A drop in wages led to a deterioration in the economic situation of the family of the child Mohammed, who became one the thousands of children who, despite their young ages, entered into the labor market.
Mohammed was barely 15 years old when he started working at a spot selling coffee, with a salary not exceeding 150 dinars, in order to contribute to the provision of supplies and basic needs to his family.
“I feel like today was two days,” described the young Mohammed, his body possessed by fatigue and exhaustion during his long hours of work, in excess of the legal limit.
He returned back to the ninth grade with his talk about how his mother encouraged him to work in order to support her in home expenses, and to provide tuition for his sister--a request that prevents him from leaving work.
The increasing phenomenon of child labor is not accompanied by accurate statistics to measure the size of this phenomenon. The most recent ones date back to 2007 and showed that the number of children involved in labor amounted to about 33,000.
The Ministry of Labor has announced the start of a comprehensive national survey of child labor statistics in order to provide recent, comprehensive and reliable data, which will begin in the coming month of June.
The head of the ministry’s inspection directorate, Ayman Khawaldeh, pointed to the reasons for the non-issuance of recent studies, saying that the ministry was not able to conduct a comprehensive study and survey of all sectors and could only sufficiently conduct studies on a partial sample of sectors.
Poverty Draws Children to the Labor Market
The director of the Phoenix Center for Economic Studies, Ahmad Awad, confirmed that the expansion of poverty is one of the leading causes of the high rate of child labor.
Awad indicated that low income rates for some families contributes to their pushing their children into the labor market. Their opinion is that this keeps them from a state of destitution.
According to Nihaya Dabdoub, the director of the National Program to Reduce Child Labor, the decline in economic and social conditions played an important role in increasing this phenomenon which, in her view, has worsened over the last three years.
Awad alluded to the influx of Syrian refugees as having led to the prevalence of child labor.
“The outcome was that some organizations gave up in supporting them and providing for their basic needs,” he said.
Preliminary statistics conducted by the International Labour Organization show that approximately 30,000 Syrian refugee children have entered the labor market, in addition to Jordanian child laborers.
Ayman Khawaldeh anticipates that the number of child laborers exceeds 66,000, as a result of the involvement of Syrian child laborers.
Khawaldeh referred to the ministry’s implementation of 1800 inspection visits to employers during the past year, and the regulation of nearly 1,316 cases, including those of 900 Jordanian child laborers, and 420 Syrian child laborers, most of whom were females.
Studies show that 41% of children work in mechanical professions and 27% work in the catering sector or in the sale of coffee on the roadsides.
Regulations are Absent from Enforcement
Child labor is growing, despite legislation prohibiting their employment, according to Awad, which underlines the lack of effectiveness of that legislation on the ground, in addition to the misapplication of economic and development policies that do not take into account social conditions in helping to overcome this phenomenon.
The Labour Law in Article 73 prohibits the employment of children who have not obtained 16 years of age, and forbids the employment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 in hazardous work.
Overcoming Child Labor: Between Improving Conditions and Activating Laws
Ahmad Awad proposes that changing the realities of living and improving the economic conditions of life forms the basis of reducing the phenomenon of child labor, to within the universally accepted standards.
According to Khawaldeh, the ministry is working on sanctions against employers of child laborers, with fines ranging from 500 to 1,000 dinars for each month of employing the worker.
The ministry also has a social support center which works to find effective solutions to eliminating child labor through rehabilitating them and returning them to school.
On the occasion of the celebration of World Day Against Child Labour, which fell on Friday, June 12, the Ministry of Labor launched a special new administration to address the phenomenon of child labor.
The Arabic of this article appeared on June 11, 2015
Translated by Julia Norris