The labor force in 1998 was estimated at approximately 64 million workers. In 1996, approximately 11% of the civilian labor force was employed in the industrial sector. Agriculture accounted for 63% of workers, and service employees were 26% of the labor force. Statistics are unreliable because of a large, informal, unreported market. The unemployment rate in 2001 was estimated at 35%.
Although 1.8 million out of the five million workers in the formal sector of the economy were unionized, this represented only a small fraction of the economically active population. Most unions are affiliated with political parties. Strikes are a common form of workers protest. There are industrial tribunals to settle labor disputes. The government can impose labor settlements through arbitration, as well as by declaring a strike illegal. Unions have become progressively more aggressive in asserting themselves, especially on the political scene.
Public sector workers' wages are set by the National Pay and Wages Commission and may not be disputed. In the private sector, wages are set by industry, and collective bargaining rarely occurs due to high unemployment and workers' concerns over job security. The legal workweek is 48 hours, with one day off mandated. This law is rarely enforced, especially in the garment industry. Children under the age of 14 are prohibited by law to work in factories but may work (under restricted hours) in other industries. However, such restrictions are rarely enforced and children work in every sector of the economy. In 2002, the government estimated that 6.6 million children between the ages of five and 14 years were engaged in all types of employment activities, many that were harmful to their well-being.