Labour inspection country profile: Ethiopia

June 2009

Labour Inspection Structure and organization

Name of the institution that manages work issues

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) ( has a broad mandate of promoting effective, healthy and peaceful industrial relations through promoting social dialogue and ensuring good labour administration, with occupational safety and health services at both national and regional levels.

Department(s) in charge of Labour Inspection at Federal and Regional levels

Within MOLSA, the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Environment Department (OSHWED) is responsible for labour inspection of State-owned enterprises in Addis Ababa and Dere Dawa. OSHWED also has Federal responsibilities for data collection, analysis and policy-making. It is comprised of three teams: Occupational Safety, Occupational Health and Minimum Labour Conditions. Two other relevant MOLSA departments are the Industrial Relations and the Employment Services departments, which give advice to labour inspectors, but do not have any managerial responsibilities on them.

The Labour Proclamation 377/2003, made provision for the establishment of a Tripartite Labour Advisory Board. The Board should be responsible for studying and examining matters concerning employment service, working conditions, the safety and health of workers, labour laws in general and giving advisory opinion to the Minister. The Board is to be composed of 15 members: five representing workers, five representing employers and five representatives from different ministries (Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Public Enterprises Supervision Authority and MOLSA). However the Board is not currently functioning as it is without a secretariat.

At the Federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Unit within the Federal Civil Service Agency undertakes the inspection of public sector offices and the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Justice gives advice on relevant matters to OSHWED.

Laws that cover organization and functional composition

• Occupational Safety and Health Directive (2008)

• Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003 (2003); Labour (Amendement) Proclam. No. 494/2006 (2006)

• Private Employment Agency Proclamation No. 144/1998 (1998)

• Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Proclamation No. 1 (1995)

• Proclamation concerning the Rights of Disabled Persons to Employment No. 101/1994 (1994)

Scope of labour inspection

The Labour Inspection service promotes compliance with legislation and collective agreements with respect to occupational safety and health, wages, working hours, holidays, termination, benefits, maternity benefits and more. It’s scope also includes; the promotion of good health and safety practices, minimization of occupational accidents, diseases and disabilities at workplaces; promotion of the construction of environmental and human friendly work places; protection of workers against workplace contamination; control over the storage and use of dangerous chemical substances; regulation on the emission of levels of physical forms of energy; assessment of new work methods of safety, health and environmental compliance prior to use in the country; education of workers, employers and the public about occupational safety and health and working environment matters and ensuring that occupational injuries are recorded, analyzed and reported.

Local divisions

The Bureaus of Labour and Social Affairs (BOLSAs), are responsible for labour inspection services in the nine different regions and there are two City Administrations in Addis Ababa and Dere Dawa. The BOLSAs and the two City administrations are mainly involved in the implementation of labour policies and labour laws. They are also responsible for labour inspection in private enterprises, whereas the OSHWED conducts inspections in State owned enterprises in Addis Ababa and Dere Dawa.

The regions have zonal offices which are staffed by inspectors and district offices (Kebele) which are staffed by labour officers. Inspectors do not spend much time dealing with complaints, as this is considered the task of officials in the Industrial Relations units. However, in the districts, labour officers handle both inspections and dispute settlements, as there is only one labour officer in most cases.

Programming and communication

The BOLSAs reports to the heads of their region and the MOLSA however, there seems to be little communication between regional governments. Communication from MOLSA to regional governments also appears to be infrequent. However, OSHWED runs training courses for regional inspectors from time to time (often linked to specific national projects) and communication with some BOLSAs is better than with others.

Several of OSHWED’s labour inspection duties overlap with those of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and the Federal Civil Service Agency, yet there is little communication between these entities.

Current reforms

The Federal and Regional Civil Services are undergoing structural reforms using Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) in order to promote good governance and deliver high quality public services to customers. The role of labour inspection is thus considered crucial. The BPR has concluded that labour inspection services are currently too reactive, not sufficiently preventive in approach, with excessive reliance on administrative procedures and with coverage of only the formal sector.

Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003 was amended in 2006 on Articles 3, 39, 130 and 185 covering the scope of application, severance pay and compensation, procedures for collective bargaining and on procedures for common offences. The Occupational Safety and Health Directive was adopted in July 2008.

