Tuvalu is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. Observers judged that parliamentary elections held September 9 were free and fair, with seven new members elected to the 16-member parliament. There are no formal political parties. Following the elections, parliament selected Kausea Natano as prime minister.
The national police service, under the Office of the Prime Minister, maintains internal security. The country has no military force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Significant human rights abuses included laws criminalizing sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced.
The government took steps to investigate human rights abuses, and impunity was not a problem.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An effective judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Press and Media, Including Online Media: Although there were no government restrictions, the government’s Media Department controlled the country’s sole radio station. There were no local private, independent media to express a variety of views.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, the government allowed island chiefs to place restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
f. Protection of Refugees
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, but the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no reported applications for asylum or refugee status during the year.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for some forms of corruption by officials such as theft, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year.
The Office of the Attorney General, police force, ombudsperson, auditor general, Public Service Commission, and the Central Procurement Unit were responsible for the government’s anticorruption efforts.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by “leaders,” a term covering public servants and politicians. Enforcement of the code was weak.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
No nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused entirely on human rights, although no known barriers exist to the establishment of human rights groups. Some NGOs that included human rights in their agenda, such as the Tuvalu National Council of Women, operated under the auspices of the Tuvalu Association of NGOs, composed primarily of faith-based organizations. Organizations involved in human rights issues generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Nonetheless, the lack of local print and electronic media limited opportunities to publicize such information locally. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to local organizations’ views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman includes a national human rights institution, to promote and protect human rights in the country.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law does not permit public-sector employees such as civil servants, teachers, and nurses to form and join unions. They may join professional associations that have the right to bargain collectively but not the right to strike. No law prohibits antiunion discrimination or requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.
In general the government effectively enforced these laws. By law employers who violate laws on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are liable to a maximum fine of AUD 5,000 ($3,390). These penalties were adequate to deter violations. The law also provides for voluntary conciliation, arbitration, and settlement procedures in cases of labor disputes. In general these procedures were not subject to lengthy delays or appeals.
Although there are provisions for collective bargaining and the right to strike, the few private-sector employers set their own wage scales. Both the private and public sectors generally used nonconfrontational deliberations to resolve labor disputes. There was only one registered trade union, the Tuvalu Overseas Seamen’s Union. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. Anyone who exacts, procures, or employs forced or compulsory labor is liable to up to 10 years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of forced labor during the year.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the employment of children except in light work and of children younger than age 18 in hazardous work. The government has not specified the types of hazardous work prohibited for children; previous provisions only applied to a male person younger than age 18 in the industrial, mining, and fishing sectors. The worst forms of child labor are prohibited, including the sale or trafficking of children; engagement in activities connected to armed conflict; prostitution; and use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production of pornography or pornographic performances or trafficking of illegal drugs.
The government did not have sufficient resources to monitor or enforce child labor laws and depended instead on communities to report offenses.
Anyone convicted of violating the law on the employment of children is liable to up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Children rarely engaged in formal employment but did work in subsistence fishing. The government does not collect or publish data on child labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law provides for the government to set a minimum wage, but the Department of Labor had not done so.
The law sets the workday at eight hours, and the Department of Labor may specify the days and hours of work for workers in various industries. Although the law provides for premium pay and overtime work, there are no established premium overtime rates or maximum hours of work. The law provides for rudimentary health and safety standards and requires employers to provide adequate potable water, basic sanitary facilities, and medical care. Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.
Enforcement of standards in all sectors, including the informal economy, was inconsistent. By law penalties for violations of laws related to acceptable conditions of work are liable to a maximum fine of AUD 5,000 ($3,390). These penalties were adequate to deter violations. The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing wage, hour, health, and safety regulations, but it did not have sufficient resources or inspectors to formally and regularly conduct workplace inspections; inspectors did follow-up when the Labor Department received complaints.
Approximately 75 percent of the working-age population lacked permanent, formal employment and worked in the informal and subsistence economy. There was no system for reporting and publishing workplace injuries or deaths.