2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Middle East & North Africa

2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Middle East & North Africa
Map of Middle East and North Africa and infographic showing statistics on child labor and advancement levels
Child Labor Information by Country
Child Labor Information by Region
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Meaningful Efforts:

  • Strengthened legal frameworks to address child labor.

Challenges or Existing Gaps:

  • Limited access to education and high dropout rates.
  • Insufficient enforcement of child labor laws.
  • Insufficient programs to combat child labor.

In the Middle East and North Africa, 9.2 million children ages 5 to 17 are engaged in child labor, or 8 percent of all children in the region.[1] Children are engaged in child labor, primarily in agriculture, domestic work, and street work. Children are also engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in armed conflict. In 2015, 2 of the 12 countries covered in the region received an assessment of Significant Advancement: Algeria and Jordan. Although countries in the Middle East and North Africa made meaningful efforts to strengthen legal frameworks to address child labor, these legal protections were not adequately enforced. In addition, access to education was limited and there were insufficient programs to combat child labor in many of the countries covered in the region. Yemen received an assessment of No Advancement because the Government remained in exile due to large-scale armed conflict.

In 2015, countries throughout the region expanded legal protections for children engaged in child labor. Algeria passed legislation banning the use of children in begging and Iraq adopted a new labor law that requires the establishment of a child labor complaint mechanism. The Government of Morocco also drafted a new law to combat human trafficking.

Countries in the region also made efforts to improve the enforcement of child labor laws. The Government of Bahrain launched a multi-lingual hotline to report cases of human trafficking. The Government of Egypt established a counter-human trafficking unit to provide services to victims, and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq launched a committee to investigate cases of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children. Lebanon’s Ministry of Labor revamped its Web site to receive child labor complaints, and Jordan and Tunisia conducted more child labor inspections compared to the previous year. Finally, the Government of Oman established a mechanism to receive child labor complaints and refer them for investigation.

Despite these efforts, only 6 of the region’s 12 countries were authorized to assess penalties for violation of child labor laws, namely Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and Yemen. Routine child labor inspections were carried out in only five countries—Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and West Bank and the Gaza Strip—and just four countries had a reciprocal referral mechanism between labor authorities and social services—Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Iraq and Morocco had an insufficient number of labor inspectors based on the ILO’s recommendation.[2]

In 2015, non-state armed groups, including the Houthis in Yemen, Da’esh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]) in Iraq, al-Nusra and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, recruited children to serve as informants, human shields, suicide bombers, bomb makers, and executioners or to play support roles, such as carrying food and ammunition to the front line. Some children in the Gaza Strip also received military training from Hamas. Even though Iraq and Yemen are affected by armed conflict, they do not have programs to assist child soldiers. The protracted conflict in Syria has also resulted in many refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. In Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, despite government efforts, Syrian refugee children did not have sufficient access to education and remained vulnerable to child labor in street and retail work.


[1] ILO. Marking Progress Against Child Labour: Global Estimates and Trends 2000-2012. Geneva; 2013. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---ipec/documents/publication/wcms_221513.pdf.

[2] For five countries in the region, the number of labor inspectors was unknown and for two countries the adequacy of the labor inspectorate could not be determined because data on the size of the workforce was unknown.

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