In 1998, the minimum wage in Burundi for urban areas was US$0.37 a day and $0.24 a day for the rest of the country; this represents a considerable decline from the 1994 minimum wage of $0.63 and $0.42 respectively. Considering that inflation, nation-wide instability, and the economic embargo led to a dramatic price increase of consumer goods throughout the late 1990s, the decline of the minimum wage over the same period meant that Burundi's 4 million workers were having to pay more to survive with reduced means to do so. The very low level of organization and influence of trade unions and their division along ethnic and religious grounds meant that Burundi's workers lacked a sufficient mechanism to assert their rights against declining pay and poor working conditions.
The rate of illiteracy in Burundi gradually improved through the 1980s and 1990s. In 1985 illiteracy amongst the population aged 15 and above was 68 percent. By 1997 this had been reduced to 55 percent, but this was still 13 percent below the African average. This level of illiteracy worsened due to the civil war, which helped to reduce the level of primary school enrollment from 73 percent in 1990 to 54.2 percent in 1998. In addition, it will be difficult for a government with such limited revenue to provide sufficient education and vocational training for the large number of Burundi's youth. This has significant implications for the country's economic development as the labor force remains generally unskilled. The problem of an unskilled workforce will be accentuated by the AIDS epidemic, which hits the mature working sector the hardest.