Labor in the cash economy is concentrated in the city of Djibouti, particularly on the docks and in shipbuilding and building construction. In 2002, the labor force numbered 282,000. The railway is a significant employer, as is the national government. Unemployment and underemployment are widespread and was estimated at 50% in 2002.
Under the constitution, workers are free to join unions and strike provided they legally comply with prescribed requirements. However, in 1999, the government took control of the major unions and since then there has been little independent union activity. Until that year, about 70% of persons in the formal economy belonged to unions. Those who participate in strikes may be arrested. Collective bargaining rarely occurs.
In 2002, the monthly minimum wage was approximately $125. By law, the standard workweek is 40 hours, often spread over six days. These regulations affect only the small fraction of the population which is involved in wage employment. The minimum age for child labor is 14 years old, although the lack of labor inspectors means that compliance is left largely to market forces. The government also lacks inspectors to enforce workplace safety standards, therefore many workers face hazardous work conditions.