As of 2002, the labor force was estimated at 500,000 workers. Agriculture accounted for an estimated 47% of the workforce in 1999, with another 33% in the service sector and 20% in industry. The unemployment rate was nearly 40% in 2002. Most of the population engages in subsistence farming.
The constitution provides freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions, which was extended to public servants, farm workers, and domestic employees under the Labor Act of March 1992. The principal trade union organizations are the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), a SWAPO-aligned federation, and the Namibia Federation of Trade Unions (NFTU). The main public service and construction unions are affiliates of the Namibia People's Social Movement (NPSM), formerly known as the Namibian Christian Social Trade Unions. Workers generally have the right to strike. Collective bargaining is permitted but is virtually only practiced in the mining and construction industries.
The minimum legal working age is 14, however child labor remains prevalent especially in rural areas. There is no legal minimum wage, and many workers have difficulty maintaining a decent standard of living. The legal workweek is set at 45 hours with a mandatory 24-hour rest period per week. The government implements health and safety standards.