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Libya

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The Ministry of Labor and Rehabilitation’s Department of Labor Inspection and Occupational Safety is responsible for enforcing the national monthly minimum wage. There is no set official poverty income level. The law stipulates a workweek of 40 hours, standard working hours, night shift regulations, dismissal procedures, and training requirements. The law does not specifically prohibit excessive compulsory overtime. Penalties for abuses were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: OSH standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country. The government generally did not enforce them. Certain industries, such as the petroleum sector, attempted to maintain standards set by foreign companies. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with OSH experts and not the worker. The law provides OSH standards and grants workers the right to court hearings regarding abuses of these standards. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment. The limitations of the GNU restricted its ability to enforce wage laws and OSH standards. Penalties for abuses of the law were not commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

The Ministry of Labor and Rehabilitation is responsible for OSH concerns, but no information was available on enforcement and compliance.

Informal Sector: No accurate data on the size of the informal economy were available. The law does not provide for OSH standards for workers in the informal economy.

Liechtenstein

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not provide for a national minimum wage. The Liechtenstein Workers Association, a labor union, negotiates voluntary collective bargaining agreements with the Chamber of Commerce on a sector-by-sector basis. Minimum wages are reset annually in a wage and protocol agreement. Collective bargaining and wage agreements were effectively enforced, and wages exceeded the poverty level.

The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours for professional workers, employees of industrial firms, and sales personnel and 48 hours for other workers. Separate provisions apply to minors (see section 7.c.). Overtime may not exceed an average workweek of 48 hours over a period of four consecutive months. Some exceptions to overtime limits were authorized, for example, in the area of medical treatment.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law sets occupational safety and health standards that were appropriate for the main industries in the country. The labor standards also cover the thousands of workers who commuted daily from neighboring countries. There are additional safeguards for youths, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and employees with children. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with occupational safety and health experts, not with workers.

The Office of Labor Inspection, a part of the Department of National Economy, effectively enforced labor laws on working conditions. The agency had a sufficient number of inspectors authorized to make unannounced inspections and levy sanctions to enforce the law effectively. The Country’s Labor Inspectorate carried out 297 inspections in 2020, up from 109 in 2019, and 25 inspections resulted in recommendations to employers regarding health and safety measures or regulations governing working hours. The Labor Inspectorate issued 18 reports to the National Police based on investigations of workplace accidents. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Infra noted the working conditions of domestic workers and nurses employed in private homes were not subject to inspections or official labor contracts, which made the sectors vulnerable to exploitation.

Lithuania

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The labor law limits annual maximum overtime to 180 hours and establishes different categories of work contracts, such as for permanent, fixed-term, temporary agency, apprenticeship, project, job-sharing, employee-sharing, and seasonal work. Employers and employees may mutually agree to a higher amount of maximum overtime through the collective bargaining process.

According to the National Department of Statistics, as of January 1, the minimum monthly wage increased by 6 percent and was above the poverty line. The Statistics Department reported that 585,000 persons in the country lived below the poverty risk line in 2020. The poverty risk level stood at 20.9 percent in the country, up by 0.3 percent from 2019.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country, such as petroleum refining, food processing, energy supplies, chemicals, furniture, wood products, textiles, and clothing. The law applies to both national and foreign workers. The government effectively enforced OSH laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

The State Labor Inspectorate (SLI), which is responsible for implementing labor laws, had a staff sufficient to enforce compliance. During the first eight months of the year, the inspectorate conducted 2,449 inspections at companies and other institutions. Of these cases, 80 percent were related to underpayment of wages, late payment of wages, or worker safety. Workers dissatisfied with the results of an investigation may appeal to the court system. According to the SLI, violations of wage, overtime, and OSH laws occurred primarily in the construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors. The inspectorate received complaints concerning hazardous conditions from workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

As of September 13, the SLI recorded 2,930 accidents at work, including 22 fatal accidents, compared with 2,533 and 22, respectively, in 2020. Most accidents occurred in the transport, construction, processing, and agricultural sectors. To address the problem, the inspectorate continued conducting a series of training seminars for inspectors on technical labor inspection.

The SLI also issued reports on downtime arrangements, recommendations and regulations on labor relations during emergency situations and quarantines, and support to workers and employers available during a pandemic. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The law provides workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment. Workers have the legal right to request compensation for health concerns arising from dangerous working conditions. Health-care workers were overloaded and at the greatest risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The SLI organized 218 consultations and educational events on occupational safety and health, which were attended by more than 4,800 persons. It also organized a virtual quiz entitled “Future without Shadow” for high school students.

Informal Sector: The informal economy accounted for an estimated 25 percent of the economy. Refugee employment opportunities were primarily concentrated in construction, hospitality (restaurants), manufacturing, and housekeeping. The lack of language skills, job search assistance, education, and qualifications were major barriers to the employment of refugees.

Luxembourg

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law sets a national minimum wage for a worker older than age 18. Collective bargaining agreements established eight hours as a standard workday, with a 40-hour week and provision for 26 days leave and overtime.

The health and safety inspection agency ITM, the Social Security Ministry, and the Superior Court of Justice are responsible for enforcing laws governing maximum hours of work and mandatory holidays. The labor inspection ITM was understaffed but was making efforts to recruit more individuals in order to come into compliance. ITM inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The majority of alleged violations occurred in the construction sector. The agencies effectively enforced the law, when notified. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. In 2020 the ITM carried out 7,419 inspections and levied almost 8.945 million euros ($10.57 million) in fines.

According to the latest ITM report, the labor inspection organization carried out 2,102 health security checks in the country’s private sector to curb the spread of COVID-19. Between March 18, 2020 (start of the COVID-19 pandemic) and December 31, 2020, ITM issued 13 administrative fines for not respecting health regulations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law mandates a safe working environment and occupational safety and health standards are current and appropriate. Authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Penalties were commensurate with similar violations.

The ITM and the accident insurance agency of the Social Security Ministry are responsible for inspecting workplaces. Although NGOs reported the Labor Inspectorate to be understaffed, the Labor Inspectorate increased recruitment efforts in 2020 to enforce compliance sufficiently. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections, except in private homes, and to order emergency measures for the regularization or cessation of labor law violations. They can seek assistance from the police should they meet opposition to the fulfillment of their duties. Inspectors can issue fines and establish reports documenting the infringements of the laws, which are forwarded by the director to the prosecutor’s office for further action if needed. Workers have the right to ask the Labor Inspectorate to make a determination regarding workplace safety. Penalties for violations were commensurate with other similar crimes. Accidents occurred most frequently in the construction, commerce, industry, and catering sectors. In 2020 the ITM recorded 581 accidents (versus 466 accidents in 2019), including four fatalities.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal sector are covered by wage, hour, and OSH laws as well as inspections. The country’s informal sector was not large.

Madagascar

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In 2019 the government raised the minimum wage to an amount slightly above the poverty level as defined by the World Bank. The standard workweek was 40 hours in nonagricultural and service industries and 42.5 hours in the agricultural sector. The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, and the penalties were not commensurate with other similar crimes.

The law limits workers to 20 hours of overtime per week and requires two and one-half days of paid annual leave per month. The law requires overtime pay, generally for more than 40 hours work in one week, but the exact circumstances requiring such pay are unclear. If the hours worked exceed the legal limits for working hours (2,200 hours per year in agriculture and 173.33 hours per month in other sectors), employers are legally required to pay overtime in accordance with a labor council decree that also denotes the required amount of overtime pay.

The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Laws was responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. The number of labor inspectors working nationwide was insufficient, according to Ministry of Labor officials, since it could not even cover entirely the formal sector while the informal sector was much larger. All labor inspections were unannounced. The labor code provides that labor inspectors have the right to enter at any time and with no prior notice any site subject to labor inspection. Labor inspectors do not have legal law enforcement status and as a result may not issue sanctions. When they observe a labor law violation, labor inspectors only remind employers regarding the applicable legal provisions and related penalties, and they make recommendations to the court, which has the authority to assess penalties. Except in cases of serious threats to worker safety or health, the labor inspectorate submits its report to justice for action once an allotted time to correct the situation has passed. Labor inspectors started a strike in November 2020 to claim payment of unpaid allowances since 2016 and called on the government to adopt legislation amending their status. In April leaders or their union announced that their strike movement continued. As of September there was no official announcement on the end of the strike, but labor inspectors had almost fully resumed their activities.

The government did not always enforce the law. The penalties for labor violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. No report on government efforts to prevent violations during the year was available.

Violations of wage, overtime, or occupational safety and health standards were common in the informal sector and in domestic work, where many worked long hours for less than minimum wage. Workers in EPZ factories reported during the year that many employers advertised positions under the minimum wage and few applicants refused due to the high unemployment rate resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. In May labor unions stated to the press that enforcement of minimum wage laws was nonexistent since the beginning of the labor inspectors’ strike.

