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Middle East & North Africa

2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

2013 Regional Outlook

Meaningful efforts:

  • Strengthened legal and policy frameworks to reduce the worst forms of child labor and trafficking in persons.
  • Expansion of social programs to address the root causes of child labor.

Challenges and existing gaps:

  • Lack of adequate legal protections for children in hazardous labor.
  • Lack or weak intra-governmental coordination
  • Lack of research or current data on child labor.

Region Summary

In the Middle East and North Africa, 9.2 million children are engaged in child labor, which comprises 8 percent of all children in the region.(23) Tunisia become the first country in this region to receive an assessment of Significant Advancement for making several meaningful efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

In certain areas of the region, girls are more vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation through the traditional institution of temporary marriages. In Morocco, thousands of girls have left their family homes to work in larger cities as child domestic workers. In Lebanon and Tunisia, girls may have been forced into domestic service as a result of being trafficked from foreign countries. Children in Iraq, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and Yemen continue to be used by armed groups as child soldiers.(31, 32) The ongoing conflict in Syria has caused more than two million Syrians, including many women and children, to seek refuge in neighboring countries in the region, including Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Many of these children have ended up in situations of labor exploitation, working long hours in the informal and agricultural sectors.

Despite political instability, governments in the region made gains in addressing the worst forms of child labor through their adoption of legal and policy frameworks, including in basic education, and expansion of social programs. Tunisia and Egypt adopted new constitutions, significantly enhancing protections for children. Iraq and Yemen both made efforts against trafficking in persons by establishing new and improved anti-trafficking policies. In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,32the Palestinian Authority established a National Committee on Child Labor. Some countries updated policies to expand education to children. Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq worked closely with international agencies to meet the education needs of Syrian refugee children. Morocco changed its policies to extend access to education to migrant children and Iraq established new standards in education to reduce school drop-outs. With the support of the European Union, Egypt initiated a $123 million Socio-Economic Development and Civil Society Support Program that included an $81.5 million component to combat child labor.

However, the region’s economic and political instability, including a lack of decent employment opportunities for youth and adults, have made children more vulnerable to child labor, particularly in agriculture, and to the worst forms of child labor as a result of trafficking. Countries in the region still lack sufficient legal protections for children, particularly those engaged in hazardous labor, and lack or have weak intra-governmental coordination mechanisms to combat child labor. In addition, there is insufficient current research and data on child labor to inform governments’ policies and programs. Jordan and Lebanon’s laws do not sufficiently protect children working in the informal sectors, especially in street work. Morocco’s parliament continues to stall on passing legislation to protect child domestic workers, and domestic workers are not sufficiently protected in Egypt. Morocco and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip lack the legal framework to protect children from human trafficking. Algeria and Oman have not yet established a list of hazardous work prohibited to children. In addition, countries like Bahrain and Oman have yet to put in place coordinating mechanisms to address child labor. Finally, countries such as Bahrain, Oman, Tunisia, and Algeria lack accurate, up-to-date data on the nature and prevalence of child labor. Lack of current data, along with the continued regional instability, impedes governments’ abilities to sufficiently promote and effectively implement child labor elimination efforts.

3 This report discusses only the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in the areas it controlled in 2013 and early 2014.