In 2001, the estimated workforce stood at 9.4 million. The government employed around 29% of the labor force in 1996, with agriculture accounting for 25%. About 34% of the workforce was unemployed in 2001.
Before 1956, many European and Muslim workers belonged to the General Labor Federation. This organization was Communist controlled after 1947, and organized in Algeria as the General Union of Algerian Syndicates. Realizing the importance of trade union activity in organizing and strengthening a nationalist movement, the two Algerian nationalist groups formed trade unions in 1956: the Trade Union of Algerian Workers, which found its greatest strength among Algerian laborers in France, and the General Union of Algerian Workers (Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens—UGTA), founded by the FLN. In July 1956, because of its obvious strength among Muslims and because of the support it had received from the General Union of Tunisian Workers, UGTA was admitted to the ICFTU. Working closely with the FLN leadership, UGTA was more of a political weapon in the struggle for independence than a means for improving the economic lot of the worker. Since independence, it has combined its political and economic roles. UGTA played a significant role in the revival of the All-African Trade Union Federation. Approximately two-thirds of Algerian workers were unionized as of 2002.
The law permits collective bargaining for all unions. Minimum wages are set by the government with the advice of the UGTA The standard workweek is 37.5 hours. As of 2002, the minimum wage was $105 per month. This amount does not provide a family with a decent standard of living. Health and safety regulations are specified by law, however enforcement is irregular. The minimum age for employment is 16 years. Child labor remains a problem in agriculture and in the informal economy.