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2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2012, Jordan made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The National Committee on Child Labor spearheaded the development of an automated, Web-based national child labor database. In addition, the Government adopted child labor enrichment materials developed by a child labor project and assumed responsibility for continuing to run the project’s non-formal education centers. In response to the influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan, the Government opened enrollment to Syrian refugee children in Jordan’s public school system, formed a subcommittee to address child labor issues among the refugee population, and coordinated efforts to enhance the National Framework to Combat Child Labor (NFCL). However, the law lacks protections against some of the worst forms of child labor; for instance, it does not protect boys under the age of 18 from prostitution. Children continued to be involved in the worst forms of child labor, particularly in dangerous activities in agriculture.


Learn More: ILAB in Jordan | Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor | Previous Reports:

Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Children in Jordan are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, primarily in dangerous activities agriculture.(3-7) Children working in agriculture may be involved in planting, irrigating, harvesting, and weeding.(8) There are reports that children working in agriculture may use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides.(5, 9-11)

Children, mostly boys, work in hazardous activities in electrical repair and in mines.(3, 5, 6, 11-14) In addition, Jordanian and Syrian boys work in the construction sector; reports indicate that some Syrian children work in the sector alongside their families for no pay.(5, 11, 15)

Children work in Jordan’s tourist areas, such as Petra, as tour guides and vendors.(16-18) In this work, they are exposed to long hours in extreme temperatures.(3, 18, 19)

There are reports of children working on the streets, including Syrian children in the Za’atari refugee camp, but specific information on hazards is unknown.(4, 7, 14, 20) Anecdotal evidence suggests that some children may be trafficked for the purpose of forced begging.(3, 6, 7, 21, 22)

Jordanian NGOs and third-country embassies of sending-country workers (i.e., Indonesia) identified underage, female, third-country domestic workers, some as young as 13, who had fled from abusive employers to their embassy’s shelter. These girls traveled on forged passports to work as domestic workers.(6, 23) In addition, there have been reports of Jordanian girls forced to drop out of school and work as “homebound girls” in their own homes.(7, 12, 23, 24) These child domestic workers 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.(25, 26)

Syrian child refugees are involved in the worst forms of child labor in Jordan.(15, 23, 27, 28) Refugees between the ages of 12 and 18 may be required to work up to 12 hours per day in the food service, sales, and manufacturing sectors.(15, 27)

There is evidence of child marriage among Syrian refugee girls residing in the Za’atari refugee camp and in Jordan’s urban areas.(23) Media and NGO reports state that some of these marriages have been non-consensual marriages to wealthy Saudi, Egyptian, and Bahraini men.(7, 29, 30) These reports suggest that in some cases, the girls married off were later abandoned or forced into prostitution.(29, 31, 32) Both UN and Jordanian relief agencies estimate that some 500 underage Syrian girls were married off during the reporting period.(29, 30)

During the reporting period, many Syrian refugee families enrolled their children in primary schools throughout Jordan’s northern region and Amman.(33, 34) However, despite free registration for this population, a significant number of children remained at home to help their families meet basic needs. Other families have been unable to register their children for public schooling due to the lack of slots for their children and physical space.(33-35)

Laws and Regulations on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for work in Jordan at 16 and prohibits juveniles under the age of 18 from performing hazardous forms of labor.(13, 36, 37) The Labor Code further bans juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 from working over the weekend, on holidays, at night, for more than 4 hours straight, or more than 6 hours a day.(36) The Labor Code protections do not apply to family businesses and the agriculture sector, which employ many children.(38) The Labor Code also prohibits forced labor.(36)

The Anti-Human Trafficking Law prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation.(24) It specifies imprisonment and other penalties for trafficking violations.(24, 39) Penalties are enhanced in cases where the victim is a child, a female, or a person with disabilities.(40)

The Penal Code prohibits the solicitation of sex from a male under the age of 18 or a female of any age.(41) In addition, the Penal Code prohibits the procurement of a woman under the age of 20 for prostitution and related activities; however, these provisions do not protect boys aged 15-18.(38, 42)

