About 95% of the population in 2001 was engaged in subsistence agriculture and livestock raising. Only 15% of the labor force was in the formal sector, primarily engaged in government work and light industry. The labor force was estimated at five million in 1998, with approximately 70,000 individuals actually earning salaries or wages.
The Union of Workers' Syndicates of Niger (Union des Syndicats des Travailleurs du Niger—USTN) is the only trade union federation. It was founded in Niamey in 1960 and is affiliated with the African Trade Union Confederation. USTN has 38 member unions. Its head is appointed by the government. Unions represent a very small segment of the population, most members are government workers. Except for police and security forces, employees are permitted to engage in strikes.
The minimum wage varies for each class and category of salaried employees. The lowest minimum wage was approximately $33 per month in 2001, which does not provide a family with a decent standard of living. The legal workweek is 40 hours for most occupations, with some legal workweeks extending to 72 hours. The minimum age for employment is 14 years old. This is observed in the formal sector of the economy, but child labor persists in the informal economy and in agriculture.