The society of Kiribati is egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of human rights. There have been no reports of human rights abuses. However, in the traditional culture, women occupy a subordinate role and have limited job opportunities.
The Kiribati Trades Union Congress (KTUC) was formed in 1998 and includes 2,500 members affiliated with other unions, of which the most important are the Fishermen's Union, the Seamen's Union, and the Teachers' Union. Workers are free to organize unions and choose their own representatives. The government does not control or restrict unions. More than 80 percent of the workforce is occupied in fishing or subsistence farming , but the small wage sector has a relatively strong and effective trade union movement.
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not practiced. The prohibition does not specifically mention children, but the practice of forced and bonded labor by children does not occur. The law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14. Children through the age of 15 are prohibited from industrial employment and employment aboard ships. Women may not work at night except under specified circumstances. Labor officers from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Employment normally enforce these laws effectively, given the rudimentary conditions of the economy and its industrial relations system.
The government has taken no concrete action to implement longstanding legislation authorizing the establishment of minimum wages. There is no legislatively prescribed length to the working week. The government is the major employer in the cash economy. Employment laws provide rudimentary health and safety standards for the workplace. Employers must, for example, provide an adequate supply of clean water for workers and ensure the existence of sanitary toilet facilities. Employers are liable for the expenses of workers injured on the job. The government's ability to enforce employment laws is hampered by a lack of qualified personnel.