Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Zimbabwe

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports


2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Minimal Advancement

In 2014, Zimbabwe made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government of Zimbabwe passed the Trafficking in Persons Act that criminalizes trafficking offenses related to child labor and child pornography. However, children in Zimbabwe continue to engage in child labor in agriculture and mining. Zimbabwe continues to lack specific social programs targeting sectors in which child labor is most prevalent. Gaps remain in the country's legal framework against child labor, such as the lack of prohibitions of hazardous activities for children, and education is not compulsory or free, which increases children's vulnerability.


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Children in Zimbabwe are engaged in child labor, including in agriculture and mining. The Government's 2011 Child Labor Survey report, released in 2013, concluded that the worst forms of child labor are increasing and should be a cause for concern.(1-3) Data on key indicators on children's work and education are not available from the sources used in this report.

Table 1. Statistics on Children's Work and Education

Working children, ages 7 to 14 (% and population):


School attendance, ages 5 to 14 (%):


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


Primary completion rate (%):


Primary completion rate was unavailable from UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2014.(4)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children's Work Project's analysis, 2014.(5)

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




Production of tea,* cotton,* tobacco,* and sugarcane* (3, 6-10)

Fishing,* including casting nets,* hauling fish loads,* and sorting fish* (1, 6, 8)

Forestry,* such as dragging logs from felling sites and loading logs for transport (3, 10)

Cattle herding* (1, 3, 6)


Mining gold,* nickel,* chrome,* and tin,* and extracting material from underground passages and quarries*† (3, 6, 7, 11, 12)


Street work,* including vending* and begging (3, 8-10, 13)

Domestic work (3, 8, 10)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡

Used in illicit activities, including drug trafficking* and gambling* (3, 6)

Commercial sexual exploitation sometimes as a result of human trafficking* (6, 10, 13, 14)

Working in agriculture and domestic work, each as a result of human trafficking* (6, 14)

* 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's 2011 Child Labor Survey found that of children 5 to 14 years of age engaged in economic activity, 96 percent worked in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 95.9 percent of them were living in rural areas.(1) According to UNICEF, approximately 100,000 of Zimbabwe's 1.3 million orphans survive on their own in child-headed households.(15) This breakdown of the family unit, as well as poverty, are major factors in children's vulnerability to child labor.(1, 3, 6, 15) Many childbirths are unregistered in Zimbabwe due to poverty and lack of awareness of the requirements.(3, 6) Children are unable to sit for exams and move to secondary school without a birth registration, preventing them from obtaining an education and often leading them to enter the workforce at a young age.(3, 6) School fees are often prohibitively expensive and limit access to education.(1, 3, 8) The Government failed to meet its obligation of supporting secondary school students with school fees.(3, 6, 16, 17) The deterioration of Zimbabwe's economy and manufacturing sector has also led to a recent increase in child labor.(8)

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Zimbabwe 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



Section 11(3) of the Labor Relations Act (18)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work



Section 11(4) of the Labor Relations Act (18)

Prohibition of Hazardous Occupations or Activities for Children




Prohibition of Forced Labor



Sections 54 and 55 of the Constitution; Section 4A of the Labor Relations Act (18, 19)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking



Section 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Act(10)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children



Section 87 of the Criminal Law Act; Section 3 of the Sexual Offenses Act; Section 8(2) of the Children's Protection and Adoption Act; Section 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Act (6, 10, 20, 21)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities



Section 156 of the Criminal Law Act; Section 10 of the Children's Protection and Adoption Act(6)

Minimum Age for Compulsory Military Recruitment



Section 9 of the National Service Act(22)

Minimum Age for Voluntary Military Service



Section 5 and 10 of the National Service Act(22)

Compulsory Education Age




Free Public Education




In June 2014, the Government passed a Trafficking in Persons Act that prohibits both trafficking for the purpose of illegal labor, such as child labor, and trafficking for pornography or prostitution.(10) In addition, the Act considers offenses carried out against children as "aggravating circumstances"; it also increases the minimum sentence for violations to 10 years in prison, and the maximum sentence to life imprisonment.(10) Section 11(1)(a) and (3)(b) of the Labor Relations Act, permits employment of apprentices at the age of 13 and does not conform with ILO C. 138.(18, 23) In addition, Zimbabwean law does not provide free schooling or establish a compulsory age for children's education.(23) The lack of standardized education may increase the risk of children's involvement in child labor.(3, 6) Furthermore, Section 19 (2)(d) of the 2013 Constitution includes a right to a basic government-funded education but notes that the Government does not have to provide education if there is a lack of resources.(3, 6, 19) Section 19 (3)(a) — (b) of the Constitution addresses child labor by requiring legislation to protect children from exploitative labor practices and from work that is inappropriate for their age or could harm their well-being; education; physical or mental health; or spiritual, moral, or social development. Despite this, laws have not been passed or amended in accordance with these Constitutional provisions.(6, 19)

