The estimated labor force numbered 786,000 in 2001. In that year agriculture provided work for 50% of the labor force, with services accounting for 40% and the remaining 10% in industry. In 1999, the estimated unemployment rate was 21%.
Trade unions are grouped into three federations, of which the oldest is the Union of Mauritanian Workers (Union des Travailleurs de Mauritanie), which is affiliated with the ICFTU. The newer ones are the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers, formed in 1994, and the Free Confederation of Mauritanian Workers. Approximately 90% of the formal segment of the economy is unionized. The right to strike is guaranteed by law. Collective bargaining is also permitted.
Children under the age of 14 are prohibited by law from engaging in non-agricultural work. In practice this regulation is not enforced. The guaranteed minimum workweek for most non-agricultural laborers is 40 hours with guaranteed overtime pay. However, domestic employees may work for up to 56 hours per week. The minimum wage was $38.71 per month in 2002 for adult workers. There are minimum occupational health and safety standards, but they are inadequately enforced due to a lack of government funding.