It was estimated in 1999 that the labor force comprised 4 million people, of which 60 percent worked in agriculture, 15 percent in industry, and 25 percent in services. The unemployment rate was estimated at 20 percent in 1997. However, the unemployment rate has little meaning in Africa. Many people work in some form of subsistence farming , which is not counted in employment figures. There are no social security provisions, and those without work or support from families or charities cannot survive. For much of the year in subsistence farming there is relatively little work to do, and this work is shared among family members. During planting and harvesting, there is more work to be done, and everyone is more fully occupied, but even in these periods, there may be more than enough labor to do the tasks, and the work is again shared. Everyone sharing the work appears to have an occupation in agriculture, but because workers are not engaged full-time the whole year, there is some "disguised unemployment."
Trade unions are governed by the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) of 1958, as amended in 1965 and 1972. Organized labor is represented by the Trades and Union Congress (TUC), which was established in 1958. The IRA provides a framework for collective bargaining and protection against anti-union discrimination.
The law prohibits civil servants from joining or organizing a trade union. However, in December 1992, the government enacted legislation allowing each branch of the civil service to establish a negotiating committee to engage in collective bargaining for wages and benefits in the same fashion as trade unions in the private sector . While the right to strike is recognized in law and practice, the government has on occasion taken strong action to end strikes, especially in cases involving vital government interests or public order. The IRA provides mechanisms for conciliation and arbitration before unions can resort to industrial actions or strikes.
The law prohibits forced labor and it has not been reported to be in practice. There is a minimum employment age of 15 and night work and certain types of hazardous labor are prohibited for those under 18. The violation of this law, however, is common, and young children of school-going age can often be found during the day performing menial tasks in the agricultural sector or in the markets.
In 1991 a Tripartite Commission comprising representatives of government, organized labor, and employers established minimum standards for wages and working conditions. The daily minimum wage combines wages with customary benefits such as a transportation allowance. The current daily minimum wage, ¢2,900— about US$0.40—however, does not permit a single-wage earner to support a family and frequently results in multiple-wage earners and other family-based commercial activities. By law the maximum working week is 45 hours but collective bargaining has established a 40-hour week for most unionized workers.