Yemen Discusses Child Labor [Archives:1998/20/Business & Economy]

May 18 1998

Marking International Labor Day, the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) in Yemen has organized a seminar on limiting child labor during 11-12 May, in cooperation with the FAFO Institute of Scientific Research and Studies in Norway.
The opening session was attended by Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani, Prime Minister, Mohammed Al-Tayyeb, Minister of Labor and Vocational Training, and many representatives of related government bodies, GFTU, and other NGOs, international organizations, the International Union of Construction and Timber Workers, the Federation of Trade Unions in Holland and the Federation of Trade Unions in Norway.
The 19 participants at the seminar were presented with a number of valuable studies:
– the results of a field survey on the conditions of child laborers in Yemen conducted by Mr. Bjorne Grimsrud of the FAFO;
– a Review of the GFTU Future Plans to Limit Child Labor in Yemen presented by Mr. Faysal M. Abduallh, the Deputy President of the GFTU;
– Future Policies of the International Labor Organization (ILO) presented by Mr. Geir Myrstad of the ILO;
– the National Policy to Limit Child Labor in Yemen presented by Mr. Ghazi Abdulrab of the Ministry of Labor; and
– the Conditions and Dangers of Child Labor in Yemen by Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Anisi of UNICEF.
Poverty was cited by the participants as the main cause of the rise in child labor. The factors that mainly cause poverty include social and educational difficulties, wars, natural disasters, migration, and rapid population growth. When children enter the labor market, they often use their legal, social and cultural rights – in the long run, increasing unemployment, changing the social structure and harming their health.
Therefore, the participants have expressed their concern regarding the rise in poverty, and stressed the need to expand the social safety network. The state’s five-year plan should also include special programs to help limit child labor and provide better education and health and social for Yemen’s children.
Mr. Geir Myrstad of the ILO, Geneva, told Yemen Times: “The ILO deals with the activities of governments, employees and employers alike. It aims to solve labor problems through contacts with local trade unions.
“The general survey conducted in Yemen will help the trade unions to better deal with the issues of child labor. The research conducted here will be published both in Arabic and English for the benefit of countries in the region and elsewhere in the world.
“We are now discussing the possibility of Yemen joining the International Program to Combat Child Labor. Trade unions in Yemen must play an active role in addressing the issue of child labor. In our experience, when there is a strong trade union, child labor becomes quite limited. Implementing short and long-term programs by the trade unions is crucial in this area.
“Child labor is a big and a quite complicated phenomenon, which needs the participation of several bodies to be properly tackled. The government, employer groups, trade unions and NGOs must all get involved.
“Yemen has taken very positive steps in this regard, and is fruitfully cooperating with the ILO and other international organizations for that end.”
Legal aspects
– Labor legislations in Yemen must be reviewed in accordance with the international Convention of the Rights of the Child and other regional and international agreements signed by Yemen.
– Yemen should apply to join the International Program to Combat Child Labor.
– Yemeni laws should be modified to be compatible with the Arab agreement of 1996 concerning juvenile labor.
– Swift measures must be taken to limit child labor in public and mixed-sector establishments.
– Children must be prevented from working in dangerous and risky industries.
– Children must be prevented from working in growing or selling qat.
Studies & Statistics
– A comprehensive database must be established to collate data on child labor in Yemen.
– Statistical work must be expanded to include all manufacturing and service establishments in all parts of Yemen.
– Studies and surveys must be conducted to ascertain the extent of this problem.
Education & Training
– The network of vocational training must be modernized and expanded.
– School curricula must be reviewed and brought up to date.
– Plans must be formulated to build more schools for children.
– Teachers should be well qualified.
– A national program to eradicate illiteracy must be adopted.
– Institutions to train and rehabilitate the handicapped must be supported and expanded.
– The legal rights of children must be taught at school.
– Media programs should be developed to raise public awareness on child labor issues.
Health & Social Care
– Health care systems for child laborers must be introduced by employers.
– Free psychiatric clinics must be opened to take care of children under social and psychological pressures.
– Local and international charities should be called on to open clinics and hospitals for poor people, and provide prosthetics for the handicapped.
– Supported labor programs must be introduced to help families and children establish small income generating projects.
– A support mechanism for children whose families are unable to support them or are abusing them must be introduced.
– Child-care homes must be established for both sexes.
– Early intervention programs must be introduced to protect children from being involved in labor.
– The social security program must be consolidated.
– Programs to combat poverty and delinquency must be implemented.
– Centers for producing families must be developed and expanded.
– Orphanages and homes for the