Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

West Bank and the Gaza Strip

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Minimal Advancement

In 2017, the Palestinian Authority made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the areas of the West Bank under its control. In December 2017, Palestinian Authority officials acceded to the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons and the UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. The Palestinian Authority also supported social programs that improved children’s access to education. However, children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in construction and illicit activities. Children also engage in child labor in street vending. The legal framework does not criminally prohibit all elements of child trafficking. In addition, programs to prevent or eliminate child labor are insufficient.

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Children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in construction and illicit activities. Children also engage in child labor in street vending. (1; 2; 3; 4) Table 1 provides key indicators on children’s work and education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Data on some of these indicators are not available from the sources used in this report.

Table 1. Statistics on Children’s Work and Education

Children

Age

Percent

Working (% and population)

5 to 14

Unavailable

Attending School (%)

5 to 14

Unavailable

Combining Work and School (%)

7 to 14

Unavailable

Primary Completion Rate (%)

 

93.4

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2016, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2018. (5)
Data were unavailable from Understanding Children’s Work Project's analysis, 2018. (6)

 

Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children’s work by sector and activity.

Table 2. Overview of Children’s Work by Sector and Activity

Sector/Industry

Activity

Agriculture

Cultivating asparagus, dates, eggplants, onions, sweet peppers, grapes, tomatoes, and marijuana (3; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14)

Fishing,† including working on fishing boats and repairing nets (1; 3; 4; 15; 16)

Raising livestock, including poultry and sheep (1; 3; 17)

Industry

Construction,† including demolishing buildings and collecting rubble and gravel for construction purposes (1; 2; 3; 4; 18; 19)

Manufacturing, including working in pottery workshops (1; 2; 4)

Blacksmithing† (1)

Services

Street vending and portering (1; 2; 3; 4; 20; 18; 21)

Working in auto body shops and metal workshops (1; 2; 3; 20)

Working in shops, restaurants, bakeries, and hotels (1; 4; 15; 20)

Domestic work (4; 19)

Transporting goods (3; 22)

Collecting scrap metal, cement bricks, and solid waste† (1; 13; 17)

Scavenging garbage, steel, and gravel at trash pits (15; 23; 24; 21; 19)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡

Use in illicit activities, including smuggling drugs and food (3; 4; 25)

Begging as a result of human trafficking (26; 17)

Commercial sexual exploitation (17)

† Determined by national law or regulation as hazardous and, as such, relevant to Article 3(d) of ILO C. 182.
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.

 

There are reports of child trafficking from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into Israel, primarily for forced begging. (26; 17) Children are vulnerable to child labor in the agricultural sector, partly because the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not have jurisdiction to enforce laws in Area C’s agricultural fields and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. There are reports of child labor in Israeli agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley, where children work in excessive heat and are exposed to dangerous pesticides. (4; 7; 13; 14; 25) The PA has documented cases in which child laborers were injured at work in the settlements and taken to hospitals in the West Bank. (4)

In the Gaza Strip, many school structures, which had been damaged, destroyed, or repurposed during the war of 2014, have not been repaired or replaced. (4) Most schools in the Gaza Strip worked on a double-shift schedule, limiting class time to only 4 hours each day. (27; 28) In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, attacks on schools, settler violence, military operations, delays at checkpoints, and school closures hinder children’s access to schools. (29; 30; 31; 32; 33; 34; 35) Schools are overcrowded, poorly equipped, and, at times, unhygienic or susceptible to weather conditions. (36; 37) Violence and discrimination by teachers against students who work, as well as the cost of transportation, contribute to a school dropout rate of 16 percent. (38; 39)

According to UNICEF, child labor is on the rise in the Gaza Strip. (18) The UN warned that due to population growth coinciding with a decrease in real gross domestic product per capita, deterioration of social services such as health and education, projected depletion of the only water source, and damages to the economy and basic infrastructure, the Gaza Strip would likely become unlivable by 2020. (28)

 

The PA has Non-Member Observer status at the UN. In April 2014, PA officials presented letters of accession to 15 UN treaties to UN officials, including the UN CRC and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. In December 2017, PA officials acceded to the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons and the UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography (Table 3).

Table 3. Ratification of International Conventions on Child Labor

Convention

Ratification

ILO C. 138, Minimum Age

N/A

ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor

N/A

UN CRC

UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict

UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons

 

The penal code applicable in the West Bank is Jordanian Law No. 16 of 1960 (Jordanian Penal Code for the West Bank). The penal code applicable to Gaza is Penal Code No. 74 of 1936, which was enacted during the British Mandate (Penal Code for Gaza). (40) The PA has established laws and regulations related to child labor (Table 4). However, gaps exist in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip’s legal framework to adequately protect children from the worst forms of child labor, including child trafficking.

