Child Slavery in Ghana: The scope of the problem

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Child Slavery: Approximately 25% of children ages 5-14 years in Ghana were working in 2000.  In rural areas, children can be found working in picking, fishing, herding and as contract farm labor. Children also work as domestics, porters, hawkers, miners and quarry workers, and fare-collectors[1].

The Children’s Act sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years.  The Children’s Act prohibits children under 18 from engaging in hazardous labor.  Employers who operate in the formal sector must keep a register with the ages of the young people they employ.  Failing to keep this register can result in a fine of 10 million cedis (USD$1,121) or 2 years in prison.  However, child labor laws are not enforced with any effectiveness or consistency.  Labor authorities carry out routine annual inspections of every workplace in the formal sector, but seldom monitor the informal sector where working children can be found.  Furthermore, other law enforcement authorities, including judges and police, lack adequate resources to prosecute and are largely unfamiliar with child protection laws[2].  The U.S. Department of State described enforcement of child labor laws within Ghana as “inconsistent and ineffective[3].”

Child Trafficking: Sufficient data is unavailable determining how many children have been trafficked in this region, but some organizations have put this number in the thousands.  In 2005, Ghana passed the Human Trafficking Act prescribing a minimum of 5 years imprisonment for all forms of trafficking.  However, according to UNHCR, arrests for suspected traffickers have been minimal.  Numerous reasons for lack of prosecution have been cited by government officials, including the need for more national sensitization to the law and insufficient evidence to convict trafficking suspects[4].

Presently, several international organizations and non-governmental organizations are rigorously advocating for increased prevention, protection, and prosecution.  The U.S. Government Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed Ghana on their Tier 2 Watch List in the 2009 Trafficking in Persons report.  This means that Ghana is making efforts to combat trafficking, but does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.


[1] TheChildren’sAct, Sections89-90.

[2] U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports- 2006: Ghana,” Section 6d. See also U.S. Embassy- Accra, Ghana:

Update on Worst Forms of Child Labor, para 3B.

[3] U.S. Embassy- Accra, Ghana: Update on Worst Forms of Child Labor, para 3B.

[4] Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 Ghana

http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,GHA,456d621e2,4a4214b9c,0.html

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One thought on “Child Slavery in Ghana: The scope of the problem”

  1. Is there any media coverage of this in Ghana? If there was a case that was prosecuted to the full extent that the law allowed, would it show up in the press? If so, do you think the traffickers/slave owners would even see it? I know here in the states, if there is something that is really getting on the fed’s nerves, they just throw the book at someone to get their point across. Create an example to let others know they are serious. Would this same mentality work over there?

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