Child labour in Africa


The latest ILO global estimates on child labour indicate that in Sub-Saharan Africa progress towards the elimination of child labour is lagging behind other regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest incidence of children in economic activity – 28.4 per cent of all 5-14 year-olds, compared to 14.8 per cent for Asia and the Pacific and 9 per cent for Latin America. It ranks second behind Asia in absolute terms, with 58.2 million children working in the same age group. A quarter of children ages 5 to 17 are also in child labour slated for abolition. The persistent challenges of widespread and extreme poverty, high population growth, the AIDS pandemic, recurrent food crises, and political unrest and conflict clearly exacerbate the problem.

In the region, 38.7 million children ages 5 to 17 are in worst forms of child labour (hazardous work). Of particular concern are child trafficking, the use of children in armed conflict, small-scale mining, hazardous work in agriculture, industry and services, informal economy, commercial sexual exploitation and domestic labour. Children trapped in bondage and slavery are also reported in some areas.

Africa is a high priority for IPEC and the Programme’s work is being stepped up in several areas:

  • enhancing the knowledge base on child labour, particularly through greater cooperation with African research institutes and networks, notably the research units of social partners;
  • providing technical assistance to member States in the development of national child labour policy where it does not exist;
  • promoting the mainstreaming child labour concerns in broader economic and social policy frameworks;
  • emphasizing the links between education and child labour and universal primary education as an important goal in itself and a crucial pillar of a strategy to eliminate child labour; and
  • strengthening capacity for action, notably for the social partners, including the various levels of the government, and other major stakeholders.

About 20 national child labour surveys have been conducted over the last decade in Africa.

A new regional agreement on child trafficking was signed in 2006 by 26 countries from West and Central Africa to combat child trafficking, demonstrating a growing willingness of countries concerned by the problem to take a leading role in tackling it. Efforts also continue to encourage further ratifications of the ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and the ILO Convention No. 138 on minimum age and to assist member States to implement them. Many African countries have also requested IPEC’s assistance to conduct national child labour surveys and implement time-bound measures against the worst forms of child labour.


  1. Launch of the IPEC Project for Uganda "Support for the preparatory phase of the Uganda National Action Plan for the Elimination of child Labour" (SNAP)

    24 April 2009

    SNAP, a new four-year project funded by the US Department of Labor, will assist the Ugandan government to further strengthen the country's legal, policy, institutional and social foundations for large-scale action against the worst forms of child labour. Interventions are being designed to tap into components of the Ugandan Decent Work Country Programme as well as opportunities offered by other ongoing political, social and economic development programmes and policies. The project launch will take place on 24 April 2009 in Kampala to coincide with the 90th Anniversary Celebrations of the ILO and is being organized with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the Federation of Uganda Employers, and two workers' organizations - the National Organization of Trade Unions and the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions.

    1. Vocational training and apprenticeship: An alternative to underage work and the worst forms of child labour in French-speaking Africa

      15 February 2009

      This brochure is the product of IPEC’s project in Francophone Africa supported by the Government of France. It presents the approach, interventions and results obtained in promoting vocational training and apprenticeship for children in the 13-17 year range as an alternative to child labour. The three-year project, which runs to the end of 2009 has been carrying out programmes in eight countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Togo. (Only in French.)