In March the government required companies with more than 500 employees to limit on-site presence to 50 percent in response to a severe second wave of COVID-19. In May labor unions stated that because of this measure, employers paid only half salary to their employees.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards for workers and workplaces. Workers, including foreign or migrant workers, have an explicit right to remove themselves from unsafe situations without jeopardizing their employment if they inform their supervisors. Employers did not always respect this right. Labor activists noted that standards, dating to the country’s independence in some cases, were severely outdated. The ILO observed gaps between labor code provisions and international OSH standards. Inspectors for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as wage and hours. The Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Laws is responsible for enforcing OSH standards but did not effectively enforce the law. There were no prosecutions, and penalties were not commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. During the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that began in the spring of 2020, workers from various sectors complained regarding a lack of protection and disrespect of sanitary rules in the workplace. Employees of private companies, such as call centers, continued to report their employers failed to provide appropriate face masks and hand sanitizer while many of them were working in crowded conditions, making social distancing impossible.

Media and labor unions repeatedly raised the problem that employers were increasingly violating labor rights during the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis. During suspension of public transportation, some employers failed to provide transportation services as instructed by the government. Employees who did not have personal means to commute to work had to walk long distances.

In early April the president required vulnerable workers to stay home and recommended employers to allow telework as part of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response. In May representatives of workers within the public administration reported to the press several deaths among their colleagues due to coronavirus as their employers failed to comply with the president’s recommendation and continued to require vulnerable workers to report to work.

Statistics on work accidents were unavailable. On January 27, a building under construction in Anosizato Antananarivo collapsed killing two workers and injuring nine others. As of early February, the owner of the building had compensated the neighboring inhabitants who had moved elsewhere, but there was no report of compensation for the victims of the accident. On January 28, an employee of an EPZ factory in Anosiala Ambohidratrimo died from electrocution on the factory’s roof after encountering a high voltage wire.

The ILO has supported the government since 2017 through its Vision Zero Fund Program designed to build the capacity of national actors on occupational safety and health. During the year labor inspectors, labor controllers, occupational health doctors, labor unions, and representatives of workers received training. Ministry of Labor officials, including the minister, used the training sessions to promote a culture of accident prevention. The program targeted the garment and construction industries in addition to the litchi production chain initially covered by the project.

Informal Sector: The informal sector made up 95.1 percent of employment in the country, according to available data, with most persons self-employed in fishing, forestry, and agriculture at the subsistence level. Although the law is meant to cover all types of working contracts including the informal sector, labor inspection did not cover the informal sector due to insufficient staffing. In May the director general of ENAM, the professional civil service academy in the country, announced during a graduation ceremony that 50 labor inspectors would be assigned to the agricultural sector because that sector constituted the largest part of the informal economy. CNAPS, the National Social Protection Fund, has for many years provided social protection to domestic workers when their employers pay regular contributions to the fund. The benefits include retirement allowances, family allocations, maternity leave allowances, and annuities in case of a work accident. During the year the national fund started including drivers among their beneficiaries, but there were no reports on the employers’ willingness to contribute.

Malawi

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minister of labor sets the minimum wage rate based on recommendations of the Tripartite Wage Advisory Board composed of representatives of labor, government, and employers. The minimum wage was set below the World Bank’s poverty income level. The government reported during the year that 51 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line.

Migrant workers are entitled to the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens if they comply with immigration laws. Those persons not in compliance, however, lacked these protections and were subject to deportation.

The legal workweek is 48 hours, with a mandatory weekly 24-hour rest period. The law requires premium payment for overtime work and prohibits compulsory overtime. The law provides for a period of annual leave of no less than 15 working days.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Under the law labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but lack the authority to initiate sanctions. The government did not provide information on the number of labor inspectors nor on government actions during the year to prevent violations, particularly for vulnerable groups.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that are appropriate for the main industries in the country. The Ministry of Labor houses a Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health responsible for minimum standards, but the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law effectively. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Workers, particularly in industrial jobs, often worked without basic safety clothing and equipment. Workers harvesting tobacco leaves generally did not wear protective clothing and absorbed up to 54 milligrams of dissolved nicotine daily through their skin, the equivalent of 50 cigarettes.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. Workers dismissed for filing complaints regarding workplace conditions have the right to file a complaint at the labor office or sue the employer for wrongful dismissal; however, these processes were not widely publicized, and workers were unlikely to exercise these rights. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

The government did not effectively enforce laws related to OSH, wages, or overtime. Workweek and annual leave standards were not effectively enforced, and employers frequently violated statuary time restrictions. Alleged violations of wage, hour, and overtime laws were believed to be widespread and, according to a 2017 Ministry of Labor report, were common across both the private and public sectors. The Ministry of Labor’s enforcement of health and safety standards was also poor. The law specifies fines and imprisonment for violations, but these penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, and no reports of jail terms were ever reported.

Informal Sector: More than 88 percent of Malawi’s working population worked in the informal sector. Informal workers included street and market vendors, artisans, small veranda (khondes) businesses, cross-border traders, and smallholder tea farmers. A study by the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions found that informal workers endured unsafe and unhealthy working conditions; the law does not protect workers outside the formal sector.

Approximately 15,000 of two million informal workers were organized in the Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS), which is affiliated with the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions. MUFIS worked with district councils to address matters affecting informal workers due in part to a Ministry of Labor decision that MUFIS did not have sufficient standing to bargain collectively with employers.

Malaysia

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage applied to both citizen and foreign workers, except for those in domestic service and the gig economy (see section 7.e., Informal Sector). Minimum wage rates varied according to location and were less than Ministry of Finance-published poverty income levels in Sabah and Sarawak states.

Working hours may not exceed eight hours per day or 48 hours per week, unless workers receive overtime pay. The director general of the Ministry of Labor may grant exceptions if there are special circumstances making the extra hours necessary.

The law protects foreign domestic workers only regarding wages and contract termination. The law excludes them from provisions that stipulate one rest day per week, an eight-hour workday, and a 48-hour workweek. Instead, bilateral agreements or memoranda of understanding between the government and some source countries for migrant workers include provisions for rest periods, compensation, and other conditions of employment for migrant domestic workers, including prohibitions on passport retention.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational health and safety laws cover all sectors of the economy except the maritime sector and the armed forces. The law requires workers to use safety equipment and cooperate with employers to create a safe, healthy workplace, but it does not specify a right to remove oneself from a hazardous or dangerous situation without penalty. Laws on worker’s compensation cover both local and migrant workers. In June the government expanded social security coverage to local and migrant domestic workers.

The National Occupational Safety and Health Council – composed of workers, employers, and government representatives – creates and coordinates implementation of occupational health and safety measures. It requires employers to identify risks and take precautions, including providing safety training to workers, and compels companies with more than 40 workers to establish joint management-employee safety committees.

According to Department of Occupational Safety and Health statistics, as of July, 111 workers died, 3,668 acquired a nonpermanent disability, and 140 acquired permanent disability in work-related incidents.

The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Human Resources enforces wage, working condition, and occupational safety and health standards. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The number of labor enforcement officers was insufficient to enforce compliance. Department of Labor officials reported they sought to conduct labor inspections as frequently as possible. Nevertheless, many businesses could operate for years without an inspection. Inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

Penalties for employers who fail to follow the law begin with a fine assessed per employee and may rise to imprisonment. Employers may be required to pay back wages plus the fine. If they refuse to comply, employers face additional fines for each day that wages are not paid. Employers or employees who violate occupational health and safety laws are subject to fines, imprisonment, or both. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Employers did not respect laws on wages and working hours. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress reported that 12-, 14-, and 18-hour days were common in food and other service industries. In June a court ordered Goodyear Malaysia Berhad to provide 185 migrant workers more than 5 million ringgit ($1.2 million) in unpaid wages, shift allowances, annual bonuses, and pay increases. The lawyer representing the migrant workers submitted pay slips to the court showing some migrants worked up to 229 hours a month in overtime, exceeding the legal limit of 104 hours.

In February the government introduced the Worker’s Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act as an emergency ordinance during the state of emergency compelling employers and centralized accommodation providers to provide lodging with sufficient living space and amenities for migrant workers to effectively control the spread of COVID-19. The legislation expanded this authority to include housing and local government agencies, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs in order to enforce fines and penalties up to 200,000 ringgit ($48,000), three years’ jail time, or both, against employers that failed to adhere to regulations.

In September Minister of Human Resources Saravanan announced that the government had found 49 workers’ hostels “unfit for human habitation” and ordered them closed, causing the relocation of 2,942 workers. As of August 24, the ministry had inspected 23,993 employers and 129,668 staff quarters covering the accommodation of 804,204 migrant workers and close to 1.2 million workers. The violations included “failure to comply with building capacity, operating without permission, failure to provide entry and exit route and nonadherence to social distancing.”

Migrant workers often worked in sectors where violations were common. They performed hazardous duties and had no meaningful access to legal counsel in cases of contract violations and abuse. Some workers alleged their employers subjected them to inhuman living conditions and physically assaulted them. Employers of domestic workers sometimes failed to honor the terms of employment and subjected workers to abuse. Employers reportedly restricted workers’ movement and use of mobile telephones; provided substandard food; did not provide sufficient time off; sexually assaulted workers; and harassed and threatened workers, including with deportation.

