2016 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
- Adopted laws prohibiting the worst forms of child labor, particularly child trafficking.
- Increased access to education for refugee children.
- Conducted and published research on child labor.
Challenges and Existing Gaps
- Hazardous work prohibitions do not adequately protect children.
- Limited capacity to enforce child labor laws due to inadequate resources, including an insufficient number of labor inspectors.
- Insufficient social programs to prevent and eliminate child labor, particularly to assist children recruited and used for armed conflict.
In the Middle East and North Africa, 3.3 million children are engaged in child labor, which is 3.4 percent of all children in the region.(1) Figure 8 provides an overview of the regional outlook. Children perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and street work. Children also engage in the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation and armed conflict. In 2016, 3 of the 12 countries and territories covered in the region received an assessment of Significant Advancement: Morocco, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa made meaningful efforts by adopting laws prohibiting the worst forms of child labor, increasing access to education for refugee children, and conducting and publishing research on child labor. Despite these efforts, additional actions are needed to prevent and eliminate child labor in the region, including by ensuring that hazardous work prohibitions adequately protect children, strengthening the labor inspectorate’s capacity to enforce child labor laws, and supporting additional social programs to assist children recruited and used for armed conflict. In addition, Iraq made efforts during the reporting period, but implemented a regressive practice that delayed advancement in eliminating the worst forms of child labor as some Popular Mobilization Forces used children to engage in armed conflict.
In 2016, countries in the region adopted laws and regulations on child labor, including its worst forms. Tunisia passed legislation that for the first time provides a comprehensive definition for human trafficking crimes, addresses child trafficking, strengthens punishments for offenders, and contains provisions for providing support to victims. Morocco also passed legislation to improve protections for children against child trafficking, as well as legislation to limit the employment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 in domestic work. In addition, Oman issued regulations outlining the occupations in which children can safely work.
During the year, countries also conducted and published research on child labor, and launched and implemented programs to improve access to education and eliminate child labor. For example, Jordan released a summary report of its National Child Labor Survey, while Oman released the country’s first major report on child labor. Lebanon conducted a study on child labor and Tunisia agreed to conduct a national child labor survey with the ILO’s assistance. Tunisia also launched a project to build the capacity of government institutions to support the implementation of the Child Labor National Action Plan. Egypt enrolled Syrian refugee children in formal or non-formal education, and Lebanon and Jordan expanded programs to enroll more refugee children into schools.
Despite efforts made to address child labor, some countries have weak legal protections for children engaged in hazardous work. Algeria has not determined by national law or regulation the types of hazardous work that are prohibited for children. In Morocco, hazardous work prohibitions do not cover all sectors that may be dangerous and where child labor is known to occur. In addition, Tunisia’s hazardous work prohibitions are not comprehensive.
In 2016, inadequate resources hampered the labor inspectorate’s capacity to enforce child labor laws in the region. Three countries lacked a sufficient number of labor inspectors for the enforcement of child labor laws given the size of the workforce: Iraq, Lebanon, and Morocco. Seven countries lacked financial resources to enforce child labor laws, and only 7 countries carried out routine child labor inspections. In addition, information on child labor law violations and crimes related to the worst forms of child labor was not publicly available for most countries.
Children in the region were also recruited and used for armed conflict. In Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS also known as ISIL), and groups fighting ISIS, recruited and used children as informants and suicide bombers, and to oversee checkpoints. In Yemen, the Houthis, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Houthi-affiliated Popular Committees, tribal militias, and forces affiliated with the Republic of Yemen Government recruited and used children as checkpoint guards and soldiers. Children in Lebanon were also involved in armed violence.
Iraq and Yemen did not have programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers back into their communities. Iraqi children, internally displaced due to the armed conflict, also had insufficient access to education. Furthermore, 9 of the 12 countries in the region lacked the programs necessary to adequately address other worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking. Countries in the region also did not establish regional policies or participate in regional programs during the reporting period.
1. International Labor Organization. Global estimation of child labour 2016: Main results and methodology. Geneva, September 2017.