As of 2001, the economically active population was estimated at4.5 million. According to the most recent estimates, 86% of the labor force engaged in subsistence agriculture. There is very little industry.
Although sanctioned by law, union membership is quite low due to the small number of workers in the formal sector of the economy. About 15% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.The only labor federation was the Trades Union Congress of Malawi, to which all unions belonged. In theory, unions have the right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike, but in practice labor relations are still in development.
The minimum working age is 14, but many children work due to cultural norms, agricultural predominance, and severe economic hardship. In 2002, the minimum wage was approximately $0.89 per day in urban areas and $0.66 in rural areas. This does not provide an adequate living wage. The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours but this regulation is not generally enforced.
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