The Children's Act establishes a minimum age for employment, prohibits night work and hazardous labor, and provides for fines and imprisonment for violators. In addition, the legislation allows for children age 15 years and above having an apprenticeship whereby the craftsmen and employers have the obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment along with training and tools.
However, child labor laws were not enforced effectively-or consistently and law enforcement officials, including judges, police, and labor officials, often were unfamiliar with the provisions of the law protecting children.
Observance of minimum age laws was eroded by local custom and economic circumstances that encouraged children to work to help support their families. An ILO/IPEC-Ghana Statistical Service survey of child labor released in 2003 found that 2.47 million children were engaged in some economic activity, and 64.3 percent of those children attended school. Of those children engaged in economic activity, 1.27 million children were found to be engaged in child labor as defined by age and hazardous.
Children as young as 7 years worked as domestic laborers, porters, hawkers, miners, quarry workers, fare collectors, and in agriculture. The fishing industry on Lake Volta had a particularly high number of child laborers engaged in potentially hazardous work, such as deep diving. According to an ILO representative, child labor in the tourism industry also increased. Child laborers were poorly paid and subjected to physical abuse; they received little or no health care and generally did not attend school.
According to government labor officials and the Ghana Employers Association, child labor problems did not exist in the formal labor sector because the formal sector was better regulated. Children sold The law prohibits forced and - compulsory labor performed by children; however, during the year, children were reportedly sold, leased, or given away by parents to work in agriculture, fishing villages, quarry mines, shops, or homes.
It was difficult to determine the extent to which forced and bonded labor by children was practiced. Some children were connected to Trokosi shrines, although the practice has declined in recent years. There were newspaper reports of children being sold into various forms of involuntary servitude for either sexual exploitation or labor, such as 10- to 12-year-old boys working for fishermen in exchange for a yearly remittance to their families.
The practice often involved the consent of their generally impoverished parents. Reliable data was not available on the number of children who were working in fishing villages along Lake Volta; nevertheless, NGOs who worked on this issue estimated the number to be well into the thousands.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare are responsible for enforcement of child labor regulations, and district labor officers and the Social Services sub-committees of District Assemblies are charged with seeing that the relevant provisions of the law are observed. They visited each workplace annually and made spot checks whenever they received allegations of violations. All law enforcement and judicial authorities in the country were hampered by severe resource constraints and a lack of public awareness about the problem.
No prosecutions When Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment inspectors found infractions of child labor laws during their routine monitoring of companies' labor practices, they generally informed the employers about the provisions of the law and asked them to make changes. There were no prosecutions for child labor resulting from these inspections. Officials only occasionally punished violators of regulations that prohibited heavy labor and night work for children.
In addition, the inspectors' efforts were concentrated only in the formal sector, which was not where most child labor was performed. ILO/IPEC, government representatives, the TUC, the media, international organizations, and NGOs continued to build upon the 2001-02 "National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Child Labor in Ghana," by increasing institutional capacity to combat child labor. Education and sensitization workshops were conducted with police, labor inspectors, local governments, and communities. Forums were held throughout the country to develop and implement an ILO/IPEC Time-Bound Program, which aimed to eliminate all forms of child labor under specified time periods and benchmarks.