In 1998, the economically active population totaled 2,135,000 (excluding the armed forces). In 2001, agriculture engaged 34%; services, 45%; and industry, 21%. The unemployment rate in that year was estimated at 28%.
Honduras did not have effective labor legislation until 1954. It joined the ILO in 1955 and subsequently adopted several labor codes, most notably that of 1959, which established the Ministry of Labor. The code also provided for union organization, collective bargaining, arbitration, social security, and fair labor standards The principal labor organizations in 2002 were the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH), the General Workers' Central (CGT), and the Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH). Although retribution against union activity is prohibited by law, it frequently occurs. Only 14% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.
The law sets the maximum at an eight-hour day, a 44-hour week, and a 24-hour rest period each week. Because of high unemployment and a lack of government enforcement, however, these regulations are often not enforced. The labor code disallows children under 16 from working; however, in actuality, economic necessity and a lack of government enforcement mean that many children do work, especially on small farms in rural areas and as street vendors in cities. As of 2002, the daily minimum wage ranged from $2.25 to $4.08.