Informal Sector: As of 2019 more than one million workers were considered to be in the nonagricultural informal sector. This included any enterprise not registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia or other professional body and included more than one million self-employed or micro businesses, such as in-home workers, street vendors, and small workshops. More than half of informal workers were male, and more than three-quarters were in the cities.

Reports indicated that COVID-19 led to an increase in the number of self-employed “gig” employees. Estimates were as high as 30 percent of the workforce. There are no specific regulations, laws, or guidelines to protect the welfare of gig workers, except for the provisions under the Self-Employment Social Security Act 2017 that require self-employed individuals to register and contribute.

Maldives

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour: The country does not have a national policy on minimum wage. Wages in the private sector were commonly set by contract between employers and employees and were based on rates for similar work in the public sector.

The law establishes maximum hours of work, overtime, annual and sick leave, maternity leave, and guidelines for workplace safety. Civil servants are allowed six months of maternity leave and one month’s paternity leave. The law provides for a 48-hour per week limit on work with a compulsory 24-hour break if employees work six days consecutively. Certain provisions in the law, such as overtime and public-holiday pay, do not apply to emergency workers, air and sea crews, executive staff of any company, and workers who are on call. Employee associations reported some government schools and hospitals placed a cap on overtime pay.

The LRA and Employment Tribunal are charged with implementing employment law, and the LRA conducted workplace investigations and provided dispute resolution mechanisms to address complaints from workers. The most common findings continued to be related to missing or problematic provisions included in employment contracts and job descriptions, overtime and other pay, and problems related to leave. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The LRA typically gave employers one to three months to correct problems but lacked sufficient labor inspectors and travel funding to enforce compliance. The government effectively enforced overtime laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The country does not have a general occupational health and safety law, but certain industries, including construction, health, aviation, and tourism, have compiled their own standards and regulations, which they enforce themselves. There were no reports the government took any action under health and safety regulations during the year. The law mandates implementation of a safe workplace, procurement of secure tools and machinery, verification of equipment safety, use of protective equipment to mitigate health hazards, employee training in the use of protective gear, and appropriate medical care, but there were no national standards for safety measures, and as a result such measures were at the discretion of employers. There were multiple reports of workers at the central port in Male sustaining injuries at work, including two deaths of port employees who were struck by a carpet roll and a glass pallet while unloading cargo. In March parliament’s State-Owned Enterprises Committee launched an inquiry into health and safety standards at the port but had not published its findings by year’s end. The LRA continued to report difficulties in assessing safety standards during inspections due to the lack of national standards. Safety regulations for the construction industry require employers to provide employees with safety equipment such as helmets, belts, and masks, but NGOs reported the government failed to monitor implementation of these standards. All employers are required to provide health insurance for foreign workers.

The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with laws for other similar crimes.

Informal Sector: According to the government, 19 percent of the total working population is engaged in informal employment, with 62 percent self-employed and not subject to wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. The proportion of workers in the informal sector is higher in the islands outside Male, with 31 percent of the total working population outside Male engaged in the informal sector compared with 9 percent in Male. Informal employment is higher among women, with 25 percent of women compared to 16 percent of men. Manufacturing is the leading industry of informal employment with most women engaged in home-based work producing thatches and rope weaves, followed by the services (including domestic workers), agriculture and fisheries sectors. The LRA is authorized to inspect any workspace with employees but reported they did not routinely inspect workspaces of domestic workers. They did investigate complaints filed by domestic workers.

Migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, worked in unacceptable conditions, and were frequently forced to accept low wages to repay their debts with employment agencies, especially within the construction sector. The LRA reported more than 40 percent of the complaints it received were submitted by foreign migrant workers.

Migrant workers were treated harshly, and the COVID-19 pandemic compounded this. Migrants experienced abuses from employers, including deceptive recruitment practices, wage theft, passport confiscation, unsafe living and working conditions, and excessive work demands, which indicate forced labor and violate domestic and international standards. The spread of COVID-19 and the lockdown to contain it exacerbated these conditions, as workers faced job loss, unpaid leave, reduced salaries, and forced work without pay.

NGOs expressed concern that senior government officials made statements characterizing the high number of undocumented workers present in the country as “a threat to national security,” indicating a lack of political will to address the exploitation of foreign migrant workers. Female migrant workers, especially in the domestic-service sector were especially vulnerable to exploitation. Employers in the construction and tourism industry often housed foreign workers at their worksites or in cramped labor quarters.

In 2020 the Maldivian Red Crescent reported their inspection of labor quarters in Male found each quarter housed approximately 200 workers, with six to seven individuals sharing rooms of 100 square feet. In some locations workers were forced to sleep in bathrooms or on balconies due to a lack of space. Most buildings also lacked adequate space for cooking and posed safety risks due to being structurally unsound. NGOs reported the government did not act to enforce regulations, which came into force in October 2020 setting standards for employer-provided accommodations for foreign migrant workers. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Some migrant workers were exposed to dangerous working conditions, especially in the construction industry, and worked in hazardous environments without proper ventilation. The Employment Act protects workers who remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Mali

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage of 28,465 CFA francs per month ($52) in all sectors of the formal economy. The minimum wage is above the World Bank’s poverty line for the country. Minimum wage requirements did not apply to workers in the informal and subsistence sectors, which included most workers. In addition to setting a minimum wage, the government mandates that employers have a mandatory benefit package including social security and health care.

The legal workweek is 40 hours, except in the agricultural sector, where the legal workweek ranges from 42 to 48 hours, depending on the season. The law requires a weekly 24-hour rest period, and employers must pay workers overtime for additional hours. The law limits overtime to eight hours per week. The law applies to all workers, including migrants and domestics, but it was routinely ignored in the informal sector, which included an estimated 93 percent of workers, according to a 2018 International Labor Organization (ILO) report.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service conducted few surprise or complaint-based inspections. Inspections conducted in August and October of oil companies Total, Oryx, and Vivo in Bamako found that salaries were below the legal minimum wage and that some workers were not registered with the national social security service. Following the inspections, the companies began implementing minimum wage policies and registered workers to receive social security benefits.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for a broad range of occupational safety and health standards in the workplace. Workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Workers also have the right to request an investigation by the Social Security Department, which is responsible for recommending remedial action when necessary. Authorities, however, did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Workers often were reluctant to report violations of occupational safety regulations due to fear of losing their jobs.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not effectively enforce these standards, did not employ enough labor inspectors, and the few inspectors it did employ lacked resources to conduct field investigations. Many employers did not comply with regulations regarding wages, hours, and social security benefits. The ministry conducted few inspections in the three northern regions where the government has suspended services since the 2012 occupation of those regions by armed groups and other organizations. No government agencies provided information on violations or penalties. Labor inspectors made unannounced visits and inspections to worksites mostly after labor unions filed complaints.

Labor organizations reported employers used cyanide and mercury in gold mines, posing a public-health risk to workers exposed to them. Inspectors lacked the resources to assemble credible data on dangerous workplaces.

The most recent report from the ILO and the World Health Organization listed 2,915 annual work-related deaths in 2016. The Ministry of Labor reported two work-related deaths during the year.

Informal Sector: Almost 93 percent of workers worked in the informal sector, according to the ILO. Informal workers were employed in almost every sector of the economy, from agriculture (growing cotton) and transportation (including taxi drivers) to financial services (door-to-door banking, informal saving associations, and money lenders). Informal workers lost more income than formal-sector workers during the COVID-19 pandemic because informal workers were overrepresented in high-risk sectors of the economy such as restaurants, markets, hotels, beauty salons, tailoring, transport, and private education, according to a study released by United Nations University.

The worst working conditions existed in private businesses and informal sectors of the economy. In small, family-based agricultural endeavors, children worked for little or no remuneration. Employers paid some domestic workers as little as 7,500 CFA francs ($14) per month, which violated minimum wage laws; employers claimed that food and shelter provided to domestic workers was part of their compensation. Violations of overtime laws were common for children working in cities and those working in artisanal gold mines or rice and cotton fields.

Workers in the informal sector are not protected by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. Workers in the informal economy benefitted from government health insurance if they contributed periodically from their salaries; however, there was no insurance against unemployment or retirement, or other social protections for workers in the informal economy.

Malta

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws: The country had a national weekly minimum wage above the poverty income level. The government effectively enforced the minimum wage. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud, and they were imposed on employers convicted of violating the law. Cases mostly involved foreign country nationals. The law mandates a standard workweek of 40 hours, but the norm was 43 or 45 hours in certain occupations such as in health care, airport services, and civil protective services. The law provides for paid annual holidays (i.e., government holidays) and paid annual leave. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime, and employers may not oblige employees to work more than 48 hours per week, including overtime.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards, and such standards were up to date and appropriate for the main industries in the country. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations dangerous to health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. The employer is responsible for ensuring and implementing safety measures at the workplace.

