A position paper published by Jordan Labor Watch, which is a program run by the Phenix Center with the cooperation of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, confirmed that school closures and delays in returning students to school have contributed in the increased percentage of child labor in Jordan.
The position paper argued that the remote education programs implemented in Jordan during the Coronavirus pandemic for three semesters have increased the number of children at risk of child labor, as students no longer have to regularly attend school.
The paper was published on the occasion of the annual World Day against Child Labor, which is held every year on June 12. It warned against a delay in school re-opening, noting that students’ absence from long time entire school semesters could be a gateway to more children dropping out of school due to the challenges in re-integrating students in the educational system after a long period of absence.
The paper argued that increased rates of poverty in Jordan as a result of reduced wages has contributed to the rise of children participating in the labor market over the past several months. Other factors contributing to this rise include social inequality and injustice, and a lack of social protection program coverage for the most vulnerable members of society.
The paper commended existing national legislations aiming to combat child labor, while simultaneously calling for a comprehensive national legislation on the issue and noting that the Children’s Rights Act has been in the hands of the government for years without being formally passed.
Jordan’s legislations on child labor are clear. Article 73 of the Jordanian Labor Code and its amendments prohibit the employment of children under the age of 16, while article 74 allowed children between 16 and 18 years of age to work for no more than 36 hours a week in occupations that were not classified as hazardous. However, there is a failure to adequately enforce these regulations. For example, the Ministry of Labor was not required to inspect cases of children engaging in panhandling or working in market stalls.
The paper called for increased supervision on business both within the formal and informal sectors that are complicit in child labor, as well as for harsher punishments for employers that go beyond the existing fines. These measures would require legislative amendments that would act as a deterrent to those who illegally employ children.
The paper recommended that efforts to return children to school and to fill in the behavioral and academic gaps that have expanded among students over the course of the past year and a half must be intensified. Additionally, the paper emphasized the need to compensate students who were unable to access remote learning due to technical or economic difficulties. The paper stressed the importance of developing curricula for children who dropped out of school while taking into account their developmental needs. Moreover, improving the quality of the educational system during the basic schooling level and ensuring equitable access to remote learning to all students were both identified as priorities for the reduction of the rate of children dropping out from schools.
The paper called for the suspension of Defense Order No. 6, which reduced the wages of workers in the sectors most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. In combination with an absence of justice and equality in the application of social protection programs, this has contributed to children joining the labor market to contribute to the daily expenses of the family. The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations’ Children Fund (UNICEF) recorded a significant increase in the number of children working in the world during 2020 to 160 million, an increase of 8.4 million children compared to 2016, 79 million of whom are working in hazardous occupations. Child labor prevents children from exercising their right to a childhood, deprives them of the opportunity for education, often deprives them of receiving their right to health and nutrition, and as such impedes their access to basic human rights.