Minimum age for when school-children can be employed, married and taken to court?

The information presented in the table below permits easy comparison of minimum ages in different countries. It is an update of the findings of the latest version of At What Age...? and reflects analysis of states parties’ reports to the Committee on the Right of the Child between 1993 and January 2013. Countries updated by the Right to Education Project between 2010 and 2013 are indicated in bold.

See a note on scope and methodology for this table at the bottom of this page. For the detailed excerpts from states parties' reports up to 2010, please consult At What Age...? (annotated version)

Countries

State report circulated on

End of compulsory education

Admission to employment

Minimum ages for Marriage

Criminal responsibility

 

 

 

 

General Girl/BoyException girl/boy

 

Afghanistan

2010

?

15

16/18

15/18

13

Albania

2011

14

16

18/18

No min.*

14

Algeria

2011

16

16*

18/21

13

Andorra

2001

16

16

16

14

16

Angola

2010

12

14

18

15/16

16

Antigua & Barb.

2003

16

16*

No min.

8

Argentina

2009

18

14*

16/18*

No min.

16*

Armenia

2011^

?

14

17/18

?

14

Australia

2011

15*

No min.*

18

16

10

Austria

2011

15

15*

18

16/18

14

Azerbaijan

2005

?

15

X

14

Bahamas

2004

16

?

15

13

10

Bahrain

2010

15

14*

No min.

?

Bangladesh

2008

10

14

18/21

No min.

9

Barbados

1997

16

?

18

16

7

Belarus

2010

15

14*

18

No min.

14

Belgium

2009

15

15

18

No min.

16*

Belize

2004

14*

14*

18

14

9

Benin

2005

?

14

15/18

No min.°

Bhutan

2007

?

No min.*

18

10

Bolivia

2009

16

14

14/16

16*

Bosnia & Herz.

2011

?

15

18

16

14

Botswana

2004

n/c

15

14/16

8

Brazil

2003

14

16

18

16

12

Brunei Daruss.

2003

n/c

?

No min.

7

Bulgaria

2007

16

16

18

16

No min. *

Burkina Faso

2009

16

15

17/20

15/18*

13

Burundi

2010

12

16

?

No min.

13

Cambodia

2010

n/c

15

18/20

?

Cameroon

2001

14

14

15/18*

No min.

18°

Canada

2009

X*

17*

X*

12

Cape Verde

2001

16

?

?

16

Central Afr. Rep.

1999

?

14

18

13

Cook Islands

2011

15

15

16/16

?

Chad

2007

15

No min.*

?

13

Chile

2005

?

15

16

14*

China

2012^

15

16

20/22

14

Hong Kong

2012^

15

16

20/22

10

Macau

2012^

15

16

16

no min*

16

Colombia

2005

15

14

18

12/14°

?

Comoros

1998

14

No min.*

?

13

Congo

2006

16

16

X

No min.*

Costa Rica

2010

?

15

15/15

12

Côte D’Ivoire

2000

n/c

No min.*

21

No min.

10

Croatia

2003

15

15

18

16

14

Cuba

2010

?

17*

18/18

14/16

16

Cyprus

2011

15

15

16/18°

No min. °

10

Czech Republic

2010

15

15

18

16

15

DPR Korea

2008

16

16

17/18

14

DRC

2008

?

16*

15/18

?

Denmark

2010

16

13

18

15

15

Djibouti

2007

?

16

18

No min.

13

Dominica

2004

16

?

18

16

12

Dominican Rep.

2007

14

14

?

No min.

13

Ecuador

2009

15

15

18

12 14

12

Egypt

2010

14

14

16/18

12

El Salvador

2009

14

14

18

No min.

12

Equatorial Guinea

2004

12

No min.*

?

No min.°

Eritrea

2007

13

14

No min.

12

Estonia

2002

15

15

18

15

13

Ethiopia

2005

n/c

No min.*

No min.*

9

Fiji

1996

n/c

12

21

16/18

10

Finland

2010

16

15

18

No min.

15

France

2008

16

16

18

No min.

No min.

Gabon

2001

16

16*

?

No min.

13

Gambia

2000

n/c*

No min.°

X

7

Georgia

2007

14

16

18

16

12°

Germany

2003

15

15

16

14

Ghana

2005

15

15

18

12

Greece

2011

15

15

18

No min.

13

Grenada

2009

14

14

21

No min.

7*

Guatemala

2008

?

No min.*

14/16*

12

Guinea

2012

16

16

18/18

13

Guinea-Bissau

2011^

X

?*

No min.

16

Guyana

2003

15

15

18

16

10

Haiti

2002

X

15

18

No min.

13*

Honduras

2006

13

14

18

16

12

Hungary

2005

18

16

18

16

14

Iceland

2010

18

16

18

No min.

15

India

2003

14*

14*

18/21*

7

Indonesia

2003

n/c*

No min.*

21

16/19

8

Iran

2003

11

12°

13/15°

No min.

