Cablegate: Tunisia: Child Labor and Forced Labor Report


DE RUEHTU #0097/01 0391410
P 081410Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 131997
B. 09 TUNIS 76

Sensitive but unclassified; please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) In 2009, there were no significant changes in the
Government of Tunisia's efforts to combat the worst forms of
child labor. The information on Tunisia in the Department of
Labor's 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
remains accurate, to the best of Post's knowledge. UNICEF's
Tunis office reported that it did not have any statistics for
2009 or 2008 under the category of child labor. Likewise the
ILO office covering Tunisia did not have any data on child
labor. The Government of Tunisia has not responded to our
requests for meetings on this subject.

2. (SBU) Tasking 1/TVPRA - Child Labor used in the production
of goods: The Embassy has anecdotal information that in
Tunisia children under 16 work mainly during school holidays
and primarily in the artisanal sector and the agricultural
sector. However, this practice does not appear to be
widespread nor does it appear to be an extreme form of child
labor; instead, it is a traditional practice in family
businesses. UNICEF reported that the GOT did not take any new
measures or initiatives in 2009 to combat child labor.
International NGO experts believe that the number of children
reported to have left school before graduating could provide
a rough approximation of the potential size of the problem.
(Note: We do believe there is some correlation between the
drop-out rate and entry into the labor force, but do not
believe it is an absolute correlation. End Note.) According
to GOT statistics in 2009, 99.1 percent of eligible children
were enrolled in the first year of school, 97.3 percent were
enrolled in primary school, but only 76.1 percent were
enrolled in secondary school.

3. Tasking 2/TDA - The following responses are keyed to
questions in paragraph 21 of ref A:

2A. 1) Children are seen working primarily in the informal
sector and most often during the summer vacation. They are
present in the street selling flowers, cigarettes, and other
small items; in markets helping the family or running
errands; in small, usually, family-run stores, and as
apprentices in various small scale businesses like car
mechanics and barber shops. Some children, primarily girls
are also used as domestic help. Additionally, there are
anecdotal reports of children working in the agricultural
2A. 1) contd. Child labor in Tunisia is not widespread
because school is mandatory and free to the age of 16 and
there are laws limiting child labor. However, the laws are
not always enforced. There are still school expenses that
some families find difficult to pay. Some children are
expected to help augment the family's income during school
vacations, and children who are orphans, or have other family
problems, are sometimes made to fend for themselves. In
April 2009 a Tunis court convicted a Tunisian woman to three
years in prison for subjecting a seven year old girl to
domestic servitude and physical abuse. A study published by
two Tunisian sociologists reported in April 2009 that many
young women and girls work come from the western province of
Jendouba to work as domestic in the larger cities. The
report also noted the paucity of official statistics on
domestics and the reluctance of people to talk about the

2A. 2) According to UNICEF, the GOT has not published any
data on child labor for 2009, 2008, or 2007. A UNICEF global
report on child protection listed no data on child labor for
Tunisia from 1999-2008. The Tunisian French language daily
Le Temps published two articles on child labor in 2009 (May
18 and April 1) documenting that the phenomenon exists mainly
in the form of children working in their family business.
The articles also confirmed the lack of government statistics
on the issue.

2B. 1) No new laws were enacted in 2009; 2) Tunisia's laws
regarding child labor are adequate when they are enforced.
The law against child labor specifies that children under the
age of 16 are allowed to work only for limited hours in
family establishments and only as long as it does not damage
their health or mental development or prevent them from
attending school. Children under the age of 18 cannot do any
type of hazardous work.
2C. 1) The Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity, and
Tunisians Abroad has the primary responsibility for enforcing
the child labor laws. However, the national labor union

(UGTT) also has the ability to do work inspections and has a
department specifically responsible for women, young workers,
and associations. The Ministry of Women, Family, Children,
and Senior Citizen's Affairs employs a child protection
delegate in each province who has the authority to intervene
in certain cases. 2) We know that the GOT does have
institutional mechanisms for sharing information across
ministries and agencies but we do not know how effectively
this works. 3) We have not heard of any specific mechanism
for making complaints about hazardous and forced child labor
violations, however both the UGTT and the Ministry of Social
Affairs have the ability to make complaints. Kalima, a
Tunisian on-line independent news magazine that is not always
accurate, reported January 29, 2010 that after a complaint by
the regional delegate for child protection, the police in
Gabes opened an investigation on January 20 into reports that
a group of children had been sexually abused by Libyan
tourists. Without more specific information from the GOT we
do not have the data to answer questions 4-14.

2D. 1) The GOT does not have agencies or personnel
dedicated to the enforcement of child trafficking. Questions
2D (2-12): We do not have the data to answer these questions
without specific information from the GOT. 13) Tunisia did
not experience armed conflict during this reporting period or
in the recent past.

2E. 1) The GOT has laws against child labor but according to
UNICEF and ILO did not have an active program to specifically
combat the problem in 2009. We reviewed the 2009 budget and
could not identify any programs specifically related to child
labor or child exploitation. 2E (2-7) Without specific
information from the GOT, it is not possible to answer these
questions related to the GOT's programs.

2F. The GOT does have officials responsible for investigating
child labor issues, but the GOT did not have a specific
program to eliminate or prevent child labor in 2009, nor did
it integrate the issue in other social programs.

2G. Without talking directly to the GOT about its efforts it
is not possible to infer from information provided in the
press, or by the responsible international organizations that
the GOT took any action specifically to combat child labor in


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