Economy may have increased amount of refugee child labor

3. Child Labor Photo
The last national survey on child labor was conducted by the Department of Statistics in 2016. (File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — According to data from the UNHCR and the World Bank, the percentage of refugee children who work outside of camps almost doubled from 1.8 percent in 2018 to 3.3 percent in 2021.اضافة اعلان

According to Haifa Darwish, head of the Ministry of Labor’s Child Labor Inspection Section, ministry officials conduct random inspection tours to ensure that the law is enforced, “regardless of the child’s nationality”.

Jordan’s Labor Law does not discriminate between Jordanians and refugees.

Statistics, however, cannot be generalized, said Darwish.

“When discussing the issue of child labor, whether refugees or others, a national survey at governorate level should be conducted, monitoring all cases in collaboration with all the competent authorities”, including the Ministry of Social Development and the National Center for Human Rights, she said.

The last national survey on the issue of child labor was conducted by the Department of Statistics in 2016. Normally conducted every three to five years, “due to the corona pandemic, it was not possible to conduct this survey as it would have provided incorrect numbers and indicators”, Darwish believes.

The head of the Ministry of Social Development’s Child Labor Department, Ashraf Al-Khatatbeh, also believes that the UNHCR statistics cannot be generalized.

“We do not see their merits, and surveys like this cannot be conducted by a single party,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Development is collaborating with the Ministry of Labor to come up with a mechanism to deal with 16 to 18 year olds working in contravention of the law, Jordanians and refugees alike.

The UNHCR said that its statistics were based on only 300 refugee children and therefore do not fully reflect the situation of refugee child labor in Jordan.

According to Darwish, the difficult economic situation during the pandemic as well as distance education may have led to an increase in child labor, among both refugees and Jordanians.

In 2016, the percentage of child labor among Jordanians was higher than that of refugees, according to a survey on the ministry’s website.

According to Darwish, the Ministry of Labor has formed a team consisting of governmental and non-governmental agencies, civil society organizations and other institutions to come up with a national strategy to reduce child labor.

The strategy, now in its final stages, will clarify the responsibilities of each party based on an executive work plan for the year 2022, which will be followed by the adoption of a 2030 work plan.

Buthyna Frehat from the National Center for Human Rights said the center monitors human rights of individuals regardless of nationality, age, or gender, and that it treats refugee children in the same manner as any other child.

She added that complaints about people violating children’s rights can be made through the center’s hotline “so that the center can do the right thing”.

The center, she added, is working to raise awareness about child labor and “is also conducting surprise field visits as part of the monitoring program to ensure that institutions or companies do not employ children under the age of 16 and that children over the age of 16 who are permitted to work under Jordanian law work within the specified fields”. The center also “makes recommendations to change laws that indirectly contribute to child labor, and emphasizes the importance of vocational education after the age of 16, enrolling them in vocational training centers if they have no interest in education”.

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