 

Table 4. Laws and Regulations on Child Labor

Standard

Meets International Standards: Yes/No

Age

Legislation

Minimum Age for Work

Yes

15

Article 93 of the Labor Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; Article 14 of the Palestinian Child Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (41; 42)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

Yes

18

Article 95 of the Labor Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (42)

Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children

Yes

 

Article 1 of Minister of Labor’s Decree on Hazardous Work for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (43)

Prohibition of Forced Labor

No

 

Article 1 of Minister of Labor’s Decree on Hazardous Work for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (43)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

No

 

Article 1 of Minister of Labor’s Decree on Hazardous Work for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (43)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

No

 

Article 36 of the Palestinian Child Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; Articles 306 and 310 of the Jordanian Penal Code for the West Bank; Articles 165 and 167 of the Penal Code for the Gaza Strip (41; 44; 45)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

Yes

 

Articles 27 and 44 of the Palestinian Child Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; Article 389 of the Jordanian Penal Code for the West Bank; Article 193 of the Penal Code for the Gaza Strip (41; 44; 45)

Prohibition of Military Recruitment

 

 

 

State Compulsory

N/A*

 

 

State Voluntary

Yes†

18

Article 46 of the Palestinian Child Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (41)

Non-state

No

 

Article 46 of the Palestinian Child Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (41)

Compulsory Education Age

Yes

16

Articles 3, 15, and 18 of the Palestinian Education Act for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (46)

Free Public Education

Yes

 

Article 37 of the Palestinian Child Law for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (41)

* No conscription in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (25)
† No standing military in the West Bank (25)

 

Although human trafficking and forced labor are on the hazardous work list, the law does not criminally prohibit child trafficking or forced labor in accordance with international standards. (42; 43) The law does not sufficiently prohibit commercial sexual exploitation, as the use of children in prostitution and the use, procurement, or offering of children for pornographic performances are not criminally prohibited. (45) There are no criminal penalties for recruiting children into non-state armed groups. (41)

The PA has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor (Table 5). However, gaps exist within the authority of the Ministry of Labor that may hinder adequate enforcement of their child labor laws.

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

Ministry of Labor (MOL), Labor Inspection Office

Enforce labor laws, including those related to child labor. (47)

Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA), Child Protection Department

Protect children’s rights, including through the provision of services to children found involved in the worst forms of child labor. (48)

Police

Investigate violations of criminal laws, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children. (48)

Office of the Attorney General

Prosecute cases of child exploitation, including child labor. (48)

 

In the West Bank, under the terms of the Oslo-era agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli Government, the PA has civil law jurisdiction in the areas of the West Bank designated Area A and Area B, which represent approximately 39 percent of the West Bank’s land area and contain approximately 94 percent of the Palestinian population. The Israeli Government has control over the city of Jerusalem and Area C; the latter represents 61 percent of the West Bank’s land area and approximately 6 percent of the Palestinian population, as well as the vast majority of the West Bank’s agricultural areas, where many Palestinian children work. (49; 50; 51) Although PA laws apply in the Gaza Strip, the PA had little authority in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas exercises de facto control. (50)

 

Labor Law Enforcement

Research did not find information on whether labor law enforcement agencies in the West Bank took actions to combat child labor (Table 6).

Table 6. Labor Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Labor Law Enforcement

2016

2017

Labor Inspectorate Funding

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspectors

67 (51)

Unknown

Inspectorate Authorized to Assess Penalties

No (3)

No (3)

Training for Labor Inspectors

 

 

Initial Training for New Employees

Yes (52)

Unknown

Training on New Laws Related to Child Labor

Yes (52)

N/A

Refresher Courses Provided

Yes (52)

Unknown

Number of Labor Inspections Conducted

4,200 (4)

Unknown

Number Conducted at Worksites

4,200 (4)

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations Found

7 (51)

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties were Imposed

Unknown

Unknown

Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that were Collected

Unknown (52)

Unknown

Routine Inspections Conducted

Yes (52)

Unknown

Routine Inspections Targeted

Yes (4)

Unknown

Unannounced Inspections Permitted

Yes (53)

Yes (53)

Unannounced Inspections Conducted

Yes (4)

Unknown

Complaint Mechanism Exists

Yes (17)

Yes (17)

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services

Yes (17)

Yes (17)

 

In previous years, the Ministry of Labor reported that it was unable to inspect as many businesses per year as required by the Labor Law, due to inadequate funding. (4; 17)

 

Criminal Law Enforcement

Research did not find information on whether criminal law enforcement agencies in the West Bank took actions to combat child labor (Table 7).

Table 7. Criminal Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement

2016

2017

Training for Investigators

 

 

Initial Training for New Employees

Yes (52)

Unknown

Training on New Laws Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Yes (52)

N/A

Refresher Courses Provided

Yes (52)

Unknown

Number of Investigations

40 (52)

Unknown

Number of Violations Found

40 (52)

Unknown

Number of Prosecutions Initiated

3 (52)

Unknown

Number of Convictions

0 (4)

Unknown

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services

Yes (17)

Yes (17)

 

PA officials previously stated that inadequate resources hampered their capacity to enforce criminal laws related to the worst forms of child labor. (4)

The PA has established mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8).

