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2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2012, Bahrain made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. In March 2012, Bahrain ratified ILO Convention 138 and passed a new labor law that increased the minimum age for work from 14 to 15. The current minimum age for hazardous work is 16, which is below the age of 18 recommended in international standards. Although there do not appear to be widespread incidents of the worst forms of child labor, gaps remain in the legal framework regarding hazardous work and domestic service. These gaps may place children at greater risk of entering exploitative work. Children continue to engage in the worst forms of child labor, particularly in domestic service.

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Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Although there is no evidence to suggest that the problem is widespread, some children in Bahrain are engaged in the worst forms of child labor.(3) Children are engaged in domestic service in Bahrain, some as a result of trafficking.(3, 4) Children employed as domestics may be required to work long hours, performing strenuous tasks, without sufficient food or shelter. These children may be isolated in private homes and are susceptible to physical and sexual abuse.(5) Children are also occasionally victims of commercial sexual exploitation, in some cases through trafficking.(4, 6, 7) There are reports of children working on the streets, but specific information on hazards is unknown.(8)



Laws and Regulations on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Labor Law sets the minimum age for work at age 15 and the minimum age for hazardous work at age 16.(9, 10) In March 2012, Bahrain ratified ILO Convention 138 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment.(7) Children ages 14 to 16 must obtain authorization to work from the Ministry of Labor (MOL) and must complete a medical examination prior to employment.(10) The Government has stated that, in practice, work permits are only issued for children under age 15 in cases of apprenticeships and for work during summer holidays.(8) In addition, all workers must be registered with the Social Insurance Organization, which does not accept registrations for children under age 18. This requirement is designed to encourage a minimum age for work of 18 in practice.(11)

Minors working in enterprises that employ only family members are exempt from the Labor Law.(10) The exemption on the minimum age for work for children working with their families may expose children working in family businesses to hazardous situations.

The Labor Law prohibits night work and places restrictions on how many hours of work a minor can perform.(10) Ministerial Order No. 6 outlines a list of 25 types of hazardous work that minors under age 16 are prohibited from performing.(12) The Government has considered changes to the Labor Law to increase the minimum age for hazardous work from age 16 to age 18.(12, 13) However, the current legal minimum age for hazardous work is under the age recommended in international standards.(12)

The Government has issued Ministerial Orders requiring employers to maintain employment contracts for any domestic workers.(14, 15) In July 2012, the Government passed a new private sector labor law that extends some provisions, such as annual leave, to domestic workers. However, the new labor law does not extend other provisions to domestic workers, including an employee’s right to leave his employer.(4, 16) This restriction may increase domestic servants’ vulnerability to forced labor.

The Vagrancy Act of 2007 prohibits adults from inciting children to beg.(8) The Constitution prohibits compulsory labor except in very specific cases such as national emergencies.(17) The minimum age for voluntary military service is 18, and there is no conscription.(18) The 2008 Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons prohibits all forms of trafficking for the purposes of forced labor, slavery, prostitution, or any other form of commercial sexual exploitation.(19, 20) The Penal Code prohibits inciting a child to engage in “immorality,” which has been interpreted to cover pornography.(21, 22) It also prohibits operating a brothel or using the services of a child prostitute.(21) The Penal Code further states that any person who relies on prostitution or immorality for his or her livelihood will be punished with imprisonment. While penalizing adults who profit from child prostitution and pornography, this prohibition, in theory, may enable the prosecution of children for involvement in such activities.(21, 22)

The Constitution mandates free and compulsory basic education.(17) Education is compulsory to age 15 and free to grade 12.(8, 13) The Government may impose fines on parents or guardians in cases of truancy.(8, 23)



Institutional Mechanisms for Coordination and Enforcement

The Government of Bahrain has a National Committee on Childhood to protect children’s rights under the authority of the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development (MOHRSD). The Committee serves to promote the educational, social, cultural, and psychological development of children.(8) The Government has established agencies to address trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs heads a committee to coordinate trafficking policies.(24) However, research found no evidence of a government agency or other body tasked with coordinating government efforts to combat child labor specifically.