The Department of Industrial and Employment Relations is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections at places of work and initiate sanctions; however, the number of inspectors was deemed to be insufficient to enforce compliance. The government generally enforced minimum wage and hours of work requirements effectively in the formal economy, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence.

Occupational Health and Safety: The Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), a government entity composed of representatives of the government, unions, and employers, conducted regular inspections at worksites and cited several offenders. Nevertheless, enforcement of health and safety standards continued to be inconsistent, particularly in the construction industry. The number of OHSA inspections was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and to initiate sanctions, including stopping work they deem to be unsafe.

There were six fatal workplace accidents reported in the first half of the year. Industrial accidents occurred mostly in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, and storage sectors. Although the government continued to report steady progress in improving working conditions, authorities conceded that unsafe conditions remained. Workers in the informal economy were more likely to face hazardous or exploitive working conditions.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal economy, particularly in construction, did not have the same protection as formal workers, but they could file complaints against companies that failed to provide a safe work environment. Many workers, however, were unaware of their rights and social welfare programs and avoided state-run agencies due to fear of being detained or deported based on their immigration status or lack of a work permit.

Reports of abuse of migrants attracted by the country’s unskilled labor shortage continued during the year. Abuses included health and safety matters, workers found living in substandard conditions, and low wages (also see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees). Authorities did not stringently enforce standards in the informal economy, which consisted of approximately 5 percent of the workforce and encompassed various sectors of working society, including day laborers and self-employed individuals. OHSA imposed fines on companies that did not comply with minimum safety standards in the formal economy and, to a lesser extent, the informal economy. Irregular migrant workers, who made up a small but growing percentage of the workforce, worked in some cases under conditions that did not meet the government’s minimum standards for employment. The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers, in coordination with Jobs Plus, which is administered by the government, organized informational programs to help individuals pursue employment and obtain work permits.

Marshall Islands

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a minimum wage which is not above the poverty line. Foreign employees and local trainees of private employers who invested in or established a business in the country are exempt from minimum-wage requirements provided the employer receives government authorization. The cabinet may also exempt qualified export-oriented industries from minimum wage laws. Most foreign workers, who constituted approximately 30 percent of the workforce (excluding agroforestry), and most of the professional and technical classes in the country earned considerably more than the minimum wage. The law provides for a standard 40-hour workweek but places no restrictions on the amount of overtime that may be worked. Penalties for wage and hour violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational health and safety standards are generally appropriate. No legislation provides protection for workers who file official complaints about conditions that endanger their health or safety. The law does not provide for workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Department of Labor conducts inspections related to wages, hours, and occupational safety and health. Inspectors have the right to conduct unannounced inspections and issue sanctions. There were sufficient inspectors but limited resources made it insufficient to ensure compliance. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Informal Sector: Many households on the outer islands sell copra (dried coconut kernels), handicrafts, or fish to survive.

Mauritania

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is more than the most recent estimate for the poverty income level. The law provides that the standard legal nonagricultural workweek must not exceed either 40 hours or six days per week. Domestic workers and certain other categories may work 56 hours per week. There are no legal provisions regarding compulsory overtime.

The Labor Office of the Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws but did not do so effectively. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient for the labor force, and inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. The ILO reported that the labor inspectorate was subject to undue influence by employers and the government, thereby reducing the effectiveness of inspection activity.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational health and safety (OSH) standards, and in principle workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment; however, this was rarely applied. These OSH standards apply only to the formal sector, and labor inspectors rarely identified unsafe conditions or responded to workers’ OSH complaints.

The Ministry of Labor was responsible for ensuring OSH standards. Inspections for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as wage and hours. The government did not effectively enforce OSH laws, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for comparable violations. The National Agency of Social Security registered 168 workplace fatalities or injuries during the year, most of which occurred in the mining sector.

Informal Sector: The majority of the working population labored in the informal sector, primarily in subsistence agriculture, fishing, domestic services, and animal husbandry. According to the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers, only 25 percent of workers filled positions accorded regular pay.

Despite the law, labor unions pointed to conditions approaching forced labor in several sectors, including the food processing industry. In these sectors workers did not have contracts or receive pay stubs. Their salaries were below the official minimum wage, and they worked in unfavorable conditions. They occasionally did not receive pay for several months.

Working conditions in the fishing industry were similarly difficult. Commercial fishermen reportedly often exceeded 40 hours of work per week without receiving overtime pay. Additionally, some factory workers employed by fish-processing plants and boat manufacturers did not receive contracts guaranteeing the terms of their employment. Government inspections of fishing vessels, processing plants, and boat factories were rare.

Violations of minimum wage or overtime laws were frequent in many sectors but more common in the informal economy, which included domestic service, street vending, artisanal fishing, garbage collection, bus fare collection, donkey-cart driving, apprenticeship, auto repair, and other similar types of employment.

Mauritius

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Effective January 2020 the national minimum monthly wage was raised to 9,000 Mauritian rupees ($214) for export workers and 9,700 Mauritian rupees ($230) for nonexport workers, both above the poverty line. The actual market wage for most workers was much higher than the minimum wage due to a labor shortage and collective bargaining. In the private sector, the National Remuneration Board sets minimum wages for nonmanagerial workers outside the EOE.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 45 hours and paid annual holidays, requires premium pay for overtime, and prohibits compulsory overtime. By law employers cannot force a worker outside the EOE to work more than eight hours per day, six days per week. A worker (other than a part-time worker or a watchperson) and an employer may agree, however, to have the employee work in excess of the stipulated hours without added remuneration, if the number of hours covered in a 14-day period does not exceed 90 hours or a lesser number of hours as agreed to by both parties.

The standard legal workweek in the EOE is 45 hours. According to the Mauritius Labor Congress, 10 hours of overtime a week is nonetheless mandatory at certain textile factories in the EOE. Regulations require remuneration for those who work more than their stipulated hours at one and a half times the normal salary rate. Those who work during their stipulated hours on public holidays are remunerated at double their normal salary rate. The law provides for paid annual holidays but does not prohibit compulsory overtime in the EOE. For industrial positions, regulations do not permit workers to work more than 10 hours a day. The law requires the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training to investigate cases of overtime violations. If an employer fails to take action to address the violations, the ministry may initiate a court action.

Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training officials are responsible for the enforcement of wage and hour laws. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. As of June 1, the ministry made 354 labor inspections to construction sites and dormitories.

The government did not enforce the law effectively. While the government generally enforced wages in the formal sector, there were reports employers demoted workers to part-time status to evade wage and hour requirements. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations and were seldom applied in the informal sector, which was estimated to include at least 10 percent of all workers. Unions reported cases of underpayment for overtime in the textile and apparel industries due to differences in existing legislation and remuneration orders for the calculation of overtime hours.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets appropriate occupational safety and health standards, and the responsibility for identifying unsafe conditions lies with inspectors. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations; workers did not generally exercise this right.

Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training officials inspected working conditions. The ministry employed labor and industrial relations officers, including labor inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, to investigate all reports of labor abuses. Despite an increase in the number of inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, trade unions called attention to the fact that numbers remained insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not always commensurate with those for similar violations. Authorities generally applied these standards to both foreign and citizen workers except in the informal sector.

Employers did not always comply with safety regulations, resulting in occupational accidents. As of June 30, there were 34 industrial accidents and no deaths, according to the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training. Subsequent press stories reported two deaths in the construction sector. For example, on August 18, an excavation operator was killed on a construction site after he was buried under a pile of rocks.

Informal Sector: According to a 2013 official government report, the most recent data available, informal workers comprised 10 percent of the workforce, mainly working in construction, transportation, and auto repair. The ILO has reported much higher numbers of informal workers constituting more than 50 percent of total nonagricultural employment. Labor laws applied to the informal sector, but they were seldom enforced, and penalties were not applied. Wage, hour, and safety violations were prevalent in the construction, agriculture, auto repair, and seafaring trades. According to a government official, during the year workers in the informal sector comprised mainly minors and women serving street food. There was an increasing number of migrant workers in the informal sector, the official stated.

Mexico

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The tripartite National Minimum Wage Commission is responsible for establishing minimum salaries. In January 2020 the government raised the minimum wage. The new wage applied to all sectors and allowed an earner to reach or exceed the poverty line. In March the government amended federal labor law to define the minimum wage as the lowest cash amount a worker receives for services rendered during a workday and stipulated it should never be below the inflation rate. Most formal-sector workers (70 percent) received between one and three times the minimum wage.

Federal law sets six eight-hour days and 48 hours per week as the legal workweek. Any work in excess of eight hours in a day is considered overtime, for which a worker is to receive double pay. After accumulating nine hours of overtime in a week, a worker earns triple the hourly wage. The law prohibits compulsory overtime. The law provides for eight paid public holidays and one week of paid annual leave after completing one year of work.

