Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, Niger made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government created a new committee to combat forced begging and held a workshop to revise the draft National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor. However, children in Niger are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in hereditary slavery and mining, each sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Children also perform dangerous tasks herding livestock. The minimum age for work does not meet international standards because it does not apply to children in informal work. In addition, the government made limited efforts to address the ongoing practice of wahaya, a form of child slavery that was upheld as illegal by a Nigerien court in 2019. Lastly, there are persistent gaps in labor law enforcement, including insufficient funding for labor inspectors to conduct inspections.
Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in Niger.
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||42.9 (2,516,191)|
|Attending School (%)||7 to 14||48.0|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||22.1|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||57.9|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2021, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2023. (1)
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization's analysis of statistics from Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 2012. (2)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children’s work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Production of rice, fruits, nuts, and vegetables (3-5)|
|Herding and caring for livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats, and fowl (5-7)|
|Fishing, including river net casting (8)|
|Industry||Quarrying† and mining† for trona, salt, gypsum, and gold (3,7,9-12)|
|Metal work† (13)|
|Working in construction,† tanneries,† and slaughterhouses† (3,5,7,12,14)|
|Brick making (12)|
|Services||Street work, including as market vendors, and begging† (3)|
|Garbage scavenging (3)|
|Domestic work (3,12,15)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (3,7,9,12)|
|Recruitment of children by non-state armed groups for use in armed conflict (7)|
|Hereditary and caste-based slavery, including for cattle herding, agricultural work, domestic work, and sexual exploitation (3,7,9,12)|
|Forced begging (7,9,16-18)|
|Forced labor in domestic work and mining (7,9,12)|
|Use in illicit activities, including trafficking drugs (7)|
† Determined by national law or regulation as hazardous and, as such, relevant to Article 3(d) of ILO C. 182.
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.
Children in Niger, especially boys and girls from the Arab, Djerma, Peulh, Tuareg, and Toubou ethnic minorities, continue to be exploited as slaves and endure slavery-like practices, particularly in the regions of Tahoua and Agadez. (3,14) Some children are born into slavery; others are born free but remain in a dependent status and are forced to work with their parents for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging. (5,12,20,21) A particular form of slavery in Niger is the wahaya practice, in which men buy girls born into slavery, often between ages 9 and 14, as “fifth wives.” Even though Niger’s Supreme Court set a legal precedent by ruling wahaya to be illegal in 2019, the government has made limited efforts to inform the public of the court’s ruling. (3,7,8,22) Child slaves, including those involved in the practice of wahaya, are forced to work long hours as cattle herders, agricultural workers, or domestic workers, and are often sexually exploited. (12,23) As with those involved in hereditary slavery, the children of wahaya wives are considered slaves, and are passed from one owner to another as gifts or as part of dowries. (6,12,23) During the reporting period, children were also forcibly recruited and used as child soldiers by non-state armed groups. (7)
In Niger, some Koranic teachers known as marabouts subject their students, boys known as talibés, to manual labor or forced begging rather than providing them with a religious education. (3,7,9) Children in Niger participating in seasonal migration or migrant children from West Africa traveling to Algeria and Libya may also be subject to forced begging or commercial sexual exploitation. (16,18,24-26) In addition, Niger has a form of internal child trafficking called confiage, in which family members send their children to live with relatives or friends with promises of better educational or trade learning opportunities. However, some children are instead subjected to exploitation, including forced labor, sex trafficking, and domestic work. (7,12)
Although the Constitution guarantees free education, school fees are often required. A lack of school infrastructure and school materials, and the limited availability of teachers, especially in rural areas, impedes access to education, which may increase the vulnerability of children to child labor. (3,7) Due to insecurity, hundreds of schools were closed during the reporting period. (13)
Niger 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||✓|
The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor (Table 4). However, gaps exist in Niger’s legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including a lack of minimum age protections for children working in the informal economy.