Human Resources and career development

Permanency of inspectors

Inspectors are civil servants recruited under regular Civil Service Procedures. The number of labour inspectors has remarkably increased in the past few years. Salaries are not attractive and turnover is high.

Selection process

Recruitment of Federal Civil Servants is laid out in the Federal Civil Servants Proclamation No. 262/2002. It states that vacancies are to be filled by individuals who meet the qualifications required for the position and scores higher than other candidates in the recruitment exam. Preference is given to female candidates and members of nationalities which are comparatively less represented in the government.

The training of labour inspectors is weak in general, as it is not systematically provided. On appointment, inspectors are given some induction training and the rest is learnt on the job. Some inspectors are provided additional safety and health training by the OSHWED. Thereafter, inspectors attend training courses on particular subjects as and when available. There is lack of training on social and legal skills.

Background required

All recently recruited inspectors were graduates with either: a certificate, diploma, bachelors or masters degree. Some had industry experience.

Visits and functions

Types of visits

Inspectors pay visits to enterprises both proactively and reactively to investigate accidents and complaints. Inspection visits are generally unannounced, thus allowing the inspector to see the workplace at its normal state. Two sets of checklists are commonly used for inspection visits: one for small enterprises and the other for medium and large ones. These cover occupational safety and health matters, conditions of employment, working time, and other employment issues such as the type of contract. A third list, prepared by the OSHWED, covers HIV/AIDS issues. This list has yet to be incorporated into the standard forms.

Presumably due to lack of set targets and performance monitoring for labour inspectors, the overall frequency of inspection visits is low, and there is substantial variance in the frequency of inspection visits from office to office. Statistics of the different types of visits is seldom collected. This has been attributed to poor communication, insufficient knowledge of financial budget, lack of technological resources and the absence of IT systems allowing the collection of data.

Role of preventive measures

In general, few preventive visits are carried out. However inspectors pay a significant number of visits for the purpose of assisting in the education of workers and for training activities at the enterprises. They also work with other authorities and organizations, from time to time, in the promotion of good working conditions. The Addis Ababa labour inspection services have been involved in a series of high profile activities with the media, aimed at giving out safety and health messages to the general public. Inspectors from several offices were also involved in the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the World AIDS Day and the World Day against Child Labour.


Most offices do not have annual or quarterly work plans. Some monthly/quarterly reports were produced at BOLSA, but did not reach OSHWED. The regional offices also lack guidance from OSHWED.

Registering and reporting of accidents/diseases at work

There is little collection of data and coordination of data between offices. Only ten per cent of the total occupational accidents are reported by employers. There is no comprehensive system for updating the registries.

Sanctions and administrative processes

At the federal and regional levels, complaints are dealt with primarily by the officials in the Industrial Relations units instead of by labour inspectors. At the district levels, labour officers handle both.

If labour inspectors observe that a workplace has failed to follow regulations, they may instruct the employer to correct the condition within a given period of time. Should this fail, the labour inspector shall then issue an order to the employer requiring him to alter the existing threat and to implement relevant safety or health measures. In case of doubt the inspector can report the incident to the minister, requesting an appropriate decision. Labour inspectors are not empowered to impose immediate sanctions. Fines can only be imposed by a court of law. According to Amendment No. 494 of2006, this shall not exceed 1,200 Birr. The inspectors can write formal notices to the employers, in cases where they feel laws or standards have been contravened. These notices can be issued on the spot or within a given timeframe after the inspection.

There is a general lack of prosecution with respect to OSH-related legislation. It has been indicated that judges and magistrates do not understand that inspectors have the authority to undertake prosecutions. Further training of labour inspectors is necessary to clarify this aspect of the process. Follow-ups are seldom undertaken due to the lack of resources.

Social partners and labour inspection

Primary social partners are the Ethiopia Employers’ Federation (EEF) and the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), through which the Tripartite Labour Advisory Board, have been involved in informal consultations with OSHWED on the formulation of the occupational safety and health policy.

ILO Conventions ratified

Ethiopia has neither ratified Convention No. 81 nor No. 129, but has ratified Convention No. 155.