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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 Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare (MPSLW) and Department for Child Welfare and Probation Services

Enforce labor laws and investigate labor-related complaints, including complaints involving child labor. Responsible for child protection services, including investigating and intervening in cases of alleged abuse, providing case reports for courts, coordinating case management processes, and supporting community case workers.(6, 10)

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)

Share responsibility with the MPSLW and the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs for enforcing laws against the worst forms of child labor of a criminal nature.(6) Address issues related to child labor through victim-friendly units in every district. Conduct transnational trafficking investigations through an anti-trafficking desk at the INTERPOL.(6)

Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs

Oversee all courts, including labor courts. Address trafficking and child victim cases through victim-friendly courts.(6)

Law enforcement agencies in Zimbabwe took no actions to combat child labor, including its worst forms.

Labor Law Enforcement

In 2014, the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare (MPSLW) employed approximately 108 social workers to serve under the Department for Child Welfare and Probation Services, which was created in 2013. These social workers assist in the Government's efforts to develop a national child protection system by identifying children who are vulnerable to, or victims of, child labor.(10) However, information about the MPSLW funding level; the number of labor inspectors employed; the number and type of inspections conducted; and the number and type of child labor violations, citations, and penalties were not made publicly available.(10) Research indicates that the Government lacks sufficient resources, mainly finances, to adequately investigate and pursue violations of child labor laws. Inspectors received no training on the enforcement of child labor, including hazardous work for children.(10)

Criminal Law Enforcement

Research did not find information regarding the number and training of investigators; the number of investigations, arrests, or prosecutions; or the existence of referral mechanisms related to criminal laws on child labor, including its worst forms.(10)

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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 to Address the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Address the worst forms of child labor. Chaired by the MPSLW and includes several government ministries including the Ministries of Health and Child Care; of Primary and Secondary Education; and of Youth, Indigenization, and Economic Development. Also includes international organizations and civil society groups, such as worker and employer organizations.(17, 24)

Ministry-level Committee on Children's Issues

Coordinate government ministries' efforts related to children's issues, including child labor. Separate from the National Steering Committee, which includes the MPSLW and the Ministries of Education; Women's Affairs; and Youth, Indigenization, and Economic Development; meets on a quarterly basis.(6, 10, 17)

Anti- Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee

Create a national action plan on trafficking in persons (TIP). Mandated by the President's temporary TIP regulation.(25)

National Task Force on Street Children

Strategize discussed include feeding street children at drop-in centers, reuniting children with their families, and offering counseling sessions. Chaired by the MPSLW and includes NGOs that work on street children issues.(6, 17) Also includes the Ministry of Home Affairs, represented by the ZRP, which also sits on the Task Force; meetings are held quarterly. (6, 17)

The National Steering Committee did not meet during the reporting period, and research did not find evidence that the task forces listed in Table 6 were active during 2014.(10)

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

Table 7. Policies Related to Child Labor



National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor (NAP)

Strengthens the analysis of child labor issues and creates an entity to coordinate responses to the findings of this analysis. Consists of three focus areas including (1) education assistance, (2) poverty assistance through a cash transfer scheme, and (3) health assistance.(6)

UNDAF (2012–2015)

Outlines the key issues that the Government should address, including women's empowerment and gender equality; universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment; access to social protection services for vulnerable households; and access for all to basic social services including education. Zimbabwe UNDAF supports major data collection operations, including the Child Labor Survey the Government aims to utilize in development planning, implementation, and monitoring key issues.(26)

In 2014, the Government took no action to implement the National Action Plan to Combat Child Labor. In addition, research did not find that the results of the 2011 Child Labor Survey have been used to inform policies and programs in Zimbabwe.(10)

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In 2014, the Government of Zimbabwe funded and participated in programs that may have an impact on child labor (Table 8).

Table 8. Social Programs to Address Child Labor



Phase II of the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (NAP OVC II) (2011–2015)* ‡

Government program with the support of the multidonor Child Protection Fund managed by UNICEF that includes a focus on equity and access to quality education for children. Aims to assist 80,000 people, including by providing protection services to 25,000 children. Provides a cash transfer program that encourages families to keep children in school.(13, 27, 28) With funding from the European Commission and the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, provides food and health services to high-risk families, including child-headed households. Also provides protection services for child victims of abuse, violence, and exploitation.(13, 27, 28). During the year, the Government increased financial support by compensating officials that manage the program and by providing program oversight. (13, 27, 28).

