Child Labour in Uganda

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Child Labour denies fundamental human rights such as the right to education, right to rest and leisure and free from the country’s unfair working conditions, such rights are imperative to the living standard of children are upheld by international conventions.

The International Convention on Economic Social Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was ratified in 1987 and The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was validated in 1990 with both conventions ensuring that Uganda must adhere to these conventions andpromote, preserve and protect human rights. Humanium strives to make children’s rights happen.


Important Characteristics of Child Employment

Children are three times more likely to be employed than city children with child employment rate in rural areas at 34% compared to 11% in urban areas.

For instance, in Kampala only 3% of children are employed compared to eastern region 30%, western region 31% and central 45%.

Child Labour is categorized into four sectors:

  • Children working in industry sector: making bricks, quarrying stone and mining.
  • Children working service sector: vending, street work, working as porters, collecting and selling scrap metal.
  • Children working in the agriculture sector: tobacco, coffee, harvesting sugar cane, herding cattle. Nearly 96% of employed children between the age of 6-13 work in the agriculture sector, the remaining fraction 4% are distributed across the other sectors.
  • Worst forms: commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, forced labour in agriculture, using children for illicit activities such as smuggling and stealing due to human trafficking.

The final category is mainly attributed to the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) which has been active since 1987. It is known that the LRA kidnap children and force girls to become sex slaves and boys to become soldiers. 80% of members LRA are children; from 1987 to 2009 it has been reported that 38,000 children have been kidnapped. 25% of girls are forced to cook and be sex slaves for Kony soldiers while boys are faced with the choice to kill or be killed.


Effects & Response to Child Labour

  • In 2012 Uganda made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate worst forms of child labor. The government launched National Action Plan (NAP) for the elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and created a Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) office and an inter-ministerial Task Force to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts.
  • The objective of the NAP is to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and at the same time lay a firm foundation for children’s rights to be respected, protected and fulfilled.
  • Ugandan legislation prohibits the employment of children under the age 12. National labour law prohibits the involvement of children 12-13 in any employment except for light work carried out under the supervision of an adult aged over 18 that does not affect the child’s education.
  • It is clear the legal framework has left a gap between the age to which education is the compulsory and minimum age of work labour inspections are not carried out in rural areas.
  • Children continually engage in the worst forms of child labour primarily in hazardous forms of agriculture and domestic service.  


Challenges for Youth

More often Ugandan young people face a number of challenges entering the labour market. High proportion urban youth who have not completed necessary education is therefore at risk of social marginalization.

Most if not all youth jobs are in the informal sector, therefore, meaning the youth have limited access to social or job security.

However between 2006 & 2012 school attendance increased by 8%, while the labour force participation decreased by 4%.


Key Policy Implications

Direct action would play a crucial role in Uganda given the large size of the child labour population and country’s limited resources.

Direct action is desperately needed to ensure the removal, recovery and reintegration of working children whose rights are most compromised.

Follow-up actions ensuring that rescued children are provided with a full range of needed social services are also crucial.

Essentially a set child-centred policies which will promote schooling as an alternative to child labour. This will provide children with basic and life skills needed to further learning and practical living.

  1. Education & Second Chance Learning: early childhood education programs can promote learning readiness, increase school enrollment and school survival and help children away from underage employment. Support for second chance policies is critical to avoid large numbers of children entering adulthood in a disadvantaged position permanently harmed by early work experience. They should be offered a bridge to successfully integrate or reintegrate into formal school class.
  2. Expand Social Protection: social protection instruments will serve to prevent vulnerable households from having to resort to child labour as a buffer against poverty. The government has prioritized social protection expansion and started a social protection program known as the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) 2011.
  3. Promote Greater Public Awareness: child labour is a clear example which both social norms and economic considerations are important and strategic communication efforts need to be designed with this in mind. A mix of conventional e.g. radio, TV and print media and nonconventional e.g. religious leaders, school teachers, healthcare workers. Providing information on national child labour legislation in terms that are understandable.
  4. Promote Social Mobilisation Against Child Labour: social actors including NGOs, faith-based organizations, teachers, teacher’s organizations, the mass media have important roles to play in the broader societal effort against child labour.
  5. Strengthening Child Labor Inspections & Monitoring: Employment Act No.6 2006 requires districts to appoint labour officers to provide technical advice to employers. The government’s actual capacity to monitor formal workplaces is limited;30/90 districts have recruited labour officers to enforce labour legislation.
  6. An advocate of Political Commitment: at all levels is also needed to ensure that child labour reduction actually happens. The government released NAP & CTIP reflecting their commitment to eliminating child labour.

Read more about child labour on Humanium’s website:




Written by: Igi Nderi

Proofread by: Saurabh Kumar