Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Tunisia

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports


2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Moderate Advancement

In 2014, Tunisia made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government approved a new Constitution, which includes children's rights; began implementing the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking; and launched a new program to improve access to education. However, children in Tunisia are engaged in child labor, including work on the street and in the worst forms of child labor, including in domestic work as a result of human trafficking. A lack of current national-level data on child labor makes it difficult to determine the prevalence and nature of child labor in Tunisia.


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Children in Tunisia are engaged in child labor, including in street work.(1-4) Children are also engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in domestic work as a result of human trafficking.(4, 5) Table 1 provides key indicators on children's work and education in Tunisia.

Table 1. Statistics on Children's Work and Education

Working children, ages 5 to 14 (% and population):

3.0 (50,364)

School attendance, ages 5 to 14 (%):


Children combining work and school, ages 7 to 14 (%):


Primary completion rate (%):


Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2010, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015.(6)
Source for all other data: Understanding Children's Work Project's analysis of statistics from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 4, 2011 — 2012.(7)

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




Farming, activities unknown (1-3, 8, 9)

Herding livestock* (9)


Construction,* activities unknown (3)


Domestic work (1-4)

Work in markets* and cafes* (2, 3, 9, 10)

Street work, including shining shoes,* begging,* vending,* and scavenging garbage*† (1-4)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡

Commercial sexual exploitation as a result of human trafficking* (4, 5)

Used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking* (4, 5)

Domestic work* and begging,* each as a result of human trafficking (4, 5)

* Evidence of this activity is limited and/or the extent of the problem is unknown.
† 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.

The Government lacks current nationwide data on child labor, including its worst forms. NGOs report that child labor has become more pervasive and visible in Tunisia since the January 2011 revolution.(2, 9)

Child migrants from sub-Saharan countries and those fleeing conflict in Libya and Syria, as well as young girls from Tunisia's Northwest region, are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.(4, 5)

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Tunisia 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, including its worst forms (Table 4).

Table 4. Laws and Regulations Related to Child Labor




Related Legislation

Minimum Age for Work



Article 53 of the Labor Code (13)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work



Article 58 of the Labor Code (13)

Prohibition of Hazardous Occupations or Activities for Children



Article 1 of Decree No. 2000-98 (14)

Prohibition of Forced Labor



Article 250 of the Penal Code (15, 16)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking




Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children



Articles 226 bis and 232 of the Penal Code; Article 25 of the Child Protection Code (15, 17)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities



Articles 171 and 224 of the Penal Code (15)

Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment



Article 2 of the National Service Law (18)

Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service



Article 2 of the National Service Law (18)

Compulsory Education Age



Section 1 of the Law on Education (19)

Free Public Education



Article 38 of the Constitution (20)

In January 2014, the Government approved a new Constitution, which includes children's rights including the right to free public education.(20)

Tunisia lacks a law that prohibits human trafficking. In 2013, the Ministry of Justice drafted an anti-trafficking bill in collaboration with international organizations. In 2014, the technical committee modified the draft law based on comments received in September.(21) The Ministries of National Defense, Transportation, Economy and Finance, Social Affairs, and Education, among others, also provided comments.(22)

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The Government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 5).

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement



Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA)

Monitor compliance with the minimum-age law by examining the records of employees and collaborate with the General Union of Tunisian Labor to ensure that the Labor Code is enforced.(16) Carry out labor inspections.(13)

Ministry of Education

Collaborate with MSA to identify children vulnerable to child labor.(16)

Ministry of Justice's Anti-Trafficking Office

Help enact law to prohibit trafficking in persons.(4)

National Police's Child Protection Service

Address the commercial sexual exploitation of children through prevention and investigation.(22)

Ministry of Interior's Crisis Unit

Aim to prevent terrorist groups from recruiting children.(5)

Law enforcement agencies in Tunisia took actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms.

Labor Law Enforcement

In 2014, the Government of Tunisia employed 364 inspectors to enforce labor laws, including those related to child labor. They did not receive sufficient training on child labor.(23) A source indicates that labor inspectors did not have sufficient funding, vehicles, and fuel to support their work. In 2014, 12,000 inspections were conducted across the formal sector covered in the Labor Code.(23) These inspections identified 1,941 children and youth engaged in child labor.(23) Under Article 174 of the Labor Code, inspectors have the right to make unannounced inspections in all regulated sectors.(13) Labor inspectors carry out worksite inspections based on a weekly schedule that includes routine inspections but gives precedence to complaints.(23) Inspectors are allowed to impose penalties for violations of the law. In 2014, 53 formal warnings were issued to employers regarding cases of child labor.(23) In all cases of these formal warning, the employer rectified the situation.(23)

Although social workers are allowed to access private homes and intervene in cases of child domestic workers, limited evidence suggests that, in practice, inspections are not conducted in private homes.(5, 22) There is currently no coordination mechanism to refer children to social services during labor inspections.(23)

