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Lei de Bases do Sistema Educativo. Enacted: 2011. Source on file.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Guinea-Bissau (ratification: 2009). Published: 2019.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Guinea-Bissau (ratification: 2009). Published: 2023.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. June 13, 2023.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Decreto nº 24-A/90 – Aprova o Regulamento da Inspecção-Geral de Trabalho e da Segurança Social, anexo ao presente Decreto, do qual faz parte integrante. August 1, 1990. Source on file.
- Radiodifusão Nacional da Guiné-Bissau. Guiné-Bissau: Governo e OIT Lançam Bases para Implementação de Trabalho Decente. October 19, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. January 30, 2023.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. February 24, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. March 11, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. February 14, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 23, 2023.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Política Nacional de Proteção Integral da Criança na Guiné-Bissau (PNPIC/GB) 2021–2032. 2021. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 14, 2023.
- Government of Guinea-Bissau. Plano Nacional de Emergência de Prevenção e Combate ao Tráfico de Seres Humanos. February 2020. Source on file.
- World Food Programme. Guinea-Bissau Country Strategic Plan (2019–2024). June 10–14, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Dakar. Reporting. March 21, 2019.