Under the Criminal Code, individuals are banned from selling or possessing “lewd materials that could corrupt public morality” for purposes of distribution or public display.(42, 43) Jordan’s Law on Narcotic Drugs imposes the death penalty for anyone who uses a minor for the production, transportation, sale, or purchase of drugs.(38) The country’s Juvenile Act offers protection for child beggars.(14)

The Constitution of Jordan ensures access to free and compulsory public education for all children until the age of 16.(13) Significant disparities exist among governorates in the rates of enrollment.(44) While tuition to government schools is free in Jordan, the associated costs (books, uniforms, transportation, etc.) often deter parents from sending their children to school.(12)

Institutional Mechanisms for Coordination and Enforcement

The National Committee on Child Labor (NCCL), led by the Ministry of Labor (MOL), forms new policy and oversees the implementation of current child labor policy, including the NFCL.(6, 45) The NCCL is responsible for responding to reports of child labor among Syrian refugees. Members of the NCCL include representatives from key governorate and national government branches, including the MOL, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Mayor of Amman; industry groups; quasi-governmental and royal entities; UN agencies; and international, national, and civil society organizations.(45, 46)

During the reporting period, the NCCL collaborated with other government and non-government stakeholders to develop an automated, Web-based national child labor database for the MOL, which should be operational by the next reporting period.(13, 46)

The MOL’s Child Labor Unit (CLU) is responsible for implementing the Government’s child labor programs; incorporating child labor concerns into policy initiatives; proposing and drafting new legislation on child labor; monitoring its scope and prevalence; directing child labor inspections; and ensuring the enforcement of child labor laws.(6, 18, 46-48) The CLU has three full-time staff in Amman.(4, 6)

The MOL’s Directorate of Labor Affairs and Inspection is responsible for all inspections, including inspections of employment conditions, occupational safety and health standards, and child labor. It employs 120 labor inspectors throughout the country.(6, 49) The Government of Jordan claims that the Inspection Directorate needs more inspectors to cover all businesses and entities included in its purview. However, inadequate funding prevents the MOL from increasing the number of inspectors throughout the country.(6)

Labor inspectors operate out of each of the 23 regional labor offices located throughout the country. Inspectors report monthly to the Labor Inspection Directorate on official labor statistics (child labor included), the number of visits conducted, measures taken by inspectors when violations occur, the number of work-related injuries reported by enterprises, and the number of complaints handled.(49) Labor inspectors have the authority to enforce labor laws except in the case of children working without pay for their families in family businesses.(49) In addition, research found no evidence that Jordan has a coordinating mechanism to address third-country and “homebound” Jordanian domestic workers.

During the reporting period, the MOL, along with partner organizations, conducted 18 trainings and workshops on child labor investigation for inspectors.(6) Research found no information on the number of labor inspections undertaken, cases of child labor found, or punishments imposed.

Chaired by the Minister of Justice, the National Committee for the Prevention of Human Trafficking coordinates the implementation of the National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.(50-52) Trafficking crimes are investigated and prosecuted by the Labor Inspector, and the Public Security Directorate’s (PSD) Criminal Investigation Unit (CID).(23, 51) In June 2012, the PSD and the MOL signed an MOU that established the Anti-Trafficking Unit, a joint unit focused on combating trafficking in persons.(23) In January 2012, the National Committee; members of the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Labor; and the police formed a National Screening Team. The Screening Team’s first assignment was to interview 30 underage Indonesian girls residing at the Indonesian Embassy’s shelter to determine whether they were victims of trafficking.(24)

While there is a general lack of government capacity to identify victims of trafficking and to implement the law, the Government is currently working with the IOM to address these shortfalls.(53)

Over the reporting period, nine children trafficked from Ethiopia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka were repatriated to their respective countries of origin.(53)

Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Approved in 2011, the NFCL is a reference document that outlines the roles, responsibilities, and methodologies of the key government agencies (MOL, Ministry of Education [MOE], Ministry of Social Development [MOSD]), NGOs, and other stakeholders involved in responding to cases of child labor at the national, governorate, and community levels.(37, 54) Under the NFCL, the Inspection Directorate is tasked with referring withdrawn child laborers to social support centers, non-formal education centers, or other NGO program centers for working children.(37, 54) Although the NFCL was formally approved in 2011, implementation has been delayed due to the lack of coordination, capacity, and understanding of roles and responsibilities among implementers at the national and community levels.(55) However, the CLU and ILO-IPEC worked with NFCL members throughout the reporting period to identify internal and collective challenges in the Framework’s implementation and to establish concrete plans to address the challenges.(55, 56)

Jordan’s Syrian Regional Response Plan (RRP), coordinated by the Government and the UN, facilitates the country’s response to the needs of incoming Syrian refugees, 75 percent of whom are women and children.(35) The influx of Syrians into Jordanian communities has created a burgeoning issue of child labor for both populations due to the loss of jobs among Jordanian adults to Syrians willing to work for less pay; the overcrowding or unavailability of schools for children; the perceived increase in charity funding for Syrians and subsequent decrease for Jordanians; and the rise in rent due to increased demand for housing.(6, 30, 57, 58) In response, a RRP subgroup on child labor was formed early in the reporting period to coordinate the country’s response to both Syrian refugee child workers and Jordanian children working as a result of the Syrian settlement into their communities. The group is led by the MOL, MOE, and MOSD.(48, 59)

During the reporting period, the National Strategy for Anti-Human Trafficking (2010-2012) focused on bringing the Government into compliance with international prevention, protection, and prosecution standards.(23) The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is in the process of devising a new strategy to address human trafficking.(23)

The Jordanian National Plan of Action for Children (2004-2013) includes the goal of eliminating child labor by 2013. The Plan proposes to do this through the development of livelihood plans for families of child workers, harmonization of national legislation with ILO Convention 182, awareness campaigns, and the rehabilitation and reintegration of target children.(54, 60, 61) Research on the Plan’s impact on reducing child labor was not available at the time this report was written.

The National Agenda (2006-2015) is the Government’s framework for political, economic, and social reform. Among its goals is the restructuring of Jordan’s social safety net system through the reintroduction and reform of the National Aid Fund (NAF), first launched in 1986 to provide cash assistance to Jordan’s poorest and most vulnerable populations to increase and smooth consumption.(62) Although the National Agenda has not yet been fully implemented, it has largely failed to meet its social protection policy goals, as is evidenced by the growth of poverty and youth unemployment.(63-65) The question of whether this policy has an impact on child labor does not appear to have been addressed.

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

During the reporting period, the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority funded research and program activities on child labor in Petra’s tourism sector.(17, 19, 66) Based on research findings, a local NGO implements an awareness campaign among tourists and parents in the Bedouin village of Petra and in Umm Sayhoun on the potential harms of child labor. In addition, the MOE and UNESCO opened and operated a non-formal education center in the Umm Sayhoun community; the center operates two shifts for boys and two for girls.(16, 48, 67)

In 2012, the Government of Jordan continued to participate in three USDOL-supported projects worth a total of $10 million, as follows:

First, Jordan collaborated on a 4-year (2010-2014), $2 million project that supports implementation of the NFCL.(55) During the reporting period, the project led a monitoring review process of the NFCL to identify key gaps and to facilitate communication and coordination of the NFCL’s implementation.(46)

Second, Jordan participated in a 4-year (2010-2014), $4 million project with the goal of reducing the number of children subjected to exploitive child labor in the construction, workshop, manufacturing, and storage industries, as well as domestic service.(68) Serving beneficiaries in poverty-stricken areas with high numbers of child refugees, including East Amman, Zarqa, and Mafraq, the project successfully delivered non-formal education and vocational training services to 1,116 children and livelihood services to 788 vulnerable households.(69) During the reporting period, the project conducted research on homebound child labor. The results of this research will be available in next year’s report.(70)