Iraq

1996

?

15

X

No min.*

Ireland

2005

16

16

18

No min.

7*

Israel

2012^

17*

15*

No min.*

?

Italy

2010

16

16

18

16

14*

Jamaica

2003

14

12

18

16

12

Japan

2009

15

15

16/18

14

Jordan

2006

16

16

18

7*

Kazakhstan

2006

?

15

18

16

14

Kenya^

2013

n/c

13*

18

8*

Kiribati

2005

14

14

16

10

Kuwait

2012^

15

14

15/17

7

Kyrgyzstan

2004

16*

14

18

17/18

14

Lao PDR

2010

?

15

18

15

Latvia

2005

15

15

18

16

Lebanon

2005

12*

13*

No min.

7

Lesotho

1998

X

No min.*

?

No min.

7

Liberia

2011

16

16

?

16

Libyan Arab Jam.

2002

15

15

20

15

14

Liechtenstein

2005

15

15

18

No min.

14

Lithuania

2011^

16

16

18

No min.*

14

Luxembourg

1997

15

15

16/18

16

Madagascar

2010

?

14

18

No min.

13

Malawi

2008

n/c

14

No min.

7

Malaysia

2006

12

15

18

No min.

?

Maldives

2006

n/c*

14

18

No min.

?

Mali

2006

15

14

15/18

No min.

13

Malta

2012

16

15

16

9

Marshall Islands

2005

14*

18

18

10

Mauritania

2008

14

14

18

No min.

7

Mauritius

2005

12

15

18

16

No min.

Mexico

2005

14

14*

14/16

No min.

11

Micronesia

1996

14

No min.*

No min.

 

?

Monaco

2012^

16

16

15/18*

No min.

13

Mongolia

2009

17

14*

18

 

14

Montenegro

2010

15

15

18

16

14*

Morocco

2003

13*

?

15/18

 

12*

Mozambique

2009

?

15*

18

16

16

Myanmar

2011

?

13

14/ No min.°

 

?

Namibia

2011

16

14

21

No mins.*

7

Nepal

2004

n/c

14

21/18

16/18

10

Netherlands

2008

18*

16

18

No min.

12

New Zealand

2010

16*

?

20

16

10

Nicaragua

2010

?

14

18/21

14/15

13

Nieu Islands

2011

16

?

19/21

15/18

10*

Niger

2008

16

14

?

No min.

13

Nigeria

2009

15

No min.

18*

No min.°

No min.

Norway

2009

16

15

18

16

15

Oman

2006

n/c°

15

18

No min.

9

Pakistan

2009

n/c*

No min.*

16/18*

No min.

7

Palau

2000

17

No min.

No min.

10

Panama

2011

15

15

14/16

14

Papua New Guinea

2003

n/c

No min.

No min.

7

Paraguay

2009

14

14

16

14

14

Peru

2005

18

?

18

14/16

12

Philippines

2009

?

15*

No min.

?

Poland

2002

15

15

18

16/18

10

Portugal

2001

15

15

18

16

16

Qatar

2008

15

16

16/18

No min.

7

Republic of Korea

2011

15

15

18/18

?

Rep. of Moldova

2008

16

15

16/18

14/16

14

Romania

2008

18

15*

16/18

15/18

14

Russian Federat.

2004

15

15

18

No min.

14

Rwanda

2012^

16

16

21

18

14

St. Kitts & Nevis

1997

16

16

16

8

Saint Lucia

2004

?

16

18

No min.

?

St. Vincent & Gren.

2001

n/c

?

15/16

8

Samoa

2006

13

15

19/21

No min.

8

San Marino

2003

16

16

18

16

12

Sao Tome & Princ.

2011^

?

14

18

14/16

17

Saudi Arabia

2005

?

No min.*

No min.

Senegal

2006

16

15

16/?*

?

Serbia

2007

14

15

16

14

Seychelles

2011

15

15

18

15/18

7

Sierra Leone

2006

?

No min.*

No min.

16

Singapore

2010

?

12

18

No min.

7

Slovakia

2006

16

16

18

16

14

Slovenia

2012^

15

15

18

No min.

14

Solomon Islands

2002

n/c

12

No min.

8

South Africa

1999

15

No min.*

21

12 14

7

Spain

2009

16

16

14

 

12

Sri Lanka

2010

14*

14

18

No min.

8

Sudan

2010

n/c*

14*

21

10

7*

Suriname

2005

?

14

13/15*

10*

Swaziland

2006

n/c

No min.

21

No min.

7

Sweden

2004

16

16

?

No min.

15

Switzerland

2001

15

15

18

7*

Syrian Arab Rep.

2010

15

15

18/18

No min.

10

Tajikistan

2009

16

14

17

16

14

Thailand

2011

15

15*

17

No min.