The MOL and the Labor Market Regulatory Authority have responsibilities for enforcing child labor laws. These agencies have systems in place for sharing information on child labor cases, including systems for referring cases to the judiciary when warranted.(7) MOL inspectors enforce child labor laws.(4) Some inspectors from the Labor Market Regulatory Authority also perform inspections, particularly concerning foreigners’ work permits and working situations.(25) There are 24 MOL labor inspectors who investigate labor law violations, including violations of child labor laws.(4, 26) Labor inspectors have been trained on international child labor standards by the ILO.(7, 26) However, no information is available on inspections to enforce child labor laws during the reporting period.(7, 26)

The Ministry of the Interior is the lead agency responsible for enforcing criminal laws against the worst forms of child labor, including those against trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Ministry coordinates actions with the MOHRSD and the Public Prosecutor, as needed.(7) These agencies have processes in place for sharing information on such cases. The Ministry of the Interior’s Criminal Investigation Directorate oversees a 12-person unit that investigates potential cases of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.(7) Although the Government conducted investigations into cases of prostitution during the reporting period, no information is available on the number of investigations or convictions involving minors in commercial sexual exploitation or trafficking.(7, 26)



Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government has stated that the worst forms of child labor are not a significant problem in the country, and therefore, it has not allocated resources to develop a national action plan to combat child labor.(26, 27) The Labor Market Regulatory Authority has conducted research on migrant workers in the country.(20) Some migrant workers are involved in domestic service, and domestic servants are particularly vulnerable to labor abuses due to gaps in the legal framework.(4) There is no evidence, however, that the Government has conducted or participated in specific research to determine to what extent children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor.(7)



Social Programs to Eliminate or Prevent the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government funds an NGO-run shelter, Dar Al Aman, which provides services for victims of trafficking, labor exploitation, and commercial sexual exploitation, including children.(20, 22) The shelter provides legal, medical, and psychological services.(24) The Government also supports the Bahrain Child Protection Center, which provides treatment and counseling to victims of sexual exploitation. Under the Vagrancy Act, the MOHRSD established the Social Welfare Dignity Home, which provides services to homeless persons and beggars, including children.(8) The MOHRSD operates a toll-free hotline to report suspected child labor cases.(7, 26) However, the hotline has primarily been used as a political tool for reporting suspected cases of participation by children in anti-Government demonstrations.(26)

The Government participates in a USDOS-funded program to combat trafficking that aims to build the capacity of government and other officials.(22, 28, 29) Despite the programs described here, research found no evidence of outreach programs specifically aimed at protecting the rights of children involved in domestic service.



Based on the reporting above, the following actions would advance the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in Bahrain:

Area

Suggested Actions

Year(s) Action Recommended

Laws and Regulations

Enact revisions to the Labor Law: (1) to increase the minimum age for hazardous work to align with international standards and (2) to abolish requirements that domestic workers have their employers’ permission to change jobs.

2009, 2010, 2011,2012

Ensure there are protections against hazardous work for children in family businesses.

2012

Ensure that children are not included under the Penal Code provision that requires any person who relies on prostitution or immorality for his or her livelihood to be punished with imprisonment.

2010, 2011, 2012

Coordination and Enforcement

Establish a mechanism to coordinate government efforts to combat child labor.

2009, 2011, 2012

Make data on child labor law enforcement publicly available.

2009, 2011, 2012

Policies

Conduct research to determine the scope of children’s involvement in the worst forms of child labor in Bahrain.

2010, 2011, 2012

Develop a national plan of action to address the worst forms of child labor, including in domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation.

2009, 2010, 2011,2012

Social Programs

Develop outreach programs to protect the rights of children involved in domestic service.

2010, 2011, 2012

 



1. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total.; accessed February 4, 2013; http://www.uis.unesco.org/Pages/default.aspx?SPSLanguage=EN. Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary school. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. For more information, please see the “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” section of this report.

2. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. February 5, 2013. Reliable statistical data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms. As a result, statistics on children’s work in general are reported in this chart, which may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on sources used, the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the “Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions” section of this report.

3. UN. Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under article 44 of the Convention; Concluding observations: Bahrain; August 3, 2011. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/446/02/PDF/G1144602.pdf?OpenElement.

4. U.S. Department of State. "Bahrain," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2012. Washington, DC; April 19, 2013; http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper.

5. International Labour Office. Children in hazardous work: What we know, What we need to do. Geneva, International Labour Organization; 2011. While country-specific information on the dangers children face in domestic work is not available, research studies and other reports have documented the dangerous nature of tasks in domestic work and their accompanying occupational exposures, injuries and potential health consequences to children working in the sector.

6. Bew, G. "Trafficking Horror Revealed." gulf-daily-news.com [online] January 28, 2006 [cited January 13, 2012]; http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=133768.

7. U.S. Embassy- Manama. reporting, February 22, 2012.

8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Periodic Reports of States Parties due in 1999: Bahrain. Prepared by Government of Bahrain, Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. March 25, 2010. http://tb.ohchr.org/default.aspx.

9. Government of Bahrain. Labour Law for the Private Sector, as amended, No. 23, enacted June 16, 1976. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.home?p_lang=en.

10. Government of Bahrain. The Promulgation of The Labour Law in the Private Sector, No. 36, enacted August 2, 2012. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/MONOGRAPH/91026/105342/F265276925/BHR91026%20Eng.pdf.

11. U.S. Embassy- Manama official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. May 4, 2012.

12. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Bahrain (ratification: 2001) Submitted: 2009. Geneva; 2009. http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/pdconv.pl?host=status01&textbase=iloeng&document=23480&chapter=9&query=%28C182%29+%40ref+%2B+%28Bahrain%29+%40ref&highlight=&querytype=bool&context=0.

13. U.S. Embassy- Manama official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. January 24, 2012.

14. ILO. Order No. 21 of 1994 of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, to specify the conditions and procedures to be observed in contracts concluded by employers with intermediaries for the procurement of non-Bahraini labour from abroad; accessed July 17, 2013; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.details?p_lang=en&p_isn=40272.

15. ILO. Ministerial Order No. 8 of 2005 with respect to a Model form of employment contract for domestic help and similar persons; accessed July 17, 2013; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex_browse.details?p_lang=en&p_isn=72743.

16. Human Rights Watch. "Bahrain," in World Report 2013; January 31, 2013; http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013.

17. Government of Bahrain. Constitution, enacted 2002. http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ba00000_.html.

18. Child Soldiers International. Louder than Words: An Agenda for Action to End State Use of Child Soldiers. London; 2012. http://www.child-soldiers.org/global_report_reader.php?id=562.

19. Government of Bahrain. Draft Law: Fighting and Combating Trafficking in Persons, enacted N.D. source on file.

20. U.S. Department of State. "Bahrain," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2012. Washington, D.C.; June 24, 2012; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/192594.pdf.

21. Government of Bahrain. Penal Code and its Amendments, enacted 1976. http://www.moj.gov.bh/en/default.asp?action=article&id=939.

22. U.S. Embassy- Manama official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. March 30, 2011.

23. International Bureau for Children's Rights. Making Children's Rights Work: Country Profile on Bahrain; approximately 2006.

24. U.S. Embassy- Manama. reporting, March 3, 2010.

25. U.S. Embassy- Manama. reporting, February 1, 2010.

26. U.S. Embassy- Manama. reporting, February 20, 2013.

27. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Bahrain (ratification: 2001) Submitted: 2008 accessed January 12, 2012; http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/iloquery.htm.

28. U.S. Department of State. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Grants: Currently Open/Active Programs, [online] June [cited January 13, 2011]; http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/other/2011/167080.htm.

29. IOM. Bahrain, [online] 2007 [cited January 13, 2013]; http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/bahrain.