Between September 2020 and June, the STPS reported conducting labor inspections in 22,350 work centers nationwide benefiting more than three million workers. Civil society organizations, however, reported that the number of labor inspections was not sufficient to secure compliance. There were 600 federal labor inspectors to cover the entire country; 60 percent of state level labor authorities had fewer than 10 inspectors. Criminal cases related to such violations were rarely carried out. Penalties for law violations regarding hours and minimum wage were commensurate with those for other similar laws but were rarely enforced.

According to labor rights NGOs, employers in all sectors sometimes used the illegal “hours bank” approach – requiring long hours when the workload is heavy and cutting down hours when it is light – to avoid compensating workers for overtime. This was a common practice in the maquiladora sector, in which employers forced workers to take leave at low moments in the production cycle and obliged them to work in peak seasons, including the Christmas holiday period, without the corresponding triple pay mandated by law for voluntary overtime on national holidays.

Many companies evaded taxes and social security payments by employing workers through subcontracting regimes or by submitting falsified payroll records to the Mexican Social Security Institute. On April 24, congress approved a reform to the labor law aimed at banning subcontracting of personnel for core or main economic activities in the public and private sectors. Subcontracting is allowed if it is used to perform specialized services unrelated to the main economic activity of businesses or public institutions. The law mandates the creation of a public registry of companies supplying specialized services to verify only registered companies fulfilling tax and administrative requirements may supply those services. According to the Mexican Social Security Institute, as a result of the law 2.7 million workers of the 4.6 million subcontractors moved from formal subcontracting status to a formal direct employment status. Approximately 23 percent of informal workers (6.8 million persons) were employed by formal businesses or organizations but paid in cash off the books to evade taxes and social security payments.

Observers from grassroots labor rights groups, international NGOs, and multinational apparel brands reported that employers in export-oriented supply chains increasingly used hiring methods that lessened job security. For example, manufacturers commonly hired workers on one- to three-month contracts and then waited a period of days before rehiring them on new short-term contracts to avoid paying severance and to prevent workers from accruing seniority. This practice violated federal law and restricted workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Observers noted that it also increased the likelihood of work-related illness and injury. Outsourcing practices made it difficult for workers to identify their legally registered employer, thus limiting their ability to seek redress of labor grievances.

Citizens hoping to obtain temporary, legal employment in the United States and other countries frequently paid recruiters hundreds or thousands of dollars in prohibitive fees to secure jobs, and many prospective workers were promised jobs that did not exist. The government rarely investigated cases of alleged abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices. Although the law requires entities recruiting for overseas employment to register with the STPS, there is no enforcement mechanism, and only a handful of recruiters complied.

The situation of agricultural workers remained particularly precarious, with similar patterns of exploitation throughout the sector. Labor recruiters enticed families to work during harvests with verbal promises of decent wages and a good standard of living. Rather than receiving daily wages once a week, as mandated by law, day laborers had to meet certain harvest quotas to receive the promised wage. Wages were illegally withheld until the end of the harvest to ensure that the workers did not leave. Civil society organizations alleged that workers were prohibited from leaving by threats of violence or by nonpayment of wages. Workers had to buy food and other items at the company store at high markups, at times leaving them with no money at the end of the harvest after settling debts. Civil society groups reported families living in inhuman conditions, with inadequate and cramped housing, no access to clean water or bathrooms, insufficient food, and without medical care. With no access to schools or child care, many workers took their children to work in the fields.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law requires employers to observe occupational safety and health regulations, issued jointly by the STPS and Institute for Social Security. Legally mandated joint management and labor committees set standards and are responsible for overseeing workplace standards in plants and offices. Individual employees or unions may complain directly to inspectors or safety and health officials. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The STPS has the authority to order labor inspections at any time in the event of labor law violations, imminent risk to employees, or workplace accidents. Penalties for law violations regarding occupational safety and health regulations were commensurate with those for other similar laws but were rarely enforced.

News reports indicated poor working conditions in some factories. These included low wages, contentious labor management, long work hours, unjustified dismissals, a lack of social security benefits, unsafe workplaces, and no freedom of association. Many women working in the industry reported suffering some form of abuse.

According to data from the Mexican Social Security Institute, in 2020 there were approximately 278,000 workplace accidents, resulting in 666 deaths.

Hundreds of thousands of workers continued to work in foreign-owned factories, mainly in northern border states, producing electronics, medical equipment, and auto parts. Several outbreaks of COVID-19 resulted in multiple deaths. Some companies reportedly did not implement effective protective measures for employees, and one factory, owned by Eaton Corporation in Baja California, was operating illegally and was closed after it placed chains on its doors to prevent 800 workers from leaving.

Informal Sector: According to INEGI informal workers represented 56 percent of total workers in the country as of the second quarter of the year. Labor inspections focused on the formal sector, leaving informal workers with no labor law protection. Informal workers were in every sector of the economy, with agriculture as the sector with the greatest number of informal workers. While on average informal workers earned less than the minimum wage, in some areas, such as near the northern border, informal employment could pay more than formal employment in the manufacturing sector. Informal workers lacked access to social protection mechanisms such as health care and retirement benefits.

Micronesia

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. There is no other minimum wage.

The law sets a standard of an eight-hour workday and a five-day workweek, with premium pay for overtime. There are no legal provisions prohibiting excessive or compulsory overtime.

Occupational Safety and Health: A federal regulation requires that employers provide a safe workplace. Occupational safety and health standards are enforced by the Public Health and Environmental Protection Agency. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Government entities generally enforced safety and health laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence.

The Division of Immigration and Labor within the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws for foreign workers. The government generally effectively enforced these standards, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient, and inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The tax system monitored the minimum wage effectively through random audits.

Informal Sector: Approximately one-half of workers were in the informal economy where the law does not apply, predominantly in subsistence agriculture and fishing.

Moldova

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is less than the poverty level. According to the SLI, as of October salary arrears were at 39.6 million lei ($2.2 million).

The law sets the maximum workweek at 40 hours with overtime compensation, provides for at least one day off per week, and mandates paid annual leave of at least 28 calendar days (government holidays excluded). Different paid leave plans may be used in some sectors, such as education, health care, and public service. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime. Foreign, migrant, and domestic workers have the same wage and hour protections as other workers.

The SLI is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. The number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Labor inspectors were generally required to give advance notice before conducting labor investigations and were generally prohibited from conducting onsite inspections if the information sought could be obtained in writing, which undercut their enforcement ability. In January parliament reversed changes that delegated responsibility for occupational safety and health inspections to the 10 sectoral inspection agencies and returned it to the SLI. Stringent requirements for initiation of unannounced inspections remained a problem in detecting and addressing labor violations. Inspectors did not have authority to initiate sanctions without concurrence from a superior and court certification. In the first 10 months of the year, the SLI reported 436 unplanned inspections in areas defined by law as “labor relations,” “salary payments” and “occupational safety and health.” Labor inspectors could not confirm that any of these unplanned inspections were unannounced. The government did not effectively enforce wage and hour laws. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health standards, which are appropriate for the main industries. According to labor law, workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Effective January 1, responsibility for occupational safety and health inspections returned from the 10 sectoral inspection agencies to the SLI.

Government efforts to enforce occupational health and safety standards were limited and ineffective. The law requires the government to establish and monitor safety standards in the workplace but inspections could only occur when a complaint was received and not all complaints met the criteria for a workplace inspection. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

Poor economic conditions led enterprises to spend less on safety equipment and to pay insufficient attention to worker safety. There was a consensus among stakeholders that after the change in the legislation governing labor inspections, occupational safety and health standards in the workplace worsened. In the first 10 months of the year, the SLI reported 471 work accidents involving 502 victims. The SLI also reported 61 work-related deaths. Enterprise committees investigated 340 cases of temporary incapacitation resulting from work accidents that involved 356 persons.

Informal Sector: A thriving informal economy accounted for a significant portion of the country’s economic activity. According to the International Labor Organization, 30.9 percent of the total employed population had an informal job. Workers in the informal economy did not have the same legal protections under wage, hour, and occupational safety and health provisions as employees in the formal sector. No government social programs targeted workers in the informal economy who were hardest hit by the COVID-19 lockdowns during the year.

The labor code requires work contracts for employment, but the government did not have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance. In the agricultural sector, approximately 63 percent of workers were employed informally, according to the National Trade Union Confederation.

Monaco

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is a minimum wage, which exceeded the official estimate of the poverty level. Law and government decree establishing wages and hours are appropriate for the country.

The Department of Employment in the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws. The inspectorate had an adequate number of labor inspectors. The chief inspector answered directly to the director of the Department of Employment. Labor inspectors informed employers and employees on all matters related to labor laws and arbitrated, mediated, and reconciled labor/management disputes. They carried out regular on-site inspections, including unannounced visits, to ensure employers respected all requirements of the law.

The government effectively enforced wage and hour laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The laws and government decree establishing occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the country. The same inspectors that cover wage and hour laws are responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health laws. Workplace health and safety committees and government labor inspectors effectively enforced the standards. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. Data were not available on enforcement of occupational safety and health standards in the small informal economy.