Third, a 4-year project closed during the reporting period which provided formal, non-formal, and vocational education services; awareness activities; and other social services. The project successfully withdrew 2,373 children from the worst forms of child labor and prevented 5,185 children from engaging in child labor.(45) Over the reporting period, the MOE officially adopted the child labor enrichment materials developed by the project and assumed responsibility for continuing the non-formal education centers developed by the project.(71)

In response to the influx of school-age Syrian refugee children, the Government conducted mapping exercises during the reporting period to better determine the demand for space in the public schools.(33, 35) The Government has also supported the implementation of alternative classrooms to further meet the overall demand for schooling. Over the summer, the MOE created summer school programs to help more than 5,000 Syrian refugee children catch up to their Jordanian peers prior to enrollment in the new academic year.(48) With the assistance of UNICEF, the MOE has built prefabricated classrooms for five schools in Ramtha. Once completed, the classrooms can serve up to 1,200 students.(33) More recently, the MOE has begun to operate double-shift classrooms in communities where the refugees are residing, with one shift in the morning and another in the afternoon. This schedule has allowed more Syrian children to continue their education in Jordan.(72) Although the Government of Jordan has implemented education programs for Syrians, no evidence was found to indicate that Jordan has carried out research or implemented programs responding to incidences of the forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation of Syrian girls.

The NAF, an autonomous institution established under the auspices of the MOSD in 1986, is a state-funded institution responsible for providing social protection for Jordan’s vulnerable population through a cash transfer program that targets women with young children and families headed by divorced or abandoned women.(73) Since 2008, the World Bank, through the Jordan Social Protection Enhancement Project (2008-2013), has provided financial and technical assistance to the MOSD to strengthen the NAF’s systems of targeting vulnerable populations.(74) Nonetheless, a recent project review revealed that the NAF currently covers only 25 percent of its target population.(74)

The MOSD runs a social support center for children living and working in the streets of East Amman. The center provides care and protection to children and provides children of legal working age with access to training and employment.(6, 14) There is no monitoring of the children, however, once they leave the center.(14)

An IOM program (2010-2013) helped to build the capacity of the MOJ, MOL, and the Public Security Directorate to raise awareness of human trafficking and to provide direct assistance to victims of human trafficking. In addition, the MOJ and the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking collaborated with the IOM on a project to establish government mechanisms for an improved response to human trafficking in Jordan (2010-2012).(53) Under this project, the MOJ and the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking conducted the first comprehensive assessment on trafficking in persons, which identified the types of trafficking, the routes traffickers use, and other gaps in assistance to victims.(53) The results of the study have not yet been released.

The Government of Jordan continued to operate the Jordan Education Reform Support Program, which supports the Jordan MOE’s efforts to produce graduates with skills to compete in a knowledge economy.(75, 76) During the reporting period, the project continued to train school counselors and teachers on, and to provide students with, employment and life skills that equip students for workforce participation.(76) The impact of these programs on child labor has not been assessed.

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


Suggested Actions

Year(s) Action Recommended

Laws and Regulations

Enact laws to increase the protection of children who work in the agriculture sector.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Amend the Penal Code to ensure that the prostitution of males under 18 is prohibited.

2010, 2011, 2012

Coordination and Enforcement

Increase funding to the Directorate of Labor Affairs and Inspection to increase its child labor inspection and reporting capacity.

2011, 2012

Establish a coordinating mechanism to address third-country child domestic workers.



Assess the impact that existing social protection policies may have on addressing child labor.

2010, 2011, 2012

Implement the NFCL.


Social Programs

Assess the impact that existing education and social protection programs may have on addressing child labor.

2010, 2011, 2012

Increase protection programs for working children in vulnerable sectors, such as agriculture.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Conduct research on begging rings, under-age forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation, and third-country child domestic labor.


Develop a monitoring mechanism for street children once they leave shelter.


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