Child labor on rise due to pandemic

1. Child Labor
School closures and some children’s limited or no access to distance learning have further amplified the problem of child labor, according to the head of the Child Labor Department. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — A number of factors are contributing to a rise in child labor, Ministry of Labor officials warn, one of which is the COVID-19 pandemic.اضافة اعلان

In a press statement on the occasion of World Children’s Day, which Jordan marks alongside the world on November 20, the ministry renewed calls on parents, schools, and employers, among others, to stay vigilant for the phenomenon. The ministry stressed the need for concerted efforts to curb child labor, particularly in light of an increased unemployment rate and worsening economic conditions.

“On top of the prevailing factors, including the pandemic and unemployment rate, school closures and limited or no access to distance learning for some children have further amplified the problem,” said Haifa Darwish, head of the ministry’s Child Labor Department. She told Jordan News that the ministry is working on a national strategy, to be implemented under the umbrella of the Prime Ministry, aimed at eliminating child labor over the coming years. “It is everyone’s duty and role to protect those children from exploitation,” said Darwish, and therefore both private and public sector entities must work together to find an end to child labor.

The strategy, according to Darwish, involves awareness-raising campaigns, namely in public schools, and among parents, to warn against the dangers of child labor as unemployment rates force more parents to send their children out to work. “We hope to increase parents’ awareness on the harmful effects of labor on children and to ensure their commitment on the issue,” added Darwish.

Director of Tamkeen Center Linda Kalash said in a phone interview with Jordan News that a 2016 survey suggested that more than 70,000 children were involved in child labor in Jordan. “In those five years, the figure must have increased, especially given that Jordan has faced additional economic hardships that would surely lead to a significant rise in child labor,” she added.

While child labor is illegal, Kalash contended that the legal penalties do not do enough to deter employers from engaging in child labor, as it saves them money in wages. Furthermore, with more parents facing layoffs and unemployment, the alternative has been to send their children out to work to make money.

“Intensified awareness-raising campaigns, enforcing harsher penalties, and developing social programs to ensure the safety of those children” are among measures that must be taken, Kalash said, in addition to “empathizing with the plight of unemployed parents and assisting them to find work opportunities.”
An updated survey is required in the near future, said Kalash, to reveal the actual numbers of working children as well as their socioeconomic conditions to identify the causes and address them.

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