Mongolia

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The National Tripartite Committee, which comprises the government, the CMTU, and the Federation of Employers, annually establishes a national minimum wage that is above the poverty line. The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours and the payment of overtime, but in practice payment of overtime is rarely enforced. The law does not cover workers in the informal sector.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection enforced the law in the public sector, but the CMTU reported that many workers in the private sector received less than the wage promised by their employers, particularly at smaller companies in rural areas. Workers in the construction sector, in which work is constrained to a few months each year due to extreme winters, were sometimes pressured to work long hours, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Occupational Safety and Health: Laws on labor, cooperatives, and enterprises establish occupational health and safety standards, which apply equally to local and foreign workers. GASI noted many standards were outdated.

Labor inspectors assigned to GASI’s regional and local offices are responsible for enforcement of all labor regulations and have the authority to compel immediate compliance. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Inspectors generally did not conduct inspections in the informal sector. GASI reported its inspectors, faced with large investigative workloads, needed better training on investigative techniques and evidence collection. GASI reported some of the planned inspections for the year were not conducted because most inspectors were deployed to work on the frontline during COVID-19 lockdowns. GASI acknowledged that fines imposed on companies for not complying with labor standards or for concealing accidents were not commensurate with those for similar violations and did not compel management compliance. GASI lacks the authority to perform unannounced inspections.

According to the latest census conducted by the National Statistics Office in 2020, there were 4,039 foreign workers in the country and 2,069 of them were from China. There were no North Korean workers reported in the country.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger safety without jeopardy to their employment. The CMTU raised concerns that, due to restrictions at the Mongolia-China border, coal-truck drivers often faced very poor labor conditions caused by waiting at the border in their trucks, sometimes for a month, without proper lodging.

Between January and August, GASI provided 11 safety-training sessions, forums, and public awareness sessions to more than 700 employees of companies and private enterprises. As of August, 144 persons have been involved in industrial accidents, 14 of which resulted in death, representing a decrease of 54 and six, respectively, from the previous year.

Informal Sector: The law applies to the informal sector, but it was not enforced, and workers have no assured rights. The government calculated in 2020 that the nonagricultural informal sector employed 210,000 persons (44 percent of the 481,400 employees in the informal sector), primarily concentrated in urban areas (90 per cent of the employees in nonagricultural sectors were in Ulaanbaatar). Subsistence agriculture and herding and artisanal mining make up the biggest components of the informal sector. The law on pensions allows small family businesses and workers in the informal economy (such as herders) to participate in pension and social benefit programs. These categories of workers were able to access health care, education, social entitlements, and an optional form of social security.

Montenegro

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: According to the National Statistics Office, the national monthly minimum wage was slightly above the government’s absolute poverty line. Significant portions of the workforce, particularly in rural areas and in the informal sector, earned less than the minimum wage.

The law limits overtime to 10 hours per week, and total work time cannot exceed 48 work hours per week on average within a four-month period, but seasonal workers often worked much longer. In 2020 new labor laws came into effect that provide new protections for employees regarding required overtime, night work, and the duration of fixed-term employment contracts.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, although penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

Many workers, particularly women employed in the commercial, catering, and service industries, worked unpaid overtime, and employers sometimes forced them to work on religious holidays without additional compensation or to forgo their rights to weekly and annual leave. Employers sometimes failed to pay the minimum wage, other employee benefits, or mandatory contributions to pension funds. Employees often did not report such violations due to fear of retaliation. The practice of only formally paying a worker the minimum wage, thus being responsible for lower mandatory contributions, and giving the employee cash payments as a supplement was common. Also common was the practice of signing short-term work contracts or having lengthy “trial” periods for workers instead of signing them to permanent contracts as prescribed by law.

Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals, sometimes taking years. This led to an increase in the number of persons seeking recourse through alternative dispute resolution. Most disputes reviewed by the Agency for Peaceful Resolution of Labor Disputes involved accusations of government institutions violating laws on overtime, night work, holidays, social insurance contribution requirements, or other administrative regulations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set occupational health and safety standards that were current and appropriate for the main industries. Regulations require employers and supervisors to supply and enforce the use of safety equipment, conduct risk assessment analysis, and report any workplace deaths or serious injuries within 24 hours.

The Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing wage, hour, and occupational health and safety laws. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance in the formal economy. Resources, remediation efforts, and investigations were not adequate to successfully identify, enforce, or prevent violations in the informal economy. The Union of Free Trade Unions reported that approximately 40,000 persons were employed in the informal economy. Penalties for violations of occupational health and safety standards were generally commensurate with those for other similar crimes in the formal sector. Labor inspectors have the legal authority to close an establishment until it corrects violations or to fine owners who commit repeated violations, although they rarely exercised this authority. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections.

Employment in the construction, energy, wood-processing, transportation, and heavy industries presented the highest risk of injury. During the year two electricians working for the country’s electricity distribution system died, one in Danilovgrad and one in Bar. The electric company confirmed they died on the job while repairing transmission lines. Press reports noted that falling from a significant height was the cause of death of three out of four construction workers in 2020; falling also caused at least a third of serious injuries on construction sites throughout the country. Most of the injuries were among foreign nationals. Common causes of injuries on construction sites were unsecured workstations at a height and lack of use of protective equipment. The most frequent reasons cited for unsafe working conditions were the lenient fines for violations of safety rules, failure to use safety equipment, lack of work-related information and training, inadequate medical care for workers, and old or inadequately maintained equipment.

Morocco

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage was above the poverty line. The law provides for a 44- to 48-hour maximum workweek with no more than 10 hours work in a single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including limitations on night work for women and minors. The law prohibits excessive overtime. A 2019 tripartite agreement among the government, employers, and unions stipulated that the monthly minimum wage be increased by 10 percent, phased in through two 5 percent increases. The first occurred in 2019 and the second in July 2020. The current, hourly minimum salary was raised based on the tripartite agreement; however, many employers did not observe the legal provisions regulating conditions of work. The government did not effectively enforce basic provisions of the labor code, such as payment of the minimum wage and other basic benefits under the National Social Security Fund. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Employment and Vocational Integration sets and enforces rudimentary occupational health and safety standards. Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were not appropriate for the main industries in the country, and the government did not effectively enforce them. It was unclear whether responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remained with OSH experts and not the worker. In the formal sector, workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations. The government has not ratified article 13 of Convention 155, and there are no provisions in the labor code that refer directly to this right. Penalties for violations of occupational, safety, and health laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes like negligence. The government did not adequately enforce labor laws, particularly inspections. The country’s labor inspectors reported that although they attempted to monitor working conditions and investigate accidents, they lacked adequate resources, preventing effective enforcement of labor laws. Inspectors reported that their role as mediators of labor conflicts significantly limited time spent proactively inspecting work sites and remediating and uncovering violations. Inspectors do not have punitive power and cannot independently levy fines or other punishments. Only action by the public prosecutor that results in a judicial decree can force an employer to take remedial actions. Enforcement procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Major workplace accidents were reported during the year. Most notably, in February a flood in a textile factory in Tangier killed 28 garment workers. They were electrocuted when the basement flooded and water came into contact with exposed wiring. The factory was unregistered, and it reportedly did not meet safety standards. In December the factory owner was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

Informal Sector: The domestic worker law provides protections for domestic workers, including limits on working hours and a minimum wage. Penalties for violating the law start with a fine and, in cases of repeated offenses, can include one to three months of imprisonment. Labor inspectors did not inspect small workshops with fewer than five employees and private homes where many such violations occurred, as the law requires a warrant or permission of the owner to search a private residence. The law establishes a conciliation process for labor inspectors to handle disputes between domestic workers and their employers, but the law lacks time limits for a resolution. Labor inspectors reported their small numbers, scarce resources at their disposal, and the broad geographic dispersion of sites limited their ability to enforce the law effectively.

Mozambique

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government-mandated minimum wage varies by sector and was above the official poverty line. After consultations with trade unions and the private sector, in August the government raised the minimum wage for the first time since 2019. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours but may be extended to 48 hours. Overtime must be paid for hours worked in excess of 48 hours at 50 percent above the base hourly salary. These legal protections also apply to foreign workers holding work permits.

The Mozambican General Labor Inspectorate, a Ministry of Labor service, is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage rates in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. The ministries usually investigated violations of minimum wage rates only after workers submitted a complaint.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar offenses. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Despite the relatively low number of inspectors, some businesses reported frequent visits by labor inspectors citing capricious violations and threats of substantial monetary fines in order to exact bribes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Workers have the right to clean and safe workplaces, including good physical, environmental, and moral conditions. Workers have the right to be informed of safety risks and instruction on how to follow the regulations and improve safety, including the right to protective clothing and equipment, first aid, health exams, and compensation for workplace injuries or sickness. Workers have the right remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to their employment. OSH officers are responsible for identifying unsafe working conditions, but workers may file complaints regarding unsafe situations.

