Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, Eswatini made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security began conducting a review of their offices with the International Labor Organization to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts in addressing child labor. However, children in Eswatini are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including in forced domestic work, forced livestock herding, and commercial sexual exploitation. Significant gaps in the legal framework remain, including a lack of legislation regulating the labor conditions under Kuhlehla and other customary practices. In addition, the de facto compulsory education age does not meet international standards.
Table 1 provides key indicators on children's work and education in Eswatini.
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||11.7 (35,368)|
|Attending School (%)||5 to 14||92.5|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||13.0|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||88.6|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2019, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2023. (1)
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization's analysis of statistics from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 4 (MICS 4), 2010. (2)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Raising and herding livestock, including cattle, buffalo, goats, swine, horses, and sheep (3-6)|
|Services||Domestic work (6)|
|Street work, including working as vendors, bus attendants, taxi conductors, porters, and car washers (5,7-9)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Forced labor in livestock herding, domestic work, farming, and market vending (7-11)|
|Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (5,7-13)|
|Use in illicit activities, including growing drugs such as marijuana (11)|
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.
Children perform physically arduous tasks while herding in the grasslands and mountainous regions, and risk occupational injury and disease from exposure to dangerous tools and chemicals. Children’s injuries sustained during livestock herding include open wounds, fractures, dislocations and sprains, fever, extreme fatigue, and snake bites. (4) In addition, there is evidence that children are involved in the production—but not the dealing or trafficking—of marijuana, which remains illegal. (3) Research suggests that in recent years, children from neighboring countries have been trafficked through Eswatini for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. There are also reports that children from Eswatini, particularly orphaned and vulnerable girls from poor families, have been lured into sexual exploitation through promises of employment in neighboring countries, particularly South Africa. (3)
The government provides free primary education from grade one through grade seven and subsidizes secondary education for the approximately 70 percent of Eswatini's children who are orphaned or vulnerable. At the lower secondary and upper secondary levels, however, the cost of school fees is a barrier for students whose families lacked sufficient funds to sustain their enrollment. (3,5,14) In addition, there is a shortage of teachers in numerous areas throughout the country. (6)
Eswatini 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 Eswatini's legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including deficiencies with the country's compulsory age provisions as they are below the minimum age for work.
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||Yes||15||Articles 2, 234, and 238 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act; Section 2, 97, 98, 109 of the Employment Act (15,16)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||18||Articles 236 and 238 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act; Article 29 of the Constitution (15,17)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||Yes||Articles 2, 97, 98, and 109 of the Employment Act; Articles 2, 233, and 236-238 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act (15)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Articles 2, 13, 232, and 238 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act; Sections 144 and 145 of the Employment Act; Articles 2, 12, and 13 of the People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act; Article 17 of the Constitution (15-18)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Articles 2, 75, and 76 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act; Articles 2, 3, 12, and 13 of the People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act (15,18)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||Yes||Sections 42–46 of the Crimes Act; Sections 2, 13–15, 24, 25, and 38 of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act; Articles 2, 12, and 13 of the People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act (18-20)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Articles 16 and 49 of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act (15)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||18||Sections 5 and 17 of The Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force Order (21)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||Yes||Sections 5 and 17 of The Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force Order (21)|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||No|
|Compulsory Education Age||No||12/13‡||Sections 10 of the Free Primary Education Act (22)|
|Free Public Education||No||Section 3, 6, 7, and 10 of the Free Primary Education Act (22)|
‡ Age calculated based on available information (22)
Although Section 10 of the Free Primary Education Act requires parents to send their children to school for the completion of primary education, which is typically around ages 12 or 13. As a result, children who complete primary education between ages 12 to 14 are vulnerable to child labor, as they are not required to be in school but also cannot legally work because they are under age 15, the minimum age for work. (22,23) In addition, the Free Primary Education Act provides for free schooling for citizens for 7 years, although basic education is a total of 9 years and includes lower secondary education. The failure to provide free basic education for the full 9 years may increase the risk of children's involvement in the worst forms of child labor. (22)
While there is some identification of hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children based on the current legislation, the list is not comprehensive to all hazardous jobs in Eswatini. The Employment Law does not cover herding, for which there is evidence of exposure to dangerous substances and temperatures. (4,6,16)
Previous reports indicated that local chiefs required residents, including children, to participate in non-communal tasks such as seasonal weeding. This work was performed through the customary practice of Kuhlehla, a practice in which people render services to the local chief or king. (14,24) The ILO has requested that the government issue legislation to regulate the nature and conditions of Kuhlehla and ensure that the law explicitly states the voluntary nature of participation in such work. (24)
