Limiting Child Labor in Yemen [Archives:1998/13/Reportage]

March 30 1998

Organized by the General Federation of Worker’s Trade Unions (GFWTU), in cooperation with International Labor Organization (ILO), a symposium on limiting child labor in Yemen was held during 22-25 March.

The symposium’s opening session was attended by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, the President of the GFWTU and a number of trade unionists from various governorates.
Child labor is a serious problem affecting a large number of children in Yemen and other developing countries. The participants stressed the importance of tackling this problem.
A number of lectures were delivered by Yemeni and international guests on a wide range of topics such as the implementation of the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, the conditions of working children in Yemen, the psychological effects of work on the children, the best possible means to combat this phenomenon, and several other important issues.
Causes of Child Labor
Poverty is diagnosed as the prime reason that drives children to join the labor market. Economic, social, and educational difficulties as well as wars, natural disasters, and immigration are all contributing factors. When a child goes to work, he loses some of his legal, social and cultural rights. Also, child labor leads to an increase in unemployment and an imbalance in the social structure. In the long run, working children will form a low-level, unskilled workforce that is also detrimental to their health.
The participants in the symposium stressed the need for an all-encompassing social safety network to take care of poor children.
A- Legal Field
1- Yemeni legislations must be reviewed and amended in accordance with international and regional treaties and conventions on children, especially the ILO Agreement No. 138.
2- The Arab Agreement No. 18 on Child Labor must be fully endorsed and incorporated within the Yemeni laws. This agreement includes the following:
a- A minor is a person aged between 13 and 18 years.
b- Child labor must be strictly prohibited for those under 13 years of age, prohibited in the industry for those under 14, and in dangerous jobs for those under 18.
c- Implementing the necessary executive statutes of the Labor Law regarding child labor.
d- Deterrent punishments must be imposed on those who employ minors.
3- Labor inspection organs must be activated and given full authority.
4- Urgent measures must be taken to limit the work of minors in public and private-sector establishments.
5- Children must be prohibited from working in dangerous jobs such as in the chemical industry.
6- Children must be prohibited from planting and selling qat, which can have an adverse effect on a child’s behavior and future morals.
7- Wide alliances must be formed to include the government, employees and employers to address the problem of child labor.
B- Studies & Statistics
1- A data base must be established to document the extent of the child labor problem.
2- Statistical data-gathering must be horizontally expanded to include all production and service establishments in the country. Statistics units in public and private-sector establishments must be developed.
3- Full data must be provided by all public and private-sector establishments on their minor workers.
4- Studies and surveys must be intensified to ascertain the conditions and problems of working children.
C- Education, Training, & Awareness
1- Primary education and vocational training must be modernized and expanded through the following:
a- School curriculum must be unified and modernized to be compatible with the needs of the local labor market.
b- Compulsory education must be fully applied.
c- More state schools must be built, especially in disadvantaged areas.
2- A comprehensive national program to eradicate illiteracy must be planned and implemented.
3- Institutions for vocationally training the handicapped must be expanded and be well equipped.
4- Vocational training programs must be implemented for working children in all governorates.
5- Children’s legal rights must be taught at schools.
6- Media campaigns must be conducted for public awareness of the importance of child education.
7- Media programs directed to children must be modernized.
D- Health & Social Security
1- A system of primary health care must cover working children.
2- Free psychotherapy clinics should be opened to receive children suffering from social and psychological problems.
3- The government, charities, donor organizations, etc, must be called upon to established special centers for rehabilitating and training poor handicapped children.
4- Psychological rehabilitation programs must be adopted to integrate children into the rest of society.
5- Families of working children should be supported to start their own small projects that can be funded by the Social Development Fund and other official organizations.
6- A special mechanism must be established to protect abused, vagrant, orphaned, and handicapped children or those whose families are unable to support them.
7- Early-intervention programs must be adopted to protect children from being forced into labor.
8- The social security program must be expanded and developed so as to give all possible help to protect people from abject poverty.
9- Begging must be combated.
10- More centers for productive families must be opened and developed.