Child labor may increase in light of economic challenges

1. Child Labor (AFP)
A Jordanian teenager works at a stone cutting workshop in the industrial area of Sahab, 40km south of Amman, on December 22, 2008. (File photo: AFP)
AMMAN — Director of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights Linda Al-Kalash said that poverty and unemployment are two key factors driving child labor, affecting both Jordanians and Syrian refugees; a problem that has been further exacerbated by the repercussions of COVID-19 and recently by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.اضافة اعلان

“We may still witness a further rise in child labor in light of increasing cost of living and worsened economy,” said Kalash, adding the Labor Law prohibits the employment of children aged less than 16 years old, provided that they do not work more than six hours per day, however many employers tend to exploit children for longer hours.

To reduce child labor, Kalash said that tightened penalties must be imposed on employers, awareness must be increased among both parents and children on the dangers of child labor, in addition to collective efforts that must be taken by the state’s agencies to improve the economic situation.

“Although the last survey on child labor was carried out in 2016, estimates suggest an increase to 100,000 working children, compared to 76,000 in 2021,” said Kalash. “Moreover, an estimated 45,000 children work in jobs classified as hazardous, according to a report by the Workers’ House.”

Head of the Child Labor Department at the Ministry of Labor Haifa Darwish said that as a supervisory body, the department conducts quarterly field visits to entities that are likely to employ children, like the agricultural sector and auto mechanic shops, while at the same time increasing awareness on the age group allowed to work and the maximum work hours permitted per week.

Darwish said a national strategy to reduce child labor is being drafted in collaboration with other national entities. Its first task will be to conduct a survey on the number of children who dropped out of school during the pandemic and sought work opportunities, explaining that COVID-19 has delayed such surveys and made it even more difficult during school closures and the switch to online learning.

Sociologist Rola Swaglah said that child labor becomes a phenomenon due to a group of factors; the most important of which is economic, followed by poor parental and societal upbringing. “To combat this phenomenon, it is necessary to combine the efforts of civil society, parents, and employers in relation to raised awareness.”

Sociologist Hussein Khuzaie agreed that economic hardships are key factors that push children to the work market. He said studies indicate that two-thirds of school drop outs who went to the labor market were driven by economic factors.

Khuzaie did not provide his source of his statistics, but said that prior to the pandemic there were an estimated 100,000 children in the labor market, and today the number is expected to have reached 150,000. He said the after-effects of those children’s labor will be manifested in the future “as they are likely to be exposed to all forms of exploitation, being easy prey to bad company and abuse.”

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