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||No||14||Article 106 of the Labor Code (27)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||18||Article 159 of Decree No. 2017-682 (28)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||Yes||Articles 159–161 and 164–171 of Decree No. 2017-682; Article 181 of the Penal Code (28,29)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Article 14 of the Constitution; Article 4 and 107 of the Labor Code; Article 158 of Decree No. 2017-682; Article 270 of the Penal Code; Articles 2 and 10 of the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons (27-31)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Article 107 of the Labor Code; Article 158 of Decree No. 2017-682; Articles 2 and 10 of the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons; Article 16 of the Law 2015-36 on Illicit Traffic of Migrants (27,28,31,32)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||Yes||Article 107 of the Labor Code; Article 158 of Decree No. 2017-682; Articles 291 and 292 of the Penal Code; Articles 2 and 10 of the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons (27-29,31)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Article 107 of the Labor Code; Article 158 of Decree No. 2017-682; Article 181 of the Penal Code; Articles 10 and 16 of the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons (27-29,31)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||18||Article 107 of the Labor Code (27)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||N/A*|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||Yes||Article 107 of the Labor Code (27)|
|Compulsory Education Age||No||Article 8 of Decree No. 2017-935; Article 2 of the Law on the Orientation of the Educational System (33,34)|
|Free Public Education||Yes||Article 23 of the Constitution; Article 8 of Decree No. 2017-935; Article 2 of the Law on the Orientation of the Educational System (30,33,34)|
* Country has no conscription (35)
Although the Labor Code establishes age 14 as the minimum age for work, it does not apply to workers in the informal economy, which does not conform to international standards requiring all children to be protected under the law. (27,36) In addition, Article 2 of the Law on the Orientation of the Educational System in Niger guarantees education for all children ages 4 to 18, and Article 8 of Decree No. 2017-935 states that the government is required to promote access to compulsory education, particularly for young girls. However, Niger’s law does not clearly articulate to which age groups the latter provision applies, thereby leaving some children at risk of not being covered and increasing the risk of children’s involvement in child labor. (33,34)
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 Employment, Labor and Social Security (MELSS)||Enforces labor laws and investigates Labor Code infractions, including those on child and forced labor. Conducts awareness-raising programs to address child labor. (3,26,37)|
|National Civil Police Force Morals and Minors Brigade||Investigates criminal cases involving minors, including issues pertaining to human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and hereditary slavery. Housed under the Ministry of Interior and Public Security. (3)|
|National Human Rights Commission||Receives complaints related to child labor, including its worst forms, and conducts investigations of human rights violations, including hereditary slavery. (3,37)|
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in Niger took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the operations of the Ministry of Employment, Labor and Social Security (MELSS) that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including a lack of adequate human resources.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||Unknown (3)||$90,000 (7)|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||60 (3)||60 (7)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||Yes (27)||Yes (27)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||Yes (3)||Yes (13)|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||Unknown (3)||117 (7)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Yes (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||Yes (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (27)||Yes (27)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||Yes (3)||Yes (7)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||Yes (3)||Yes (7)|
The MELSS's number of labor inspectors is likely insufficient for the size of Niger’s workforce, which includes approximately 9.8 million workers. (3,7,14) While the government reported having 60 labor inspectors, only 10 of them were located in the field carrying out inspections. (7) In addition, the MELSS does not have the necessary funds or resources to be able to carry out inspections in all regions, especially in the informal sector and in remote locations where most child labor occurs. Moreover, although the government did not provide the number of child labor cases found in 2022, the MELSS noted that children are only removed from child labor situations in extreme cases of exploitation, such as child trafficking or forced labor. (3,38)
Criminal Law Enforcement
In 2022, criminal law enforcement agencies in Niger took actions to address child labor (Table 7). However, gaps exist within the operations of 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||Yes (3)||No (7)|
|Number of Investigations||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Number of Convictions||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||Unknown (3)||Unknown (7)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (3)||Yes (7)|
Research found that inadequate resources, including insufficient personnel, funding, and training, hamper the capacity of criminal law enforcement authorities to coordinate and enforce laws related to the worst forms of child labor. (3,39,40) The National Agency to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Illegal Migrant Transport maintains a hotline to report human trafficking crimes, but the number of calls received by the hotline that involve child trafficking is unknown. Even though the Nigerien Supreme Court ruled the practice of wahaya to be illegal in 2019, reinforcing the 2003 Penal Code that prohibits this practice, research found enforcement to be negligible and that it remains common practice in some parts of the country. (13,29) Furthermore, many victims do not come forward or file complaints against their former masters due to dependency on their former masters and a lack of reintegration services. (5,11)
The government has established a key mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8).