The Mozambican General Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing OSH standards in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. Inspections for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authority as that for wages and hours.

The government did not effectively enforce OSH standards. The responsible ministries usually investigated violations of OSH standards only after workers submitted a complaint. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar offenses. Labor law applied only to the formal sector, leaving workers in the informal sector unprotected. Agricultural, mining, and security workers were among the most vulnerable to poor work conditions and wage theft.

Informal Sector: The International Labor Organization estimated that approximately six million persons, or 80 percent of the economically active population in the country, worked in the informal sector. The Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and OSH standards in the informal economy, since the Ministry of Labor applies the law only in the formal sector.

Namibia

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Although various sectors have a minimum wage, there is no national minimum wage law that applies across all sectors. Nevertheless, all sector-specific minimum wage rates are applied nationally and were above the poverty line. Unions and employers negotiated industry-specific minimum wages under Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mediation.

The standard legal workweek was 45 hours, with at least 36 consecutive hours of rest between workweeks. By law an employer may not require more than 10 hours’ overtime work per week and must pay premium pay for overtime work. The law mandates 20 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a five-day workweek and 24 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a six-day workweek. The law also requires employees receive paid time off for government holidays, five days of compassionate leave per year, at least 30 workdays of sick leave during a three-year period, and three months of maternity leave paid by the employer and the Social Security Commission.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mandates occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, and the law empowers authorities to enforce these standards through unannounced inspections and criminal prosecution. The law requires employers to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their employees; the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The law covers all employers and employees in the country, including the informal sector and individuals placed by a private employment agency (labor hire), except independent contractors and members of the NDF, the Namibia Central Intelligence Service, the Namibian Correctional Service, and police. By law employees have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

The government enforced wage, hour, and safety standards laws in the formal sector but did not effectively enforce labor law in the informal sector. Penalties are commensurate with those for similar violations, but they were seldom applied in the informal sector. Inspections occurred proactively, reactively, and at random. Due to the ministry’s resource constraints in vehicles, budget, and personnel, as well as difficulty in gaining access to some large communal and commercial farms and private households, labor inspectors sometimes found it difficult to investigate possible violations. Workers in the construction, agriculture, and mining sectors faced hazardous working conditions. There was one report of a fatal industrial accident. In November 2020 an employee of Dundee Precious Metals Inc. was killed while conducting maintenance activities.

Allegations persisted that, in addition to not adhering to the law on hiring and firing, Chinese firms failed to pay sector-established minimum wages and benefits in certain industries, failed to respect work-hour regulations for public holidays and Sundays, and ignored OSH standards, for example, by requiring construction workers to sleep on site.

Informal Sector: The informal sector included an estimated 57 percent of workers. The law applied to the informal sector but was seldom enforced. The Namibian Employers’ Federation reported that the most prominent offenses concerning employee rights and working conditions were in the informal sector, including for domestic workers, street hawkers, and employees in the common informal bars known as shebeens. Sectors having hazardous working conditions included construction and agriculture. Inspection was inadequate and penalties were seldom applied.

Nauru

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum starting salary for public-sector employees is above the poverty level. There is no minimum salary for the private sector; approximately 26 percent of the population lived at the subsistence level. The law outlines a standard eight-hour workday and one-hour meal break for permanent and contract employees; workers were not required to work longer than nine hours. The law stipulates that for “each year of service, an employee is entitled to four weeks of recreation leave on full salary” and that it can be accumulated for up to three years, at which time the employee must take leave to reduce the balance or “cash out” an amount of recreation leave to reduce the total leave balance accrued.

Public-service regulations govern salaries, working hours, vacation periods, and other employment matters for government workers, who constituted more than 90 percent of salaried workers. The government has a graduated salary system for public-service officers and employees. The law provides for maternity leave after a woman has completed six months of employment.

There is no limit to the maximum number of accumulated overtime hours and no prohibition on excessive or compulsory overtime for workers in the public sector. No specific regulations govern overtime or overtime pay for private-sector workers.

The Department of Human Resources and Labor effectively enforced wage and hour regulations in the public sector, and private-sector employers generally respected wage and hour guidelines. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. There were no reports of violations or prosecutions during the year.

Occupational Safety and Health: Although the government sets some health and safety standards, they do not have the force of law. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment.

The Department of Human Resources and Labor effectively enforced occupational safety and health standards in the public sector. Enforcement was lax in the private sector, but no violations of labor regulations were reported. The law allows the department the right to inspect a workplace without prior notification. Authorities can charge an employer with a criminal offense if found to be in violation of the labor law or the provisions of an employment contract. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations. The number of inspectors was insufficient to monitor compliance fully.

With the decline of the phosphate industry, enforcement of workplace health and safety requirements continued to be lax.

Informal Sector: Most workers were employed in the informal sector in subsistence agriculture, fishing, and copra gathering. Laws and regulations on working conditions apply to the informal sector but were not enforced. Violations were reportedly common, but no inspections of the informal sector occurred.

Nepal

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage exceeded the official poverty line, but it was minimally sufficient to meet subsistence needs.

The law stipulates a 48-hour workweek, with one day off per week and one-half hour of rest per five hours worked. The law limits overtime to no more than four hours in a day and 20 hours per week, with a 50 percent overtime premium per hour. Excessive compulsory overtime is prohibited. Employees are also entitled to paid public holiday leave, sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave, bereavement leave, and other special leave. The law provides benefits such as a provident fund, housing facilities, day-care arrangements for establishments with more than 50 female workers, and maternity benefits.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. The ministry did not employ enough inspectors to enforce the wage and hour laws or the occupational health and safety laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The government did not effectively enforce the law and the number of worksite inspections was low. Penalties for violations of minimum wage and overtime laws were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. Most factories in the formal sector complied with laws on minimum wage and hours of work, but implementation varied in the informal sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: Implementation and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards were minimal, and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security considered it the most neglected area of labor law enforcement. The law provides adequate occupational health and safety standards and the ministry found violations across sectors, including in construction, mining, transportation, agriculture, and factory work.

The government had not created the necessary regulatory or administrative structures to enforce occupational safety and health provisions. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security did not have a specific office dedicated to occupational safety and health, nor did it have inspectors specifically trained in this area. Although the law authorizes factory inspectors to order employers to rectify unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety standards remained minimal, and monitoring was weak. Accurate data on workplace fatalities and accidents was not available. Labor law and regulations provide for protection of workers from work situations that endanger their health and safety, but in small and cottage industries located in towns and villages, employers sometimes forced workers to work in such situations or risk losing their jobs. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance.

The government regulated labor contracting or “manpower” agencies recruiting workers for overseas jobs, and penalized fraudulent recruitment practices. The government declared it remained committed to its free-visa, free-ticket scheme, but according to migrant rights NGOs, the government failed to implement the policy effectively. Some government officials were complicit in falsifying travel documents and overlooking recruiting violations by labor contractors. The Department of Foreign Employment introduced measures to reduce the number of registered manpower agencies and more closely scrutinize their activities. The myriad unregistered and unregulated labor “brokers” and intermediaries, who were often trusted members of the community, complicated effective monitoring of recruitment practices. Workers were also encouraged to register and pay a fee to the Foreign Employment Board, which tracked migrant workers and provided some compensation for workers whose rights were violated. As in 2020, the suspension of international flights and the economic impact of COVID-19 prevented workers from traveling for a significant portion of the year and made it difficult to evaluate the impact of any measures.

The government required contracts for workers going abroad to be translated into Nepali and instituted provisions whereby workers must attend a predeparture orientation program. During the orientation workers are made aware of their rights and legal recourse, should their rights be violated. The effectiveness of the initiatives remained questionable since workers who went overseas often skipped the mandatory training, and many companies issued predeparture orientation certificates for a small fee and failed to deliver the training. Migrant workers heading abroad often continued to face exploitive conditions.

Informal Sector: According to the International Labor Organization, more than 70 percent of the economically active population was involved in the informal economy, and over 90 percent of women were employed in the informal sector including domestic service. A rapid study published by the Home Workers’ Trade Union of Nepal in late 2020 showed that the pandemic and lockdowns had left more than 85 percent of domestic workers unemployed and without a safety net. Minimum-wage laws apply to both the formal sector and the informal sector, but implementation was stronger in the formal sector. Violations occurred in informal agriculture, transportation, domestic servitude, brick kilns, carpet industries, construction, and small hotels and restaurants.

Netherlands

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In the Netherlands the minimum wage for an adult older than 21 was sufficient for a single-person household but inadequate for a couple with two children, according to the government. The government effectively enforced wage laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the monthly minimum wage was considered sufficient to ensure a decent living for workers, according to the three governments.

In the Netherlands the law does not establish a specific number of hours as constituting a full workweek, but most workweeks were 36, 38, or 40 hours long. Collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts, not law, regulate overtime. The legal maximum workweek is 60 hours. During a four-week period, a worker may only work 55 hours a week on average or, during a 16-week period, an average of 48 hours a week, with some exceptions. Persons who work more than 5.5 hours a day are entitled to a 30-minute rest period.

