Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports
In 2022, Zambia made moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government updated its Trafficking in Persons Act, removing the requirement that force, fraud, and other forms of coercion be demonstrated to establish a child trafficking crime, and launched the National Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants and the National Migrant Policy, which include strategies to protect Zambian and migrant children from human trafficking and labor exploitation. In addition, the government recruited 30,000 new teachers, deploying them to rural areas where vulnerabilities to child labor are the highest. However, children in Zambia are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and forced labor in agriculture. The Education Act does not specify a compulsory education age. In addition, labor inspectors do not routinely inspect non-registered businesses in which child labor is known to occur.
In 2022, the government published updated child labor data indicating over 400,000 children were engaged in child labor, with most child labor occurring in the agricultural sector. (1)
|Working (% and population)||5 to 14||7.8 (400,423)|
|Working children by sector||5 to 14|
|Attending School (%)||5 to 14||74.6|
|Combining Work and School (%)||7 to 14||7.1|
|Primary Completion Rate (%)||80.0|
Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2013, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2023. (2)
Source for all other data: International Labor Organization’s Analysis of Statistics from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), 2021. (3)
Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.
|Agriculture||Work in the production of cotton,† tobacco,† and other cash crops (4-6)|
|Raising and herding† cattle (4,6)|
|Production of charcoal† (9)|
|Forestry, including loading of timber (10,11)|
|Industry||Mining of tin, copper, chrome, gold, ore, and gems, including manganese (6-8,12,13)|
|Work in quarries, including carrying heavy loads† and crushing stones† (6,7)|
|Services||Domestic work (6,7)|
|Street work, including begging and vending (6-8)|
|Garbage disposal (6)|
|Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡||Forced labor in agriculture, herding, construction, domestic work, mining, small businesses, and textile production (14-16)|
|Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (6,17)|
|Forced begging (16)|
|Use in illicit activities, including in the selling of drugs (6)|
† 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.
Child labor in Zambia is most prevalent in the agricultural sector and sometimes involves forced labor. (10,16,18) Traffickers exploit children from rural areas in Zambia and Malawi to cities for domestic work and to rural areas for agriculture. (16) Sources reported the exploitation of children for cattle herding, which sometimes involves parents repaying debts by sending children, particularly young boys, to work as cattle herders for the people to whom they are indebted. (10) Orphans, street children, children with disabilities, and children from poor households are particularly vulnerable to child trafficking. (8,16,19) In addition, traffickers exploit children from neighboring countries for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. (20)
A NGO report found that children engage in various forms of work at artisanal mining sites, including digging, transporting and crushing rock, and providing various forms of domestic services in mining areas, such as cooking, childcare, and selling of foodstuffs. Children working in mining areas reported various health problems, including bodily injuries, illnesses, sight and vision problems, and exposure to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. (13) Illegal mining syndicates, called jerabo gangs, employ children in the Copperbelt province for mining activities, including forcing children to load trucks with stolen copper ore. (17,21) Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurs, particularly along Zambia's borders and transit corridors. (15,17)
Long distances to schools, particularly in rural areas, an insufficient number of teachers and classrooms, lack of sanitation facilities within schools, and costs of learning materials are barriers to education. (10,22,23) The high prevalence of early marriage of girls increases the vulnerability of children to child labor; children without birth certificates are not able to enroll in school, and once girls marry, they sometimes leave school before reaching the minimum working age and engage in work outside the household. (10,19) During the reporting period, the government continued implementation of its free universal education policy, recruiting 30,000 new teachers for deployment in rural areas of Zambia where educational resources have been most lacking and where there are increased vulnerabilities to child labor because of rural poverty and close proximity to farms. (6,24)
Zambia has ratified most 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 Zambia’s legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including an undefined age range for compulsory education.
