Child labor in Yemen…outlaw phenomenon

Yemen Observer:

Posted in: Reports
Written By: Fatima al-Aghbari
Article Date: Aug 26, 2010 – 4:54:28 AM


The child labor phenomenon in Yemen has worsened since the 1960s because of the economic deterioration and high rates of poverty, as field studies have shown.

(Saba)- The socialists see that the aggravation of this phenomenon is also linked to the early marriage problem.

Deteriorating economic situations in Yemen, especially in light of the global economic crisis and the accompanying high prices and the individuals› low income, plays a significant role in the growth the of child labor phenomenon.

In recent years, the phenomenon has significantly exacerbated as many children started flocking to the labor market to work in different areas such as restaurants, auto repair shops, construction sites and selling items in streets amongst other work.

An additional result of the increase in child labor is the opportunities the children themselves must sacrifice in terms of education.

In a recent study by the social researcher Abdullah al-Jaradi, the study suggested that the customs and traditions in Yemen push children to work in agriculture fields to help their families.

«Early marriage is one the reason behind a large proportion of children entering the labor market ,» al-Jaradi said.


Law Without application
The Child Rights Law in Yemen prohibits the employment of those under the age of fourteen and the employment of children in industrial jobs before reaching the age of fifteen.

The law requires employers to conduct medical examination of children before admission to work to make sure their physical fit and healthy enough for the work they enroll in.

The work hours should not exceed six , and there should be a rest period of not less than an hour. However, due to the absence of application of the rules and laws as well as lack of control, some employers have attracted children in need of work for low wages, taking advantage of this lack of control by the competent authorities and non-affiliation of these children to unions and organizations protecting their rights.

Girls working more than boys
In a study released by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, conducted in October 2002, the number of working children amounted to about 9.1 per cent out of the total workforce, 48.6 percent of them were males and 51.4 per cent females.

This percentage increases particularly in rural areas, where women begin to work at early age in agriculture area. On another hand, another study on child labor, carried out by a Swedish organization in cooperation with UNICEF, indicated that 32 per cent of children are being subjected to regular harassments and 1.2 per cent of them are being subjected to sexual harassments.

It is noteworthy that children, who come from distant provinces to work, are living away from their families, which makes them vulnerable to numerous other risks.

The Children›s Labor Department , a department for children›s labor was established in 2000 as a part of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to combat these issues.

Director of the Children›s Labor Department, Muna Ali Salem, said that the main goal of the establishment of this department is to plan policies combating the phenomenon of child labor and react and amend legislations as well as raise awareness among families, employers and children themselves.

«The department also aims at eliminating the harsher forms of child labor», said Salem .She pointed out that there is a global intention to get rid of this phenomenon, saying « More than 80 countries ratified in Netherlands last month on a road map to stop the child labor by 2016», she said.

Salem believes that the phenomenon of child labor has spread through all Yemeni provinces, but it is significantly localized in areas of big economic activity, such as the capital Sana›a, Taiz, Aden and other provinces which attract cheap labor.

On the front combating this growing phenomenon, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor has recently trained a number of labor inspectors nationwide who make continued field trips to monitor and inspect places where children work.

These inspectors are also working on the application of a law that prohibits the employment of children in dangerous places.