Underway work plan,Would it deliver children from labour? [Archives:2005/840/Business & Economy]

May 9 2005

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
Due to difficult living circumstances, many Yemeni families push their children to labour markets to help them secure additional incomes for covering the requirements of life. This explains the reason behind increasing numbers of children engaged in labour markets, especially in the recent years.

Some studies estimate the number of children involved in labour market at about 400 thousands from both genders. A large number of them practice hard jobs in areas of construction, trade, blacksmith and agriculture. Others work on street sidewalks as street vendors, washing cars and such like jobs.

A study including one thousand children prepared by a Swedish organisation concerned with child care working in Yemen, revealed that 42% of children in labour markets work every day for periods ranging between 11 to 17 hours and 40% of them work for 6 to 10 hours a day. This situation is in violation of labour law issued in 1995. The article 45 of the law allows children to work what is defined of professions at a rate not exceeding seven hours a day or 42 hours a week and also prevents employment of children for more than four hours consecutively.

Concerning the jobs practiced by children, the study revealed that 28% of children work as peddlers therefore 25% of them are exposed to diseases resulting from weather changes, while about 7% of them are exposed to contagious diseases and more than 50% are liable to ethical abuses.

Another academic study had estimated the number of children working on the streets at 13 to 15 thousand, selling newspapers, water, household appliances, recording cassettes, fruits and vegetables as well as cleaning cars. The study prepared by Dr Rajih Al-Sheikh, the minister of industry and trade also indicated that 41% of those children sell agricultural and fish products on roads and are exposed to pursuit of municipality men.

Around 30 specialists in the area of childhood representing government ministries and institutions and civil society organisations have discussed at a workshop in Sana'a the national work plan aimed at curbing child labour.

That workshop is considered the first of a series of workshops to be held in eight governorates aimed at ensuring wider participation of various government and people parties concerned with children in order to enrich the national plan on fighting child labour in Yemen.

Participants in the workshop have emphasized importance of role of the state institutions and establishments in fighting this phenomenon and ending the worst forms of child labour. The participants have also agreed on the necessity of knowing the phenomenon with all of its characteristics, geographical concentration and expansion. They have also focused on studying it at sectoral and national level besides the study of other social factors affecting the child labour.

The participants also confirmed the partnership of the ministry of education in preparation and implementation of the national plan for fighting child labour, as student truancy from schools to labour markets are considered one of the tributaries of the problem of child labour and increase in number of working children.

The participants in the workshop have also deemed the phenomenon of child labour as not only a Yemeni one but also rather many of the developing and even developed countries are suffering from it. Pointing out that poverty is the major feeder of the growing of the phenomenon of child labour in Yemen.

The workshop has also reviewed the position of working children in Yemen and the government efforts for curbing it. In this regard, Dr Abdullah Basaheel, director of International Labour Organisation in Yemen said existing cooperation between the organisation and the government of Yemen for fighting work of children was continuous.

For this purpose, there would be a national workshop to transfer the recommendations to be reached by the eight workshops in governorates, starting from this workshop. Another workshop would also be held for the donors in order to define funding and its means for the implementation of the national strategy for fighting child labour through projects adopted by the strategy according to recommendations of the workshops.

It is to be indicated that this workshop, organized by the unit of fighting child labour at the ministry of social affairs and labour in collaboration with International Labour Organisation and the International Program for Fighting Child Labour, is considered the first of a series of workshops to be held for the same purpose, i.e. tackling this aggravating phenomenon among the children of Yemen.

The study considered that poverty was the main cause of the child labour phenomenon and it is the reason behind families depriving their children of attending schools or continuing their education because of their families' incapability of bearing the costs of schooling.

The Yemeni government endeavours to curb this phenomenon and protect children against exploitation they are exposed to by employers. The aim is also to protect them against dangerous jobs and the worst forms of labour. The government endeavour is done through drawing a strategy to which all government institutions, civil society organisations and private organisations are contributing to.

That strategy is meant to include all aspects related the phenomenon of child labour and is expected to be easily implemented as it is springing from reality with participation of the society forces.