Basic Education Assistance Module*‡

Government program, supported by the UK Department for International Development, which provides basic financial assistance to families for education costs such as tuition and examination fees. Aims to keep children in school and to enroll children who lack access to school as a result of economic hardship.(28-30)

* The impact of this program on child labor does not appear to have been studied.
‡ Program is funded by the Government of Zimbabwe.

Research found no evidence of any programs with the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms.

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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 Zimbabwe (Table 9).

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


Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ensure that the Labor Relations Act complies with the ILO C. 138 by raising the minimum age of employment for apprentices to at least 14.


Ensure the law establishes free and compulsory education for children at age 15, consistently with Zimbabwe's minimum age for work.


Pass or amend legislation to include the required constitutional provisions on child labor into law.



Ensure adequate funding, human resources and training for the labor law inspectorate to conduct child labor inspections.


Collect, analyze, and publicly disseminate information on the enforcement of laws related to the worst forms of child labor.



Ensure that the National Steering Committee and task forces coordinate to address the Worst Forms of Child Labor, including trafficking in persons.


Government Policies

Implement the NAP.


Utilize the results of the Child Labor Survey Report to inform policies and programs.


Social Programs

Ensure that children are registered at birth to facilitate their entrance into secondary school.


Assess the impact that existing programs, such as those under the NAP OVC II, may have on the worst forms of child labor.


Implement programs to address child labor.



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1.Government of Zimbabwe. 2011 Child Labour Survey Report. Harare; 2012.

2.Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe: Child Labour on the Rise." [online] February 24, 2012 [cited May 6, 2015 ]; .

3.U.S. Department of State. "Zimbabwe," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2013. Washington, DC; February 27, 2014; .

4.UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total. [accessed February 28, 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.

5.UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. 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.

6.U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, Janurary 10, 2014.

7.Musandirire, S. The Nature and Extent of Child Labour in Zimbabwe: A Case Study of Goromonzi District Farms in Zimbabwe [Masters of Arts mini dissertation]: University of Fort Hare; March 2010.

8.Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe's ailing economy fuelling child labour." [online] January 9, 2014 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

9."Zimbabwe NGO Tackles Rising Child Labor in Farming Communities." [online] April 19, 2012 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

10.U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, January 15, 2015.

11.Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe: Mining Industry Attracts Child Labour as Economy Picks Up." [online] October 14, 2010 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

12.International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in Zimbabwe: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Zimbabwe. Geneva; October 19-21, 2011.

13.Integrated Regional Information Networks. "Zimbabwe: Thousands of Girls Forced Out of Education." [online] November 7, 2011 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

14.U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, February 13, 2015.

15.Eastern and Southern Africa Feature Story for Zimbabwe, UNICEF, [online] April 11, 2014 [cited May 23, 2012]; .

16."Zimbabwe Fails to Pay Fees for 750,000 Desperate Children." [online] January 14, 2014 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

17.U.S. Embassy- Harare official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. April 14, 2015.

18.Government of Zimbabwe. Labour Relations Amendment Act, Chapter 28:01 Part , enacted 2002.

19.Government of Zimbabwe. Constitution of Zimbabwe, enacted May 6, 2015.‎.

20.Government of Zimbabwe. Sexual Offences Act, Law 8, enacted 2001.

21.ILO NATLEX National Labor Law Database. Children's Protection and Adoption Amendment Act; accessed December 15, 2014; .

22.International Humanitarian Law: National Implementation. National Service Act: Acts 19/1979, 22/2001; accessed April 11, 2014; .

23.ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) Zimbabwe (ratification: 2000) Published: 2014; accessed April 11, 2014; .

24.U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, February 12, 2013.

25.U.S. Embassy- Harare. reporting, February 21, 2014.

26.United Nations. Development Assistance Framework 2012-2015. Harare; 2011. .

27.Sandra Nyaira, Tatenda Gumbo, and Sithandekile Mhlanga. "Zimbabwe and Donors Launch Program to Relieve Vulnerable Children." [online] May 23, 2011 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

28.UN News Centre. Zimbabwe's Orphans to Benefit from UN-Backed Cash Grant Programme. Press Release. New York; September 28, 2011.

29.ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Zimbabwe (ratification: 2000) Published: 2011; accessed April 11, 2014; .

30."DFID Pledges US$10m to BEAM." [online] March 5, 2014 [cited May 6, 2015]; .

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