7

FYR of Macedonia

2009

15

15

18

16

14

Timor-Leste

2007

n/c

15

15/18

12

Togo

2011

15

14

No min.°

15

Trinidad & Tobago

2004

12

12

12 14

7

Tunisia

2008

16

16

18

13

Turkey

2011

14

15

17/17

12

Turkmenistan

2005

?

16

18

16

14

Tuvalu

2012

15

14

21/21

16/16

10

Uganda

2004

?

No min.*

No min.

7*

Ukraine

2010

17

16*

17/18

No min.

14

United Arab Em.

2001

12

15

X

7

United Kingdom

2008

16

16

16*

8

Un. Rep. Tanzania

2005

?

14°

15/18

No min.

12

Uruguay

2006

14*

15

12/14°

18

Uzbekistan

2012^

18

16

17/18*

16/17*

13

Vanuatu

1997

n/c

12

21

16/18

10

Venezuela

2007

14

14

18

No min.

18

Vietnam

2011

10

?*

18/20

14

Yemen

2004

?

14

15

No min.°

7

Zambia

2002

n/c

No min.

No min.

8

Zimbabwe

1995

n/c

No min.

16/18

No min.

7

       

AVERAGE

2006

15.03

14.86

 

 

11.79

Average at 2010 update

2003

14.92

14.77

 

 

11.72

Evolution since 2010 update (in months)

35

1.36

1.03

 

 

0.94

LEGENDA

X = information unavailable     

? = information unclear      

° = information from dialogue 

 * = see report for details      

n/c = not compulsory 

^ = Country reports coming from the pre-session only 

Bold = Countries updated between 2010 - 2013       

 

This table is based on an analysis of States' reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. It was updated in January 2013 to include information collected for the period 2010-2013.

Sources

States' reports to the CRC are the primary source of information. Where clear minimum ages were not included in these reports, the dialogue between States Parties and the Committee was consulted through Summary Records, Written Replies, and Concluding Observations issued for the relevant monitoring session. The decision to rely mainly on States Parties’ reports was taken for two reasons. Firstly, these reports constitute public self-assessment by governments and are consequently an authoritative source, emanating directly from those empowered to make decisions. This type of analysis therefore permits a range of actors to hold governments accountable for the standards which they themselves report under the CRC. Secondly, using the interaction between States and the Committee allows both inter-national comparison and a world-wide overview of the global direction of children’s rights implementation, as all States - except for Somalia and the US - are bound by the same process.  

Whilst the reports of non-governmental organisations and UN agencies, as well as academic material or field work, would undoubtedly provide an important and insightful counterfoil to the sources used here, they have been omitted in the interests of uniformity. Not all reviews include alternative reports, nor do all States allow genuine NGO work and participation. Additionally, examining only those countries for which shadow reports are available would not do justice to the desire to develop inter-national comparison and global analysis. Ultimately, the rationale was to develop a methodology that could be applied universally. 

Challenges

The research methodology is not easy. Comparing different ages across countries or even within the same country is a difficult task, and inferring a precise number from a general description is a dangerous exercise. Collecting, analysing and interpreting information from States Parties’ reports requires a great deal of care, thought and patience. Individual country reports are often more than one hundred pages long, and written by diverse parts of the government - not always in close consultation with one another. Moreover, within some States’ legal systems there are various recognised sources of law which frequently generate conflicting minimum ages, further complicating the task of distilling a single age from the information provided.  

Another equally serious challenge relates to transparency and/or lack of information. Firstly, there is a danger that those countries with a more honest engagement with the reporting process might come off worse when compared with those which would misrepresent the degree of compliance, whether wilfully or not. Secondly, failure to report is also difficult to interpret as it may indicate an indirect recognition of inconsistent practices (i.e. information on a specific age may at times not be included in an attempt to mask violations), a lacuna in domestic monitoring, or simply an oversight. For the purposes of this research, however, and in the best interest of children, it has been assumed that if no minimum age is included in the reports of a State party, none exists there in practice. 

Codification

In order to maintain coherence, the following methodology has been followed uniformly to arrive at the interpretations presented in the summary table. Where no information is provided, this is indicated by a cross (X); where the information is available but not sufficiently clear, or is self-contradictory, a question mark (?) is used. A star (*) indicates a proposed change in legislation, a division of competence in federal States, or a particular exception or practice that begs closer scrutiny. Where the information comes from the Concluding Observations, Summary Records or Written Replies, a circle (°) is used. Otherwise, the information provided in the reports is translated into a precise number or "no minimum" for each specific case according to the respective guiding criteria.

Regarding minimum ages for marriage, the table does not inform whether exceptions refer to pregnancy, court or parental consent, or puberty, or whether they refer to customary, religious or traditional laws and practice. This detailed information can be found in the States' reports available on the website of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. All exceptions were grouped under the same category. If the report indicates an absolute minimum age below which marriage was never allowed, this lower age is recorded. Otherwise, "no minimum" is quoted.