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Zimbabwe

Section 7. Worker Rights

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, with exceptions for work for the national youth service and forced prison labor. The Labor Amendment Act defines forced labor as “any work or services which a person is required to perform against his or her will under the threat of some form of punishment.” Forced prison labor includes “any labor required in consequence of the sentence or order of a court” as well as what “is reasonably necessary in the interests of hygiene or for the maintenance or management of the place at which he is detained.”

Conviction of forced labor is punishable by a fine, two years’ imprisonment, or both; such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. A 2014 law prescribes punishment of not less than 10 years’ imprisonment and, with aggravating circumstances, up to imprisonment for life, for conviction of human trafficking–including labor trafficking. The law does not clearly define the crime of trafficking in persons and requires transportation of the victim, which further limits the cases in which the regulation could be applied.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no reports the government attempted to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year. There were no data on the numbers of adult victims removed from forced labor, if any. The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations reported cases of workers fired without compensation and, specifically in the farming sector, workers forced to work without wages or other compensation. Most workers did not receive regular wages and in some cases, only part of their allowances, such as a transportation allowance to facilitate the commute to work.

Forced labor, including by children, occurred, although the extent of the problem was unknown. Adults and children were subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude in cities and towns (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The Labor Amendment Act of 2015 sets the minimum age for general labor at ages 13 to 16. The law increases the minimum age for apprenticeship from 15 to 16 and declares void and unenforceable formal apprenticeship contracts entered into by children younger than age 18 without the assistance of a guardian. The law further states that no person younger than age 18 shall perform any work likely to jeopardize that person’s health, safety, or morals.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Department of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but the department lacked personnel and commitment to carry out inspections or other monitoring. Penalties, including fines and imprisonment, were not sufficient to deter violations. The government took limited steps to combat child labor during the year, mostly involving encouragement and monitoring of children’s school attendance.

Despite the government’s National Action Plan, child labor remained endemic. Child labor occurred primarily in the informal sectors. Inspectors received no training addressing child labor and did not closely monitor it. Forced labor by children occurred in the agricultural, street vending, herding, forestry, fishing, artisanal gold and chrome mining, and domestic sectors. Children also were used in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling.

Although it is mandated by the 2013 constitution, there was a lack of free basic education for children, increasing the risk of children’s involvement in child labor. Children were required to attend school only up to age 12 which made children ages 12 through 15 particularly vulnerable to child labor as they were not required to attend school and not legally permitted to work. In a 2018 Human Rights Watch report on child labor on tobacco farms, many child workers cited the need to pay school fees or buy basic necessities as reasons why they worked. Teachers interviewed in the report noted that children missed school in order to raise funds for the next set of school fees. The Coalition Against Child Labor in Zimbabwe (CACLAZ) and the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children set up Child Labor Free Zones in 28 schools in three wards in the Chipinge region, known for its tea plantations. The purpose of these Child Labor Free Zones was to create areas free of child labor by taking children out of labor and integrating them into schools. The PTUZ and the CACLAZ served 92 former child laborers through such schools in 2017. In 2017 the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare conducted investigations that resulted in removing 73 children from commercial sexual exploitation.

“Street children,” meaning children who live or work on the streets, were commonplace in urban areas. Some children escorted parents with disabilities to elicit sympathy while begging, but many had parents without disabilities who used the children to generate additional income.

Children often faced hazards to their health and safety and lacked necessary equipment and training. Working on farms, in particular tea plantations, exposed children to bad weather, dangerous chemicals, and the use of heavy machinery. Most children involved in mining worked for themselves, a family member, or someone in the community. Exposure to hazardous materials, particularly mercury, was on the rise in the informal mining sector. The ZCTU and CACLAZ have reached out to teachers unions as teachers regularly interacted with children and could be among the first to notice signs of abuse.

Some employers did not pay wages to child domestic workers, claiming they were assisting a child from a rural home by providing room and board. Some employers paid with goods instead of cash while others paid the parents for a child’s work. See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The NECs set the minimum wage for all industrial sectors through a bipartite agreement between employers and labor unions. The minimum wage seldom exceeded the poverty line, when it was followed.

The law does not provide for a standard workweek, but it prescribes a minimum of one 24-hour continuous rest period a week. The maximum legal workweek is negotiated between unions and employers in each sector. No worker is allowed to work more than 12 continuous hours. The law prescribes that workers receive not less than twice their standard remuneration for working on a public holiday or on their rest day. The law provides workers paid public holidays and annual leave upon one year of service with an employer. The government sets safety and health standards on an industry-specific basis. The public service commission sets conditions of employment in the public sector.

Labor law does not differentiate among workers based on sector or industry. The labor law does not apply to the informal sector, which includes a large majority of the labor force. The law applies to migrant laborers if they are in the formal sector. There were no reports of discrimination against migrant laborers in the formal sector.

Occupational safety and health standards were up-to-date and appropriate for the main industries in the country. In 2015 the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) commissioned an occupational health center in the capital and a mobile clinic to monitor the health of miners and industrial workers. The law provides for workers to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and work hours laws for each sector, but the standards were not enforced effectively due to inadequate monitoring systems and a labor inspector shortage. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce labor laws, including those covering children. The Zimbabwe Occupational Safety Council, a quasi-governmental advisory body to the NSSA, regulated working conditions. Budgetary constraints and staffing shortages, as well as its status as an advisory council, made it largely ineffective. Penalties for violations of wage or hours-of-work restrictions range from a fine to imprisonment but were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for occupational safety and health violations were not harmonized and fall within the jurisdiction of numerous ministries.

Most injuries and deaths occurred in the mining sector. The ZFTU reported that workers at iron smelters often suffered burns due to a lack of protective clothing. Lack of adequate protective clothing was also an issue for workers in the informal sector. The NSSA attributed the high injury and fatality rates to low investment in occupational safety and health, noncompliance with rules and regulations, and low levels of awareness of occupational safety and health matters.

Employers paid many agricultural and domestic workers below the minimum wage. The ZCTU reported many agricultural workers earned $72 per month. Many public servants also earned less than the poverty line. During the year there was pervasive partial payment or nonpayment of salaries in both the public and private sectors. According to a report by the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe that analyzed data from ZCTU-affiliated union representatives at 442 companies, 54 percent of employees had gone at least 13 months without pay. All employees went at least three months without pay, and 16 percent had gone 25 or more months without pay.

There was little or no enforcement of the workhours law, particularly for agricultural and domestic workers. According to the 2014 Labor Force Survey, 28 percent of the employed population worked excessive hours, defined as more than 48 hours per week. Although workers were generally unlikely to complain to authorities of violations due to fear of losing their jobs, some exceptions occurred.

Poor health and safety standards in the workplace were common problems faced by workers in both the formal and informal sectors due to lack of enforcement. Abuses by the management at certain foreign-owned enterprises and companies owned by well-connected politicians were common, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of workers; poor working conditions; underpayment or nonpayment of wages; unfair dismissal; and firing without notice. Workers’ committee members of a foreign-owned mining company reported fear and serious victimization, including arbitrary nonrenewal of contracts, dismissals without charges, late payment of salaries, and insufficient provision of protective clothing. The ZCTU’s Health and Social Welfare Department engaged employers on occupational health and safety-related workplace needs. No information was available on the treatment of foreign and migrant workers. The government considered many commercial farm workers to be foreigners because one or both parents were born in another country.

Due to the growth of the informal mining sector, artisanal miners, including children, were increasingly exposed to chemicals and environmental waste. An estimated 1.5 million persons were engaged in artisanal mining, defined as mining activities carried out using low technology or with minimal machinery, according to the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-scale Miners Council.

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