An estimated 86% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture or on the nominal informal economy. There were approximately 11 million people in the total labor force. Industry engages less than 10% of the labor force. Unemployment was officially estimated at 19% in 2002.
The trade union movement was reconstituted after the 1971 coup attempt. Strikes, banned by the government in May 1969, were legalized in 1985. The 1989 coup, however, brought a swift end to the strong labor movement which had been growing under the Sadiq al-Mahdi administration. The National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC) abolished labor unions and prohibited strikes by decree on 30 June 1989. The right to organize and join a union has since been restored, but the government dominates the leadership of all unions and tightly controls their activities. The largest union is the Sudan Workers Trade Union Federation with some 800,000 members in 2002.
The presence of slavery and forced labor continue to persist in Sudan and have increased in recent years. Slaves are generally taken in one of the southern war zones and then sent north to work as domestic servants, agricultural workers, or to be sent abroad. The minimum wage is about $11 per month and is insufficient to support the average family. Although the minimum age for employment is legally set at 18 years, this is not enforced and children as young as 11 years old work full-time in all areas including industry. The legal workweek is set at six eight-hour days, with Friday designated as a day of rest.