In 2002, the labor force in Zambia was estimated at 3.4 million persons. The majority of Zambian laborers work not as wage earners but in subsistence agriculture. Transport and services employed 9% of the labor force; mining, manufacturing and construction, 6%. In 2000 it was estimated that 50% of the workforce was unemployed.
The Labor Department is responsible for employment exchange services and for enforcing protective labor legislation. In 2002, about 60% of the country's 300,000 formal wage earners were unionized. There were about 19 large national labor unions, all but one of them affiliated with the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). With the exception of essential services, all workers have the right to strike.
The minimum wage was $0.07 per hour in 2002. The maximum regular workweek is 48 hours, but most wage earners work 40-hour weeks. The minimum working age is 16 years. This is enforced in the industrial sector but not in subsistence agriculture, domestic services, or the informal economy where children are more likely to work. The law also regulates minimum health and safety standards in industry but staffing problems at the Ministry of Labor chronically limit enforcement effectiveness.