|Standard||Meets International Standards||Age||Legislation|
|Minimum Age for Work||Yes||15||Article 24 of the Constitution; Sections 16 and 81 of the Employment Code Act; Section 13 of the Children's Code Act of 2022 (25-27)|
|Minimum Age for Hazardous Work||Yes||19||Section 83 of the Employment Code Act; Section 13 of the Children's Code Act of 2022 (26,27)|
|Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children||Yes||Prohibition of Employment of Young Persons and Children (Hazardous Labor) Order; Section 137(2)(n) of the Employment Code Act (26,28,29)|
|Prohibition of Forced Labor||Yes||Articles 14 and 24 of the Constitution; Sections 143, 261, and 263 of the Penal Code; Section 3 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act; Section 8 of the Employment Code Act (25,26,30,31)|
|Prohibition of Child Trafficking||Yes||Article 17 of Amendment to the Constitution; Section 143 of the Penal Code; Sections 2 and 3 (1-4) of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, as amended by the Anti-Human Trafficking (Amendment) Act of 2022; Sections 80 and 83 of the Employment Code Act; Section 17 of the Children's Code Act (25-27,30-32)|
|Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children||Yes||Sections 143 and 144 of the Penal Code; Sections 80 and 83 of the Employment Code Act; Section 19 of the Children's Code Act of 2022 (26,27,31)|
|Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities||Yes||Sections 80 and 83 of the Employment Code Act; Section 20 of the Children's Code Act of 2022 (26,27)|
|Minimum Age for Voluntary State Military Recruitment||Yes||18||Section 14 of the Defense Act (33)|
|Prohibition of Compulsory Recruitment of Children by (State) Military||N/A*|
|Prohibition of Military Recruitment by Non-state Armed Groups||Yes||Section 3 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act; Sections 80 and 83 of the Employment Code Act; Section 14 of the Children's Code Act of 2022 (26,27,30)|
|Compulsory Education Age||No||Sections 16 and 17 of the Education Act (34)|
|Free Public Education||Yes||Section 15 of the Education Act (34)|
* Country has no conscription (35)
The government amended the law on trafficking in persons, eliminating previous requirements for demonstration of threats, force, intimidation, or other forms of coercion to constitute a child trafficking offense. (32) In addition, the government enacted the Children's Code Act of 2022, affirming and harmonizing legal protections of children from child labor, including its worst forms, while outlining mandates and responsibilities of government agencies to protect children. (6,27)
The law establishes a light work framework for employment of children ages 13 to 15 but has not identified permitted light work activities. (26,36) The Education Act requires that the government provide free education up to the ninth grade and stipulates that education is compulsory for children of "school-going age." The Act, however, does not set a specific age for which education is compulsory or define "school-going age," which may allow children to leave school before they are legally able to work and thereby increase their vulnerability to the worst forms of child labor. (34,37)
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 (MLSS)||Implements, enforces, and regulates child labor laws. Advises other government agencies on child labor issues and coordinates government efforts to prevent child labor through its Child Labor Unit. The Child Labor Unit, which falls under the labor inspectorate, carries out inspections related to child labor. (10,38) The MLSS generally conducts planned labor inspections only in registered private institutions; inspections of unregistered institutions, including at artisanal mining sites, farms, and private homes in which child labor is most common, primarily occur in response to complaints. (39-41) The MLSS continues conducting community sensitization campaigns and coordinating with local police to build public understanding of the labor inspectorate's role and enforcement mandates to facilitate more inspections of private and unregistered institutions. (41,42)|
|Ministry of Home Affairs||Enforces criminal laws against human trafficking, child commercial exploitation, use of children as soldiers, and use of children in illegal activities through its Immigration Department and Drug Enforcement Commission. (10) The 2022 Anti‐Human Trafficking (Amendment) Act created a new Anti‐Human Trafficking Department, responsible for enforcement of trafficking in persons laws, and housed within the Ministry of Home Affairs. (6,32)|
|Zambia Police Service||Collaborates with the Ministry of Justice to investigate and prosecute child labor cases. (10) Handles the enforcement of laws against human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and the use of children in illicit activities through its Child Protection and Victim Support units. (10,43) Works with immigration officials and local officials to respond to child trafficking, enforce child labor laws, and remove vulnerable children from the streets, placing them into families, foster homes, or in safe homes. (10)|
Labor Law Enforcement
In 2022, labor law enforcement agencies in Zambia took actions to address child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the operations of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) that may hinder adequate enforcement of child labor laws, including insufficient financial resources.
|Overview of Labor Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Labor Inspectorate Funding||$26,000 (10)||$130,000 (6)|
|Number of Labor Inspectors||240 (10)||179 (42)|
|Mechanism to Assess Civil Penalties||Yes (26)||Yes (26)|
|Training for Labor Inspectors Provided||No (10)||Yes (6)|
|Number of Labor Inspections Conducted at Worksite||1,800 (10)||2,324 (42)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations Found||0 (44)||Unknown (6)|
|Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed||0 (44)||Unknown (6)|
|Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected||0 (44)||Unknown (6)|
|Routine Inspections Conducted||Yes (10)||Yes (6)|
|Routine Inspections Targeted||Yes (10)||Yes (6)|
|Unannounced Inspections Permitted||Yes (26)||Yes (26)|
|Unannounced Inspections Conducted||Yes (10)||Yes (6)|
|Complaint Mechanism Exists||Yes (10)||Yes (6)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services||Yes (10)||Yes (6)|
Although the MLSS reported that the budget for the labor inspectorate in 2022 was five times the amount reported in 2021, the MLSS also stated that inadequate resources, including an insufficient budget, limited office space, inadequate training, and a lack of transportation and fuel have prevented it from adequately conducting inspections countrywide. (10,39,45,46)
Criminal Law Enforcement
In 2022, criminal law enforcement agencies in Zambia took actions to address child labor (Table 7). However, gaps exist within criminal enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate criminal law enforcement, including insufficient financial resources.
|Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement||2021||2022|
|Training for Criminal Investigators Provided||Unknown (10)||No (6)|
|Number of Investigations||Unknown (10)||1 (47)|
|Number of Prosecutions Initiated||3 (48)||1 (47)|
|Number of Convictions||Unknown (10)||Unknown (47)|
|Imposed Penalties for Violations Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor||Unknown (10)||Unknown (6,47)|
|Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services||Yes (10)||Yes (6)|
In 2022, law enforcement officials investigated and initiated one prosecution related to the human trafficking of 13 girls for sexual exploitation; research, however, was unable to determine whether the government secured a conviction and imposed penalties for this particular case. Because law enforcement authorities did not provide age-specific information of human trafficking victims, the government may have undertaken criminal law enforcement efforts related to the worst forms of child labor that are not reflected in this report. (47) Law enforcement agencies do not have sufficient financial and human resources to address human trafficking, and standard operating procedures to screen and identify victims are not fully executed as a result. (17,42)
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|
|National Steering Committee on Child Labor||Advises and oversees child labor matters, including implementation of hazardous work regulations. Chaired by the MLSS and comprises government representatives, employers, trade unions, and civil society members. (10) Local-level coordination of child labor matters is maintained through District Child Labor Committees, consisting of local representatives of Zambia Police Service; the MLSS; the Ministry of Community Development, Mother, and Child Health; and civil society stakeholders. (14) During the reporting period, the National Steering Committee on Child Labor participated in television and radio sensitization campaigns and an event commemorating World Day Against Child Labor. (6) District-Level Child Labor Committees, however, were largely inactive during the reporting period, likely limiting the efficacy of the National Steering Committee and leading to gaps in coordination on child labor issues at the local level. (6)|
Communication lapses among government agencies regarding mandates and responsibilities may hinder coordination and the ability of agencies to implement their mandates related to the worst forms of child labor. (14)
The government has established a policy related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including mainstreaming child labor issues into relevant policies.
|Policy||Description & Activities|
|National Child Labor Policy||Outlines objectives for prevention and elimination of child labor and designates responsible agencies to address child labor issues. (49) Implemented through the government's National Action Plan (NAP) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2020–2025), which outlines child labor activities through 2025. (7) Government conducted sensitization activities in support of the NAP, including World Day Against Child Labor. (6)|
‡ The government has other polices that may have addressed child labor issues or had an impact on child labor. (14,50-52)
On December 2, 2022, the government launched the National Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants and the National Migrant Policy, which include strategies to protect Zambian and migrant children from human trafficking and labor exploitation. (47,53) The government has a National Employment and Labor Market Policy which outlines objectives for promoting decent work in Zambia, but the policy does not incorporate strategies for prevention and elimination of child labor. (54) Also, the government has not included child labor elimination and prevention strategies in the Education Policy. (55)
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 the inadequacy to address the problem in all sectors.
|Program||Description & Activities|
|Social Cash Transfer Program†||Government program to provide funds to families for food security, poverty reduction, child welfare, and increasing school enrollment. In 2022, the government significantly increased the number of individuals receiving benefits under the Social Cash Transfer Program, from 700,000 in 2021, to between 974,000 and 1,027,000 individuals in 2022, as well as increased the size of household allocations from previous reporting periods. (56,57) However, research found problems with tracking of payments and cash flows within the Social Cash Transfer System that resulted in irregular payment disbursements, including delayed and reduced payments, for vulnerable families receiving funds. (11,29) Moreover, an evaluation of the Social Cash Transfer Program suggests that the transfers may actually have led to a net increase in child labor, particularly in farm work and cattle herding, because many families used funds from the program to expand their agricultural and livestock holdings, which resulted in an increase of children's work activities within the home. Children were also more likely to work excessively long hours, and there was no reduction in children's work outside of the home. (58)|
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 Zambia.
‡ The government had other social programs that may have included the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor. (14,59)
Although Zambia has programs that target child labor, the scope of these programs is insufficient to fully address the extent of the problem in all relevant sectors, particularly regarding child labor in agriculture, domestic work, mining, and commercial sexual exploitation.
Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Zambia (Table 11).
|Area||Suggested Action||Year(s) Suggested|
|Legal Framework||Accede to the UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict.||2018 – 2022|
|Determine the list of light work activities permitted for children ages 13 to 15.||2018 – 2022|
|Establish through statutory instrument the age of 15 as the "school-going age" for compulsory education, to align with the minimum age for work.||2012 – 2022|
|Enforcement||Increase planned inspections in unregistered businesses, including artisanal mining sites, farms, and private homes, to ensure monitoring of all sectors in which children are working.||2010 – 2022|
|Publish information on labor law enforcement efforts, including the number of child labor violations found, the number of child labor violations for which penalties were imposed, and the number of child labor penalties imposed that were collected.||2021 – 2022|
|Increase fiscal and material resources, including vehicles and fuel, office space, and training, for the labor inspectorate to enforce labor laws throughout the country.||2010 – 2022|
|Publish information on criminal law enforcement efforts, including training of new investigators, the number of convictions, and whether penalties were imposed.||2014 – 2022|
|Develop and implement consistent procedures to screen and identify human trafficking victims while increasing fiscal and human resources for criminal law enforcement agencies working to address human trafficking of children.||2018 – 2022|
|Coordination||Ensure all coordinating bodies, including District-Level Child Labor Committees, are active and able to coordinate child labor prevention activities at the local level.||2021 – 2022|
|Improve lines of communication and clarify responsibilities among agencies to improve effectiveness and referrals to social services.||2011 – 2022|
|Government Policies||Integrate child labor elimination and prevention strategies into the Education Policy and the National Employment and Labor Market Policy.||2013 – 2022|
|Social Programs||Address barriers to education by increasing schools in rural areas, increasing number of teachers and classrooms, defraying auxiliary education costs, and providing targeted support for girls who enter into early marriage to continue education.||2012 – 2022|
|Harmonize child labor prevention and elimination measures and improve financial tracking in the Social Cash Transfer Program.||2020 – 2022|
|Expand existing programs to address the full scope of the child labor problem in all relevant sectors, including agriculture, mining, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation.||2011 – 2022|
- Zambian Statistics Agency. Labour Force Survey Report: 2021. February, 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 Labour Force Survey (LFS), 2021. Analysis received March 2023. Please see “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” in the Reference Materials section of this report.
- Zulu, Abawelo. JTI says over 1 million children in child labour. The Mast. October 22, 2017. Source on file.
- Unfair Tobacco. The impact of tobacco production on children's rights in Zambia. Youtube. December 1, 2020.
- U.S Embassy- Lusaka. Reporting. February 24, 2023.
- Government of Zambia. National Action Plan for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 2020–2025. 2021. Source on file.
- UNICEF. The 2021 Situation Analysis of the Status and Well-Being of Children in Zambia. October 2021.
- U.S. Embassy- Lusaka. Reporting. January 22, 2020.
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- U.S. Embassy- Lusaka official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 26, 2021.
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- Government of Zambia. The Penal Code Act, as amended. Enacted: 2005. Source on file.
- Government of Zambia. Act 16 of 2022, amending the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. Enacted: November 16, 2022.
https://www.parliament.gov.zm/sites/default/files/documents/acts/ACT No. 16 OF 2022, THE ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING ACT, 2022.pdf
- Government of Zambia. Defence Act. Enacted: 1964. Source on file.
- Government of Zambia. Education Act of 2011. Enacted: 2011. Source on file.
- CIA. The World Factbook, Military service age and obligation. Accessed June 29, 2021.
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- U.S. Embassy- Lusaka. Reporting. January 15, 2019.
- Government of Zambia, Ministry of Labour and Social Security. About the Labour Department. Website, Accessed February 19, 2020.
- U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2020: Zambia. Washington, D.C., March 30, 2021.
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- U.S. Embassy- Lusaka official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 14, 2021.
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- ILO. Committee on the Application of Standards. Discussion of Individual Cases- Zambia: C.App./PV.15. June 2017.
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- Government of Zambia. National Policy on Child Labour: Securing a Better Future for Our Children. 2011. Source on file.
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- Government of Zambia. Vision 2030. Lusaka, 2006.
- International Conference on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining & Quarrying. Mosi-oa-Tunya Declaration on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining, Quarrying and Development. Lusaka. September 2018. Source on file.
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- Government of Zambia, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services. Social Cash Transfer Factsheet. 2022.
- UNICEF Zambia Social Protection Budget Brief, 2022. November 2022.
https://www.unicef.org/zambia/media/3216/file/UNICEF Zambia Social Protection Budget Brief 2022.pdf.
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