Child Labor, Staggering Facts [Archives:2000/46/Culture]

November 13 2000

The Juvenile Care Center, a civic democratic initiative support foundation, held a symposium on child labor from 6th to 7th, November 2000. A number of people interested in this subject such as Child Research Center, journalists and academic researchers attended the symposium. Many important working papers were discussed, some of which were summarized. Among those is a working paper, Working Child Conditions in Yemen, prepared by Suad Al-Iryani from Radda Barnen, the Swedish Organization for Child Care. The paper focused on social and economic conditions that led children to work. The economic deterioration in Yemen, and that resulting from the Gulf War, have made the living conditions more difficult and increased poverty. According to the 1997 census, about 30% of the population are under the poverty line and unemployment rate increased among males providing for families and the children and females are forced to work to support their families.
Ms. Suad Al-Iryani reviewed the reasons for child labor. Among these are: the economic crisis, the high rate of poverty, unemployment, childrens immigration from villages to towns either for study or for work. Those children are obliged to work to sustain themselves and the girls help their mothers by working in houses.
She also explored the legal, social and economic aspects of child labor and solutions to mitigate the phenomenon of children involvement in labor. Some of those solutions are: securing social security for poor families, activating programs for eliminating poverty and targeting the most afflicted groups, securing educational services. In addition, the interested organizations can be involved in handling this phenomenon.
Researcher Mona Ali Salem, Child Labor Unit Director in the Labor and Vocational Training Ministry, presented a working paper to the symposium. She pointed out that studies indicated that 89% of children work in agriculture in the countryside, while 29, 6% – 17, 6% of the total number of children work in selling and in other simple jobs in towns. Generally, children work in auxiliary jobs like helping smiths, helping mechanics and painting cars, washing cars, serving at hotels, shops and groceries, selling things on sidewalks, selling newspapers and magazines, working in buffets and restaurants.
Ms. Fekra Mahmoud, Head of the Womens Committee in the Yemeni Family Care Society – Taiz, presented a working paper in which she discussed the working child conditions in the society, the reasons for work, the local laws and the international conventions related to protection of the working childs rights. She also discussed the role of the national organizations and governmental societies in finding a practical mechanism for helping working children and protecting their rights. She indicated to an appendix of the approximate statistics for the number of working children in our country.
In her working paper, Ms. Nabiha Abdul-Hamid, General Manager of the Studies and Researches in the Supreme Council for Mother and Child, discussed the definition of the working childs age. She indicated that specifying the working childs age varies according to different laws. The Childs Rights Convention specified that the working childs age ceiling must be 18, whereas, the World Labor Organization defined in law No. 138 this ceiling at 15. However, the Yemeni laws and legislations defined that 18 years of age is a transitory period for a child to become an adult to undertake all responsibilities and duties in life. She also pointed to the features of child labor.
Ms. Nora Mohammed Ahmed Al-Taheri, from the Mother and Child Office in the Social Green Party, indicated, in her working paper, to the basic motives for the child labor. For poverty is the first motive that compels children to seek jobs because their families cannot afford them the basic needs as they have simple, unavailing jobs or they have no jobs at all. She pointed to the social problems the societies suffer from, divorce is one of them. She mentioned that among the problems leading to child labor are: the non-awareness of the importance of education in the society, truancy from schools to seek work, the spread of illiteracy and the absence of social awareness. The media must undertake the responsibility of spreading social awareness in society.
Ms. Al-Taheri suggested some solutions to this phenomenon. The most important ones are: applying the laws of the World Child Convention, treating the truancy problem, organizing a nationwide campaign to eliminate illiteracy by opening educational centers for adults, encouraging creativity in all life aspects, supervising children when they mix with adults at work, giving children jobs suiting their abilities mentally and physically, eliminating poverty, spreading the social solidarity, notifying employers not to hire very young children.