Criminal Law Enforcement

In 2014, the Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA) employed 2,117 social workers who worked in the field, which the MSA described as adequate for criminal enforcement of the formal economy but not the informal economy. Seventy social workers received child labor training.(23) Military judges and customs officials received training on how to identify and protect victims of human trafficking.(24) The Ministry of Justice organized and hosted a regional conference on human trafficking, in partnership with the Council of Europe and the IOM to exchange experience and best practices and become familiar with international norms.(21) However, adequate training was not available to all agents due to the lack of sufficient resources.(23)

In 2014, the MSA issued directives to its personnel in 24 social service centers on how to assist trafficking victims. The MSA also maintains a database of human trafficking victims and works with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that victims of human trafficking are not prosecuted for trafficking crimes.(24) Enforcement agencies do not effectively distinguish between human smuggling and human trafficking, which has hampered the Government's ability to investigate human trafficking offenses, convict offenders, and identify victims.(4) Research did not find information on the number of investigations and the implementation of penalties related to criminal worst forms of child labor.

While the adoption of the draft anti-human trafficking law was pending, courts used existing legal provisions of the Penal Code to prosecute 50 cases of commercial sexual exploitation in the first 7 months of 2014. The penalties in these cases ranged from 3 months to 6 years of imprisonment.(21) It is unknown how many of these cases involved children.

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The Government has established mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor, including its worst forms (Table 6).

Table 6. Mechanisms to Coordinate Government Efforts on Child Labor

Coordinating Body

Role & Description

National Steering Committee for the Implementation of the NationalAction Plan to Combat Child Labor

Coordinate efforts to combat child labor. Members include the Ministries of Interior; Social Affairs; Justice; Women, Family, and Childhood; Education; and Vocational Training and Employment; as well as the General Union of Tunisian Labor, the Tunisian Employers Union of Industry Trade and Handicrafts, and the Tunisian Union of Farmers and Fishermen. Supported by the ILO.(23, 25, 26)

Interagency Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee

Coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking and raise awareness and follow up on the enactment of the draft law to prohibit trafficking in persons. Led by the Ministry of Justice.(4, 9) In 2014, the Committee steered the draft bill between Ministries and to the Council of Ministers.(22)

Inter-Ministerial Working Group To Combat Human Trafficking*

Coordinate anti-trafficking policy and to share information and best practices. Chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while members include representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Justice, Social Affairs, Vocational Training and Employment, Defense, Health, and Religious Affairs.(27) The group meets monthly. In 2014, the participating ministries drafted anti-trafficking action plans that the working group utilized to develop a draft national plan.(27)

* Mechanism to coordinate efforts to address child labor was created during the reporting period.

There has been a strengthening of data exchange between the members of the National Steering Committee since its inception in September 2013.(23)

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The Government of Tunisia has established policies related to child labor, including its worst forms (Table 7).

Table 7. Policies Related to Child Labor



National Plan of Action to Combat Child Labor (2013–2014)

Aims to combat child labor by raising awareness, building the capacity of stakeholders, and encouraging action from NGOs and the public. Supported by the ILO.(25, 26)

Action Plan of the Country Program (2015–2019)

Joins plan with support of UNICEF to decrease drop-out rates and improve education quality and access to early education, teach life skills to adolescents, and improve access to information in order to improve child protection against violence and economic exploitation.(28, 29)

National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (2015–2017)

Mandates a variety of activities, including passing the draft anti-trafficking bill; building capacity of civil society to address human trafficking; boosting public awareness of human trafficking; and training police, customs, and penitentiary officials in identifying victims of human trafficking.(24, 30) The Government began implementing the Plan in 2014.(22)

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In 2014, the Government of Tunisia funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms. The Government has other programs that may have an impact on child labor, including its worst forms (Table 8).

Table 8. Social Programs to Address Child Labor



Universal Primary Education*

UNICEF-funded program supported by the Government that promotes quality education with a goal of achieving universal primary enrollment.(31)

School Drop-Out Prevention Program*‡

Ministry of Education program that maintains over 2,300 social protection units in schools and mobile units in rural areas to monitor students and prevent school drop-out.(32)

Assistance to Needy Families*‡

MSA program that provides support to poor families and children through cash-transfer and access to healthcare to ensure school attendance.(31, 33)

National School Feeding Program*†

UN-funded program that provides technical support to the Ministry of Education to create and implement a national school feeding program. Provides improved access to education and aims to reduce drop-out rates in all public primary schools. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Education and WFP was signed in January 2014.(34)

Trade Apprenticeships‡

Government program that provides wage earning and trade apprenticeships to youth ages 15 to 20, as an alternative to exploitative child labor.(35)

Shelters for Street Children‡

Government-operated shelters to serve children at risk of human trafficking.(4)

Child Protection and Youth Center Network‡

Government program that maintains 21 youth centers and 67 child protection institutions that are able to serve up to 6,000 children engaged in or at-risk of child labor.(22, 32)

Support Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking (2014–2017)†

USDOS-funded 3-year project implemented by IOM to carry out anti-human trafficking activities in collaboration with the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Social Affairs, and Women, Family, and Childhood. Includes the objectives: (1) build the capacity of relevant institutions and agencies to identify and assist victims of trafficking based on their individual needs; (2) strengthen cross-sector cooperation and the sharing of information through the implementation of a national referral mechanism to identify and assist victims of human trafficking; and (3) conduct an awareness-raising campaign to keep youth in school and discourage illegal migration that could lead to human trafficking.(22)

Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking†‡

MSA-operated shelters for victims of human trafficking.(24) Services include lodging, food, clothing, psychological services, and legal aid through a network of pro bono lawyers, as well as full and free medical care in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Unaccompanied child victims are placed in dedicated centers for minors, where they receive schooling in addition to the same services offered to adults.(27)

Taking Action Against Child Domestic Labor in Africa and the Countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (2011–2015)

$1.3 million Government of France — funded, 4-year project, implemented by ILO-IPEC to combat child domestic labor.(36)

* The impact of this program on child labor does not appear to have been studied.
† Program was launched during the reporting period.
‡ Program is funded by the Government of Tunisia.

In 2014, the MSA began updating a database on needy families and establishing a new social identifier code to provide adequate assistance to these families and to children at risk of the worst forms of child labor.(23)

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Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, in Tunisia (Table 9).

Table 9. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor, Including its Worst Forms


Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ensure that laws protect children from human trafficking.



Enforce legal provisions for the protection of children in domestic work in private homes.


Establish a referral mechanism between law enforcement and social services.


Provide sufficient training to agents in charge of criminal enforcement of child labor laws.


Collect and publish information on the number of criminal investigations and implementation of penalties related to the worst forms of child labor.


Social Programs

Conduct comprehensive research to determine the extent and nature of child labor in the country.


Assess the impact that existing programs may have on addressing child labor.



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1.SOS Children's Villages. "Post-Revolution Tunisia Struggles with Child Labour." SOS Children's Villages, 2012.

2.Fitouri, S. "Post-Revolution Child Labor in Tunisia: Enduring Issues Rise to the Surface." Tunisia Live, Tunis, January 30, 2012.

3.Dabbar, S. "Tunisian children shoulder heavy burden." [online] November 23, 2012 [cited 2013]; .

4.U.S. Department of State. "Tunisia," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2014. Washington, DC; June 20, 2014;.

5.International Organization for Migration. Baseline Study of TIP Tunisia, Assessing the Scope and Manifestations. Geneva; 2013.

6.UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total. [accessed January 16, 2015] . Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary school. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. For more information, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

7.UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original data from MICS 4, 2011-12. Analysis received January 16, 2015. Reliable statistical data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms. As a result, statistics on children's work in general are reported in this chart, which may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on sources used, the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

8.U.S. Embassy- Tunis. reporting, December 8, 2010.

9.U.S. Embassy- Tunis. reporting, February 19, 2013.

10.Mekki, N. UNICEF aims to place further emphasis on children's issues in Tunisia, UNICEF, [online] February 17, 2011 [cited November 07, 2014];.

11.UNICEF. Suivi de la situation des enfant et des femmes. New York; 2013.,

12.Zack Brisson and Kate Krontiris. Tunisia: From Revolutions to Institutions. Washington, DC, The World Bank; 2012.

13.Government of Tunisia. Code du travail, Loi no. 66-27, enacted April 30, 1966.

14.Government of Tunisia, Ministry of Social Affairs. Decree No. 2000-98, enacted January 19, 2000.

15.Government of Tunisia. Code penal, enacted July 9, 1913.

16.U.S. Department of State. "Tunisia," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2013. Washington, DC; 2014;.

17.Government of Tunisia. Code de la protection de l'enfant, Loi no. 95-92, enacted November 9, 1995.

18.Government of Tunisia. Law No. 1 of 2004 on the National Service, enacted January 14, 2004.

19.Government of Tunisia. Law on Education and Schooling, No. 2002-80, enacted July 23, 2002.

20.Government of Tunisia. Constitution, enacted January 26, 2014.

21.Government of Tunisia - Ministry of Justice. La cooperation Tuniso-Américaine en matière de lutte contre la traite des personnes.

22.U.S. Embassy- Tunis official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 1, 2015.

23.U.S. Embassy- Tunis. reporting, March 18, 2015.

24.U.S. Embassy- Tunis. reporting, December 3, 2014.

25.ILO-IPEC and Government of Tunisia. National Plan of Action to Combat Child Labor. Tunis; 2014.

26.U.S. Embassy- Tunis official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May-June 2014.

27.U.S. Embassy- Tunis. reporting, February 27, 2015.

28.UNICEF. Report on Regular Resources 2013; 2014.

29.UNICEF. Action Plan of the Country Program (2015-2019); 2015.

30.Government of Tunisia - Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Framework of the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Punishment of Human Trafficking. Tunis; 2015.

31.U.S. Embassy- Tunis official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 4, 2013.

32.ILO-IPEC official. E-mail communication to ILO-IPEC Tunis official. February 2014.

33.ILO-IPEC. Assistance to Needy Families Program ILO, [online] [cited July 9, 2014];.

34.World Food Program. WFP Assists Tunisia's Government In School Feeding; January 2014.

35.UNESCO. Education for All Global Monitoring Report- Youth and skills: putting education to work. online; October 16, 2012.

36.ILO-IPEC Geneva official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. January 9, 2015.

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