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 Social Security||Enforces child labor laws and promotes relations between labor, government, and business through tripartite dialogue. (14) During the reporting period, began conducting a review of their offices with the ILO to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts in addressing child labor. (6)|
|Royal Eswatini Police Services||Investigate cases involving the worst forms of child labor. Inform victims of sexual offenses, including commercial sexual exploitation, of available counseling and other support services. (20,25) During the reporting period, police forces received training on how to properly respond to suspected victims of human trafficking. (26)|
|Director of Public Prosecutions||Prosecutes cases involving the worst forms of child labor and refers child survivors to social and legal support services. (3,20) Responsible for implementing survivor identification guidelines and referral mechanisms for victims of human trafficking and those at risk. (3,20)|
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in Eswatini took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including financial and human resource allocation.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||Unknown (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||14 (3)||18 (6)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||Yes (16)||Yes (16)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||Yes (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||Unknown (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||0 (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||N/A (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||N/A (3)||Unknown|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Yes (3)||Unknown|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||Yes (3)||Unknown|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (16)||Yes (16)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (3)||Unknown|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||Yes (3)||Yes (6)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||Yes (3)||Yes (6)|
The number of labor inspectors is likely insufficient for the size of Eswatini's work force, which includes approximately 396,000 workers. According to the ILO's technical advice of a ratio approaching 1 inspector for every 15,000 workers in less developed economies, Eswatini would need to employ roughly 26 inspectors. (3)
In previous years, research indicated that labor inspectors lacked sufficient resources, such as vehicles, to conduct inspections. (3,5,6,12,25)
While a mechanism to assess civil penalties exists, inspectors are not allowed to assess penalties. They must refer the matter to the police, who in turn refer to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for framing formal charges against a company or individual. (3) If the case is prosecuted and concluded against the employer, then the courts will determine the fines. (3)
Criminal Law Enforcement
In 2022, criminal law enforcement agencies in Eswatini 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 allocation of financial resources.
|Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Training for Criminal Investigators Provided||Yes (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Investigations||0 (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||N/A (3)||Unknown|
|Number of Convictions||0 (3)||Unknown|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||N/A (3)||Unknown|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (3)||Yes (6)|
The Royal Eswatini Police Services lacked sufficient resources to carry out investigations related to the worst forms of child labor and likely will continue to lack sufficient resources due to the ongoing economic crisis and budget cuts in Eswatini. (3,5,14)
The government has established a key mechanism to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8). However, gaps exist that hinder the effective coordination of efforts to address child labor, including efficacy in accomplishing mandates.
|Coordinating Body||Role & Activities|
|Child Labor Task Force||A multi-sectoral team comprising different ministries along with private members and NGOs. The task force is responsible for overseeing the Action Program for Combating Child Labor in Eswatini and takes the lead on child labor issues throughout the country. (6,28) Research was unable to determine whether this group took actions during the reporting period to coordinate efforts to address child labor.|
The Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force formulates policies and programs to prevent and suppress human trafficking and people smuggling, including programs to provide assistance to survivors and increase the public's awareness of the causes and consequences of human trafficking and smuggling, and exchanges information on cases of human trafficking among relevant stakeholders, including the police, immigration officers, social workers, and prosecutors. (18) Although the government has coordinating mechanisms that address child labor and human trafficking, resource constraints, poor communication, and a lack of coordination between agencies has resulted in confusion about its mandate, how to accomplish their mission, and the overall effectiveness of the task force. (6,12)
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 implementation.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|National Strategic Framework and Action Plan to Combat People Trafficking (2019–2023)||Assigns responsibilities for addressing human trafficking to relevant government agencies and provides services to survivors. (29) Aims to improve protection for survivors, increase prosecution for offenders, and support continued prevention efforts. (29) Research was unable to determine whether actions were undertaken to implement this policy during the reporting period.|
|Action Program on Combating Child Labor in Eswatini (2021–2026)||Outlines key strategies that the government should use to prevent children from engaging in child labor and for withdrawing those already in child labor situations. (6,28) The task force responsible for this policy continued to meet during the reporting period. (6)|
|National Children's Policy||Represents the policy framework of the Children's Protection and Welfare Act and aims to promote the rights of children, protect children from abuse and exploitation, including child labor, and improve the quality of education. (30) Research was unable to determine whether actions were undertaken to implement this policy during the reporting period.|
In 2022, the government funded and participated in programs that include the goal of preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including the inadequacy of programs to address the full scope of the child labor problem.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|Free Primary Education Program†||Provides funding to ensure free primary education to children for a period of 7 years, starting from age 6 and ending at seventh grade. (25,31) Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement this program during the reporting period.|
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 Eswatini.
