There are approximately 1.4 million workers in Sierra Leone, but only 65,000 of those are actual wage earners. Subsistence agriculture is the occupation of vast majority of the population.
The 1991 constitution provides for the right of association, and all workers (including civil servants) have the right to join trade unions of their choice. The trade union movement in Sierra Leone, one of the oldest in West Africa, dates back to 1913, when Wallace Johnson organized the Customs Employees Union. Under his influence, other unions developed, and in 1943, the first Sierra Leone Trade Union Council (TUC) was formed. The Sierra Leone Council of Labor, which replaced the TUC in 1946, merged in May 1966 with the Sierra Leone Federation of Labor to form the Sierra Leone Labor Congress (SLLC). All unions are members of the SLLC, although membership is voluntary. In the mid-1980s, the SLLC had over a dozen constituent unions totaling about 40,000 members. With the decline of manufacturing, union membership has declined since then, although exact figures are unavailable. In 2001, about 60% of workers in urban areas (including government employees) were unionized, but unions have had little success in organizing workers in the agricultural and mining sectors.
The minimum working age is 18, but this is not enforced and children routinely work as vendors and petty traders in urban areas and work seasonally on family subsistence farms in rural areas. The standard workweek is 38 hours but most workweeks exceed that amount. Health and safety regulations set by law are not enforced. The minimum wage is set at $10.50 per month.