Occupational Safety and Health: In the Netherlands the government set occupational safety and health (OSH) standards across all sectors. OSH standards were appropriate for primary industries and frequently updated. The situation was similar in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. On Sint Maarten the government established guidelines for acceptable conditions of work in both the public and private sectors that cover specific concerns, such as ventilation, lighting, hours, and terms of work. The Ministries of Labor in the kingdom reviewed and updated the guidelines and routinely visited businesses to ensure employer compliance.

In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment effectively enforced the labor laws on conditions of work across all sectors, including the informal economy. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. The inspectorate can order companies to cease operations due to safety violations or shut down fraudulent temporary employment agencies that facilitate labor exploitation. The number of labor inspectors, who have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, was sufficient to enforce compliance. In 2020 the government set up a special team to draft a report and provide recommendations to structurally improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers. Government and civil society stakeholders asserted the pandemic made exploitation and mistreatment of migrant workers more visible. The government implemented several recommendations throughout the year to prevent violations, including ensuring registration of labor migrants, improving their medical position, and launching a multilanguage website where labor migrant can learn more concerning their rights.

Most violations in the Netherlands were in temporary employment agencies that mainly hired workers from Eastern Europe, particularly in the construction and transportation sectors, without paying the minimum wage. The situation was similar on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, although the underpaid workers were generally from Latin America.

New Zealand

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour: The minimum hourly wage was adjusted on an annual basis to be above the amount – 60 percent of the median household income – that researchers frequently used as an unofficial poverty level.

The law provides that work hours should be set in collective or individual agreements between employers and employees. Although a 40-hour workweek is traditional, employer and employees may contractually agree to a workweek of more than 40 hours. Overtime pay is negotiable. Labor regulations do not define an absolute maximum number of overtime hours.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government established appropriate occupational safety and health standards and proactively investigated labor conditions. Extensive laws and regulations govern health and safety issues. Employers are obliged to provide a safe and healthy work environment and have primary responsibility for individual’s health and safety at work. The government requires employers to provide health insurance for their seasonal workers. The law allows workers to refuse to perform work likely to cause serious harm and permits legal recourse if the worker believes an employer penalized them as a result.

In cases of noncompliance with labor law, inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and to shut down equipment, levy fines, require restitution of wages to workers, and revoke licenses of offenders. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment enforces laws governing working conditions, including wages and hours, through sub agencies such as the Labor Inspectorate and Employment NZ. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. In particular, employers who have breached minimum employment standards regarding vulnerable migrant workers face a set “stand-down” period where they lose the ability to support migrant visa applications for at least 12 months. As of September, 64 companies or employers were on the stand-down list.

Labor ministry inspectors effectively enforced wages, hours, safety, and health rules in all sectors including the informal economy. WorkSafe, the official occupational health and safety authority, reported that 75 percent of surveyed employers changed their workplace practices following inspections. Convictions for violations of the occupational health and safety law as well as for violations of the wages and hours law can result in fines, deportation of noncitizens, or imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with similar violations.

Between July 2020 and June 2021, the country had 55 workplace-related fatalities (excluding occupational disease). The most dangerous sectors were categorized by WorkSafe as agriculture, construction, transport and warehousing, and forestry.

Nicaragua

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a statutory minimum wage for 10 economic sectors. According to the Ministry of Labor, the average legal minimum wage covered only 35 percent of the cost of basic goods. The ministry, together with workers’ unions aligned with the ruling party, agreed to a 3 percent wage increase for the year. Public-sector employees received a 5 percent salary increase in August. Free trade zone regions had a wage increase of 8 percent, prenegotiated in a five-year agreement expected to expire in 2022. The salary increase remained unchanged despite free trade zone representatives reporting unsteady industry performance.

The minimum wage was generally enforced only in the formal sector, estimated to be 20 percent of the economy. The Ministry of Labor is the primary enforcement agency.

The standard legal workweek is a maximum of 48 hours, with one day of rest. The law dictates an obligatory year-end bonus equivalent to one month’s pay, proportional to the number of months worked. The law mandates premium pay for overtime, prohibits compulsory overtime, and sets a maximum of three hours of overtime per day not to exceed nine hours per week. Penalties for violations of minimum wage and overtime laws were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

According to International Labor Organization guidelines, the number of labor inspectors was insufficient for the size of the workforce, which included approximately three million workers. The law allows inspectors to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions for egregious violations.

Occupational Safety and Health: The National Council of Labor Hygiene and Safety, including its departmental committees, is responsible for implementing worker safety legislation and collaborating with other government agencies and civil society organizations in developing assistance programs and promoting training and prevention activities. According to labor contacts, the council was inactive throughout the year. The government did not allocate adequate staff or other measures to enable the Office of Hygiene and Occupational Safety to enforce occupational safety and health (OSH) provisions. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence, but they were infrequently enforced and only in the formal sector.

OSH standards also were not widely enforced in an expanding large informal sector, which represented 77 percent of employment and 88 percent of businesses, according to 2016 reports from the Consultants for Business Development and the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development. Although more recent statistics on informality were not available, experts viewed this indicator as necessarily rising because of sociopolitical unrest and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. It was unclear whether authorities effectively protected employees in such cases.

Informal Sector: The informal sector included the bulk of workers in street sales, agriculture and ranching, transportation, domestic labor, fishing, and minor construction. Legal limitations on hours worked often were ignored by employers, who claimed workers readily volunteered for extra hours for additional pay. Violations of wage and hour regulations in the informal sector were common and generally not investigated, particularly in street sales, domestic work, and agriculture, where children continued to work in tobacco, banana, and coffee plantations. Compulsory overtime was reported in the private-security sector, where guards often were required to work excessive shifts without relief.

Niger

Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law establishes a minimum wage only for salaried workers in the formal sector with fixed (contractual) terms of employment. Minimum wages are set for each class and category within the formal economy. The lowest minimum wage was above the official poverty income level.

The formal economy’s legal workweek is 40 hours with a minimum of one 24-hour rest period, although the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service authorized workweeks of up to 72 hours for certain occupations such as private security guards, domestic workers, and drivers. The law provides for paid annual holidays. The law provides special arrangements regarding the mining and oil sectors whereby the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service may grant waivers regarding work hours based on these two sectors’ specific nature and make allowances for working larger blocks of time in exchange for increased time off. Workers may work for two weeks beyond normal work hours, in compensation for which they are entitled to two weeks’ rest. Employers must provide premium pay for overtime, although the law does not set a specific rate; employees of each enterprise or government agency negotiate with their employer to set the rate. The law calls for a maximum eight hours of overtime per week, but this was not enforced. Penalties for wage and hour violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

The Ministry of Labor and Civil Service inconsistently enforced minimum wages and workweek laws and only in the regulated formal economy. The number of inspectors responsible for enforcing the labor code was not sufficient to enforce compliance and monetary sanctions were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but do not have the authority to initiate sanctions.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health standards, which were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. It extends labor inspectors’ authority over these standards and provides for sanctions, including a mandatory appearance before labor inspectors for resolving health and safety disputes. By law all workers may remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Nevertheless, authorities did not effectively protect workers in such situations. The nonunionized subsistence agricultural and small trading sectors, where the law applies but was not enforced, employed approximately 90 percent of the workforce. In the nonunionized informal sector, despite the law, it was unlikely workers could exercise the right to sick leave without jeopardizing their employment. The number of inspectors responsible for enforcing the law was not sufficient to enforce compliance and monetary sanctions were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but do not have the authority to initiate sanctions.

Violations of provisions governing wages, overtime, and work conditions reportedly occurred in the petroleum and mining sectors, including at artisanal gold mines, oil fields, and oil refineries. Groups of workers in hazardous or exploitive work conditions included mineworkers, which included children, domestic workers, and persons in traditional slavery. In the artisanal gold-mining sector, the use of cyanide posed serious health hazards for workers and surrounding communities. A significant, but unknown, percentage of the mining workforce worked in the informal sector. The vast majority, however, were employed by large, international firms; labor advocates complained these firms were not transparent regarding work conditions.

Union workers in many cases did not receive information concerning the risks posed by their jobs. The government reported the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service responded to reports of work-related accidents and required affected employees be compensated as required by law. The ministry did not release data on fatal accidents.

Informal Sector: Approximately 90 percent of workers were in the informal sector, with subsistence crop agriculture, animal husbandry, small trading, and artisanal trade dominating the labor market. The 10 percent of workers in the formal sector were mainly civil servants, teachers, and employees of state-owned corporations like utilities and industrial mines. Rural workers had no access to government enforcement of wage, hour, OSH laws or inspections.

Although the constitution provides that the social protections of old age pensions, work accident payments, and health care apply to all workers, informal workers cannot meet the administrative requirements and lack mechanisms to pay the voluntary contributions to subscribe. Program regulations do not mention informal workers or specify them to be eligible.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future