The offices of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister continued to work with the Trafficking in Persons Secretariat and the Catholic Church to explore the establishment of a shelter to improve the quality of care available to survivors of human trafficking. (9) In addition, the Deputy Prime Minister's office, which overseas child welfare issues, launched a campaign to register children to help them gain access to schools. Along with this, the Eswatini Broadcast Service runs a radio program that focuses on raising awareness on the worst forms of child labor. (3) Although Eswatini has programs to improve education access, it lacks programs to address child labor, including in domestic work and herding. (9,32)
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Eswatini (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Adopt legislation that prohibits the recruitment of children under age 18 by non-state armed groups.||2016 – 2022|
|Ensure that the hazardous occupations and activities prohibited for children under 18 are comprehensive and include herding.||2012 – 2022|
|Establish the compulsory education age to 15 so that is consistent with the minimum age for work.||2009 – 2022|
|Establish by law 9 years of free basic public education to cover lower secondary education for all children, including non-citizens.||2018 – 2022|
|Adopt legislation that regulates the work performed through traditional practices like Kuhlehla and ensure that the law explicitly states the voluntary nature of participation in such work.||2017 – 2022|
|Enforcement||Collect and publish comprehensive statistics on labor law enforcement efforts, including information about the labor inspectorate's budget, training for labor inspectors, number of inspections conducted, and the number of penalties imposed and collected.||2020 – 2022|
|Provide adequate resources, including transportation and fuel, to labor inspectors and criminal investigators so they can fulfill their mandates.||2013 – 2022|
|Increase the number of labor inspectors from 18 to about 26 to ensure adequate coverage of the labor force.||2016 – 2022|
|Collect and publish comprehensive statistics on criminal enforcement efforts, including information about training for law enforcement personnel, number of investigations, number of prosecutions, number of convictions, and the number of penalties imposed and collected.||2022|
|Coordination||Ensure that all coordinating bodies are active and have the necessary resources to be able to fulfill their mandates as intended.||2019 – 2022|
|Improve coordination and communication among staff of coordinating bodies.||2018 – 2022|
|Government Policies||Implement child labor-related policies, including the Action Program on Combating Child Labor in Eswatini, National Strategic Framework and Action Plan to Combat People Trafficking, and National Children's Policy.||2017 – 2022|
|Social Programs||Ensure that children are able to access free basic education, including by eliminating school fees for lower secondary and upper secondary education and hiring the necessary number of teachers for all areas.||2013 – 2022|
|Publish updates on the implementation of the Free Primary Education Program on an annual basis.||2018 – 2022|
|Ensure a minimum quality of standard care in shelters for victims of child trafficking.||2017 – 2022|
|Develop social protection programs to assist children engaged in child labor in domestic work and herding.||2014 – 2022|
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed March 28, 2023. For more information, please see the “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 4 (MICS 4), 2010. Analysis received March 2023. For more information, please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. January 14, 2022.
- Government of Eswatini and ILO. Statistical Report on Child Labour in Herding in Rural Areas of Swaziland 2014. 2018.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. February 2, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. March 3, 2023.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2020: Eswatini. Washington, D.C., June 16, 2020.
- U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report- 2019: Eswatini. Washington, D.C., June 20, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting (TIP). February 18, 2020.
- U.S. Department of State. Eswatini: Input for the Eighteenth Annual Trafficking in Persons Report. February 22, 2018. Source on file.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. February 12, 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. February 27, 2019.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) Swaziland (ratification: 1978). Published: 2017. Accessed November 26, 2017.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. January 17, 2020.
- Government of Eswatini. Children's Protection and Welfare Act, 2012. Enacted: 2012. Source on file.
- Government of Eswatini. The Employment Act, 1980. Enacted: 1981.
http://www.rodra.co.za/images/countries/eswatini/legislation/Eswatini Employment Act of 1980.pdf
- Government of Eswatini. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act 2005. Enacted: 2005.
- Government of Eswatini. The People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act 2009, Act No. 7. Enacted: November 10, 2009.
- Government of Eswatini. The Crimes Act of 1889.
- Government of Eswatini. The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, 2018. Enacted: June 28, 2018. Source on file.
- Government of Eswatini. The Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force Order. Enacted: 1977. Source on file.
- Government of Eswatini. The Free Primary Education Act. Enacted: 2010. Source on file.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Eswatini (ratification: 2002). 2018. Accessed April 2, 2019.
- ILO Committee of Experts. Observation concerning Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) Eswatini (ratification:1978). 2017. Accessed April 2, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. Reporting. February 11, 2019.
- U.S. Embassy- Mbabane. TIP Reporting. March 17, 2023.
- Government of Eswatini. Action Programme on Combating Child Labour in Eswatini. 2022. Source on File.
- Government of Eswatini. National Strategic Framework and Action Plan to Combat People Trafficking 2019–2023. Source on file.
- Government of Eswatini. Swaziland National Children's Policy, 2009.
- Government of Eswatini. Ministry of Education and Training - Freed Education. 2021.
- ILO. Decent Work Country Programmes, Programmes by country/subregion 2016. Cited March 2020.