|Coordinating Body||Role & Activities|
|National Steering Committee to Combat Child and Forced Labor||Led by MELSS, includes 17 Nigerien ministries and agencies with the purpose of finalizing the next phase of Niger’s National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor. (3,41) Also intends to develop a new hazardous work list. (3,7,41) During the reporting period, the Committee held a workshop to revise the National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor. (7)|
During the reporting period, Niger created an interministerial committee to combat forced begging, chaired by the Prime Minister's Deputy Chief of Staff. (13,50)
The government has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including a lack of coverage of all worst forms of child labor.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2019–2023)||Aims to enhance the legal framework to prevent human trafficking, adequately implement the laws, and provide effective protection and care for victims, including children. Led by the National Agency to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Illegal Migrant Transport. (11,51,52) While it was active during the reporting period, research was unable to determine what activities were undertaken to implement the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons during the reporting period. (13)|
|National Social Protection Strategy||Aims to improve the quality of, and access to, basic education and health services; includes strategies to address child labor. Overseen by the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Child Protection. (53) Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement the National Social Protection Strategy during the reporting period.|
‡ The government had other policies that may have addressed child labor issues or had an impact on child labor. (42)
Although Niger has adopted the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, research found no evidence of a policy on 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 efforts to address the problem in all sectors, including agriculture, herding, mining, and caste-based servitude.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|Centers for the Prevention, Protection, and Promotion of Persons†||Government program replacing the Judicial and Preventive Education Services, in collaboration with UNICEF, to provide food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are survivors of child labor. (7,15,47) In 2022, the program continued but research could not find information on its activities or how many of the 54 existing centers continue to be operational.|
|UNICEF Country Program (2019–2022)||UNICEF-funded program that supported the government’s efforts to improve children’s education, birth registration rates, and social inclusion, and to strengthen child protection programs, including for children of refugees in the Diffa region. (57-59) The UNICEF Country Program ended in 2022. (3)|
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 Niger.
Although Niger has programs that target child labor, the scope of these programs is insufficient to fully address the problem, especially in agriculture, herding, mining, and caste-based servitude. Niger also lacks a specific program to assist children exploited by religious instructors. (3,7,9,39) In addition, the resources and facilities available to social services agencies remain inadequate. (3,7,9,39)
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Niger (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Ensure that the law’s minimum age for work provisions and protections apply to self-employed children and those in unpaid or non-contractual work.||2015 – 2022|
|Establish a compulsory education age equal to the minimum age for work of 14 years.||2016 – 2022|
|Enforcement||Ensure that inspections and enforcement efforts take place in the informal sector, and in remote locations, where most child labor occurs.||2014 – 2022|
|Publish complete information and data on the government's enforcement of child labor laws, including the number of worksite inspections conducted, violations found, and penalties imposed and collected.||2012 – 2022|
|Increase resources, including funding and training available to enforcement agencies, increase the number of labor inspectors from 60 to 246 to ensure adequate coverage of a labor force of approximately 9.8 million people, and increase the number of criminal investigators to provide adequate inspection coverage.||2009 – 2022|
|Disaggregate complaints made to the National Agency to Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Illegal Migrant Transport's hotline so that the number of complaints related to children is known.||2013 – 2022|
|Ensure that all survivors of the worst forms of child labor are removed from exploitative situations as appropriate.||2010 – 2022|
|Publish complete information on the number of criminal investigations, prosecutions, and convictions related to the worst forms of child labor.||2020 – 2022|
|Adequately enforce the Nigerien Supreme Court's ruling banning the practice of wahaya.||2019 – 2022|
|Ensure that survivors of slavery are returned to their families, and have access to reintegration services, as appropriate, including educational opportunities and counseling.||2020 – 2022|
|Government Policies||Adopt and implement a national action plan to address child labor, including in hereditary slavery, mining, and agriculture.||2009 – 2022|
|Publish information about efforts to implement the National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the National Social Protection Strategy on an annual basis.||2016 – 2022|
|Social Programs||Enhance efforts to eliminate barriers and make education accessible for all children, including girls, refugees, internally displaced children, and children in rural communities, by increasing school infrastructure, increasing the number of teachers, removing school fees, and providing more school supplies.||2013 – 2022|
|Expand the scope of programs to address the worst forms of child labor, including in agriculture, herding, mining, and caste-based servitude.||2009 – 2022|
|Implement a program to target and assist children exploited by religious instructors.||2011 – 2022|
|Ensure that government social services providers have sufficient resources and facilities to provide the necessary care to all children withdrawn from forced labor and publish information on these activities.||2015 – 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 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 2012. 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- Niamey. Reporting. January 14, 2022.