Table 8. Key Mechanisms to Coordinate Government Efforts on Child Labor

Coordinating Body

Role and Description

National Committee on Child Labor

Create national policy on child labor. Led by the MOL and includes representatives from four other ministries, as well as international organizations. (22) Research was unable to determine whether the National Committee on Child Labor was active during the reporting period.

MOSA Child Protection Networks

Coordinate at the district level among service providers, law enforcement, and the Attorney General to protect vulnerable children, including those involved in child labor. (48; 54) Composed of MOSA, other PA agencies, and international organizations. The role of some agencies is to provide services to vulnerable children; others ensure that crimes against children are prosecuted in accordance with the law. (48; 54) Research was unable to determine whether the MOSA Child Protection Networks were active during the reporting period.

The PA has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including mainstreaming child labor issues into relevant policies.

Table 9. Key Policies Related to Child Labor

Policy

Description

National Policy Agenda (2017 – 2022)*

Aims to alleviate poverty through social programs for vulnerable groups and job creation programs for women and youth, improve primary and secondary school curricula, ensure equal access to education for marginalized areas, and ensure that technical and vocational training is aligned with labor market needs. (55) Research was unable to determine whether activities were undertaken to implement the National Policy Agenda during the reporting period.

* Child labor elimination and prevention strategies do not appear to have been integrated into this policy.

In 2017, the PA funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including the adequacy of programs to address the full scope of the problem.

Table 10. Key Social Programs to Address Child Labor‡

Program

Description

MOSA Social Protection Programs†

MOSA programs in the West Bank provide cash assistance, health insurance, and free education. (54) Families are assessed for eligibility; one of the goals is to prevent families from resorting to child labor. MOSA and the Ministry of Education also make efforts to ensure that children who have dropped out are sent back to school. (54) Research was unable to determine what steps were taken in 2017 in the implementation of this program.

MOSA Vocational Centers†

MOSA program in the West Bank that operates 13 vocational centers for children who have dropped out of school. (48) Research was unable to determine what steps were taken in 2017 in the implementation of this program.

UN Education Programs

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East programs that provide educational support for children and youth in refugee camps, as well as microfinance and other forms of support to families in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (56) In 2017, UNICEF continued reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools, partially through children’s art. UNICEF arranged for 16 students to travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to attend the opening ceremony of an art exhibit, as an activity to support psychosocial services to children. (27) Limited school hours of 4 hours or fewer per day necessitated psychosocial services for approximately 230,000 students. Some of the artwork addressed the subject of child labor. (27) Moreover, during the reporting period, UNICEF provided protective services to over 8,100 students in the West Bank, aiming to enable them to attend school, and delivered school bags and supplies to 13,000 school children in the Gaza Strip. (57)

† Program is partially funded by the PA.
‡ In 2016, the PA had other social programs that may have included the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor. (58)

 

MOSA previously indicated that additional educational programs are needed to address child labor, but it lacks sufficient funding to implement them. (17) Although there are programs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that target child labor, the scope of these programs is insufficient to fully address the extent of the problem, including in construction, street work, illicit activities, and agriculture.

Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in the West Bank (Table 11).

Table 11. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ensure that the law criminally prohibits all stages of child trafficking, including trafficking for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation, and both domestic and international trafficking, in accordance with international standards.

2015 – 2017

Ensure that the law criminally prohibits the recruitment of children under age 18 into non-state armed groups.

2016 – 2017

Ensure that slavery and practices similar to slavery, including forced labor, are criminally prohibited.

2017

Ensure that the use, procurement, and offering of children for all forms of commercial sexual exploitation are criminally prohibited.

2017

Enforcement

Ensure that child labor laws are enforced in the Gaza Strip.

2010 – 2017

Publish information on the labor and criminal enforcement of child labor laws, including the amount of funding, the number of labor inspectors, the number and type of inspections, the training provided to inspectors and investigators, the number of child labor violations, and penalties issued and collected, as well as the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.

2010 – 2017

Authorize the Labor Inspectorate to assess penalties.

2016 – 2017

Provide further resources and staff to the MOL and MOSA to conduct labor inspections and criminal investigations.

2010 – 2017

Coordination

Ensure all coordinating bodies are able to carry out their intended mandates.

2017

Government Policies

Integrate child labor elimination and prevention strategies into the National Policy Agenda.

2017

Implement the National Policy Agenda.

2017

Social Programs

Expand programs to improve access to education; for example, through ensuring that children are not subject to violence and that schools are weather-proof and provided with necessary equipment and hygienic facilities.

2011 – 2017

Ensure that MOSA social programs are implemented.

2017

Expand programs to further address child labor, specifically in construction, street work, illicit activities, and agriculture.

2010 – 2017

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