The economically active population was estimated at 700,000 in 2002. Approximately 86% of the resident population engages in subsistence farming, and as many as 35% of male wage-earners work in South Africa. In 2000, the official unemployment rate was 45%.
With the exception of civil servants, workers have the right to unionize, but only about 10% of the workforce are union members. While strikes are technically legal, no legally sanctioned strikes have occurred since independence in 1966. The rights to bargain collectively and organize, while technically legal, are often restricted by the government. There are three small trade union federations: the Lesotho Trade Union Congress and the Lesotho Federation of Democratic Unions, and the Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions, and these three organizations seldom cooperate with each other.
While there are restrictions on working hours and practices for children under 14, in practice, enforcement of these restrictions is ineffectual. The minimum wage is set by the government and varies from sector to sector. The minimum wage for unskilled labor was $73 per month in 2002. The law requires a maximum 45-hour workweek with 12 days of paid leave and paid holidays. Minimum occupational safety standards exist but are not effectively enforced.