- Government of Niger. Etude sur le travail des enfants dans les zones rizicoles au Niger. October 2014. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 6, 2022.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. January 17, 2018.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. January 31, 2023.
- USDOS official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. June 17, 2021.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report 2021- Niger. Washington, D.C., July 1, 2021.
- ILO CEACR. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Niger (ratification: 2000). Published: 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. February 20, 2020.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. March 12, 2021.
- USDOS official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. June 20, 2023.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. January 28, 2021.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Niger (ratification: 2000). Published: 2016.
- UN Human Rights Council. End of mission statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, on his visit to Niger (1–8 October 2018). October 8, 2018.
- RFI. Algérie: démantèlement d'un réseau de mendicité d'enfants migrants nigériens. November 14, 2018.
- UNICEF. Issue Brief: Children on the Move in Niger 2020. December 2019.
- Anti-Slavery International and Timidria. Alternative report on Niger’s implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC). Initial report. November 2017. Source on file.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report 2018- Niger. Washington, D.C., June 28, 2018.
- Peyton, Nellie. No more 'fifth wife' sex slaves and maids, Niger's top court rules. Reuters. March 20, 2019.
- Face2Face Africa. Wahaya: Niger’s banned yet thriving ‘marriage’ in which women are turned into sexual slaves. October 1, 2018.
- Amnesty International. Forced to Leave: Stories of Injustice Against Migrants in Algeria. December 20, 2018.
- UNICEF. Children on the move are, first and foremost, children. March 17, 2020.
https://www.unicef.org/niger/stories/children-move-are-first-and-foremost-children#:~:text=Children on the move are, first and foremost, children,-UNICEF works with&text=An increasing number of migrant,children on the move safe
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. February 11, 2022.
- Government of Niger. Code du Travail. Enacted: September 25, 2012. Source on file.
- Government of Niger. Decree 2017-682 Portant Partie Règlementaire du Code du Travail. Enacted: August 10, 2017.
- Government of Niger. Loi N° 2003-025 Code Penal. Enacted: June 13, 2003.
- Government of Niger. Constitution de la VIIe République. Enacted: November 25, 2010.
- Government of Niger. Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons. Enacted: December 16, 2010. Source on file.
- Government of Niger. Law 2015-36 Relative au Trafic Illicite de Migrants. Enacted: May 26, 2015. Source on file.
- Government of Niger. Decree No. 2017-935/PRN/MEPAPLN/EC/MES Portant Partie Règlementaire du Code du Travail. Enacted: December 5, 2017. Source on file.
- Government of Niger. Loi N° 98-12 du 1er juin 1998, portant orientation du système éducatif nigérien. Enacted: June 1, 1998.
- Child Soldiers International. Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers. 2010.
- ILO CEACR. Individual Observation concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Niger (ratification: 1978). Published: 2019.
- U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2019- Niger. Washington, D.C., March 11, 2020.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. February 16, 2018.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. January 24, 2020.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) Niger (ratification: 1961). Published: 2017.
- Government of Niger. Arrêté création Comité Directeur National de lutte contre le travail des enfants et le travail forcé au Niger. October 14, 2021. Source on file.
- ECPAT. Niger: Global Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. 2017. Source on file.
- UN Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Urmila Bhoola - Mission to the Niger, Report No. A/HRC/30/35/Add.1. July 30, 2015.
- U.S. Embassy- Niamey. Reporting. February 21, 2023.
- Agence Nigerienne de Presse. Dosso: atelier d’élaboration du plan d’actions national de lutte contre la traite des personnes. March 16, 2019.
- Government of Niger. National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2019–2023). Source on file.
- Government of Niger. Politique Nationale de Protection Sociale. August 2011.
- UNICEF. UNICEF Annual Report 2017: The Niger. June 2018.
- UNICEF. Programme of Cooperation Niger - UNICEF 2019–2021. 2019.
https://www.unicef.org/niger/media/1186/file/ENG CPD Summary Booklet 2019-2021.pdf
- UNICEF. UNICEF Executive Board approves the Niger new country programme 2019–2021. February 7, 2019.