Child labor skyrockets as pandemic worsens economic situation

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“A small van drops us here every day at 5 p.m. to sell chewing gum and candy, and the driver comes at 10 p.m. to take us back to Wehdat,” said Mamdouh, accompanied by a 9-year-old girl and of 10 years. -An old boy sells sweets in the Al-Weibdeh district of Amman.

Insisting that no photos of him be used for fear of labor ministry inspectors, Mamdouh said his 56-year-old father forced him to quit school and work to help feed their family.

Mamdouh lives in Al-Wehdat refugee camp, the second largest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan.

“There are six of us – two boys and four girls – but my father only allows my older brother and sister to go to school,” Mamdouh said, again insisting that no photos of him or his friends be taken. not used in the report.

“You are not an inspector of the ministries of labor and social development, are you? Mamdouh asked before telling his story to Arab News.

Government inspectors have been spotted searching for child laborers and beggars in Al-Weibdeh, one of Amman’s oldest and most famous neighborhoods.

In a recent report on World Day Against Child Labor, celebrated annually on June 12, Workers’ House, a local labor rights NGO, expected the number of child laborers aged 5 to 5. age 17 in Jordan will reach 100,000 by the end of 2021, signaling a 25% increase from the last figures recorded in 2016.

The report warns of a “worrying” increase in the number of child victims of child labor due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic distress and increased poverty and unemployment rates in Jordan in 2020.

Jordan’s unemployment rate reached around 24% in the third quarter of 2020, up 4.8% from the same period in 2019, according to official figures.

The Workers’ House report said the pandemic has seen around 80,000 people lose their jobs in Jordan in 2020, as authorities force businesses to close in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. The organization added that more than 500,000 workers have faced pay cuts since March 2020.

The organization also explained that the poverty rate in Jordan rose to 26% in 2020, prompting families, “in the absence of a social protection system”, to send their children to the labor market to secure their livelihood. daily.

The report called for updated data on the impact of the pandemic on child labor, adding that the latest survey was in 2016, in which the number of child laborers was 76,000.

Citing the 2016 survey, the NGO said that of 76,000 child laborers aged 5 to 17, 70,000 were illegally employed, of which around 45,000 were found working in hazardous environments.

The report indicates that 29%, 28% and 11% of child laborers registered in 2016 worked in retail and auto repair shops, agriculture and construction, respectively.

Labor Ministry spokesman Mohammed Zyoud told Arab News that inspection teams discovered a total of 191 cases of child labor during the 5,560 field visits they carried out during the first four months of this year.

He also said ministry inspectors carried out a total of 11,952 and 7,143 field visits to businesses in 2020 and 2019 and discovered a total of 503 and 467 cases of child labor, respectively.

The spokesperson also said the ministry had taken the decision to step up inspection campaigns and field visits in 2021 to tackle child labor, which he added has “increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic hardships that accompany it “.

At a recent seminar at the Al-Rai Center for Strategic Studies, Minister of Labor Yousef Shamali said that government inspectors working in the Specialized Child Labor Unit conduct annual inspection campaigns in companies in the kingdom to verify their compliance with Jordanian labor laws, which prohibit the employment of children under the age of 16.

He also explained that child laborers picked up by inspectors are referred to the social protection center, where they receive educational and psychological rehabilitation so that they can return to school or undergo vocational training to qualify them to enter the labor market when they are ‘they are of legal age.

Shamali also explained that the ministry set up an online database on child labor in 2018 and funds the program for the elimination of child labor, implemented by the Jordanian Hashemite charity.

The International Labor Organization said the influx of refugees from Syria to Jordan has exacerbated the child labor situation, in terms of both magnitude and complexity, adding that it supported the government in its implementation. implementation of the National Framework to Combat Child Labor, adopted in 2011.


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