The Jordan Labor Watch, affiliated to the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, has warned of an increase in child labor in Jordan due to a rise in poverty and unemployment rates, and to the ongoing distance learning implemented as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, it called for a review of the various economic and educational policies that are being applied in Jordan during the COVID-19 crisis.
On the 20th of November, on the occasion of the International Children’s Day, the Jordan Labor Watch issued a position paper stating that the number of children joining the labor market is increasing significantly, and most of them belong to poor families driven by the necessity to send their children to work in order to guarantee the household’s basic need.
The paper emphasized that the COVID-19 crisis increased the poverty rates in Jordan, which will continue to lead to higher numbers of children entering the labor market, especially in light of the implementation of the distance education policy, where students are not forced to attend their schools anymore. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that the Darsak platform, which provides distance education services to students in public schools, reaches only 70% of students, while 30% of them, corresponding to an estimated 440,000 children, are still unable to attend online classes.
The Jordan Labor Watch showed that the distance education policy, adopted by the government as an attempt to limit the spread of the COVID-19, facilitated the process of children joining the labor market to provide their vulnerable families with additional income to meet their basic needs. As data indicate, child labor will increase significantly due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic and social consequences, including also a dramatic increase in the unemployment and, consequently, in poverty rates.
Furthermore, the position paper indicated that there are no new studies on the COVID-19 crisis’ effects on child labor in Jordan, where the last official statistical indicators issued in 2016 showed that there are approximately 70,000 children in the labor market in violation of all Jordanian and international standards, and 45,000 of them work in dangerous occupations.
The paper explained that the increase in child labor in Jordan was caused by social inequalities and disparities, in addition to the decline in social justice indicators. The latter mainly resulted from the implementation during the past decades of economic policies focused on liberalizing the national economy and carrying on various austerity policies, without taking into account the related socio-economic effects.
Working children are exposed to psychological, physical and sexual abuse during their work, and those working in high-risk jobs are vulnerable to work injuries that can cause them disabilities. Furthermore, such violence leaves many children with a sense of injustice, which often leads them to deviate or rebel against the law.
The Jordan Labor Watch pointed out that continuing to ignore the expanding phenomenon of child labor will affect children first and foremost, depriving them of their right to education and training in a safe environment avoid of psychological and physical risks. Furthermore, it will also lead to the expansion of unskilled workers in the future.
The paper called for the need to improve the educational process during the primary stage to limit children’s dropouts from school, providing an appropriate educational environment for children. On the one hand, it is of utmost importance to study the consequences of the absence of “face-to-face learning” and of the “distance learning” system used in most schools in the Kingdom, on the other hand, it must be ensured that the means of “remote education” are available to all students in the Kingdom.
The Jordan Labor Watch emphasized the need to tighten official institutions’ supervision over places where child labor is concentrated, implement laws that prohibit child labor effectively, set severe penalties against violators instead of small fines, in addition to initiate awareness campaigns on the negative effects of child labor on children and their families.
The paper also recommended abolishing the Defense Order No. 6 and its annexes, in order for wages to return to their normal levels before the crisis firstly, and then increasing salaries to guarantee families with decent life standards.
The paper indicated that Labor Law No. (8) of 1996 and its amendments, prohibit the employment of children and minors, as Article (73) stipulates that children under the age of 16 are not to be employed in any job, and Article (74) prohibits the employment of children under 18 in hazardous or harmful work.