Most of the population engages in subsistence agriculture or copra production, including the copra plantations on the Line Islands. About 90% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture or fishing. Overseas workers remitted a large percentage of their wages to Kiribati.
In urban areas there is a small but strong trade union movement. Affiliates of the Kiribati Trades Union Congress (KTUC), founded in 1982 with Australian assistance, include the Fishermen's Union, the Cooperative Workers' Union, the Seamen's Union, the Teacher's Union, and the Public Employees' Association; in 2002, the KTUC had about 2,500 members. Workers have the right to strike but rarely exercise this option. The government does not interfere with union activity.
There is no statutory minimum wage; however, the government sets wage levels in the large public sector, which is the major employer in the cash economy. The standard workweek for those in the public sector was 36.25 hours, with overtime pay for any additional hours. Children may not work under the age of 14. This is effectively enforced by the government in the modern, industrial sector of the economy, but many children do perform light labor in the traditional fishing economy.