On the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, the Jordanian Labor Watch, affiliated with the Phenix Center for Economic and Information Studies, released a position paper calling for a review of the “unfair” economic policies that have led to an increase in child labor in Jordan.
The paper highlights that the majority of child laborers come from poor families who are forced to send their children to work in order to meet basic household needs, exacerbated by increasing poverty rates.
The position paper, released on the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour,which falls on June 12 every year, criticizes the government’s efforts to combat child labor for failing to address the root cause of the issue.
It points out that economic policies implemented over the past decades have focused on liberalizing the national economy while imposing unfair fiscal and tax policies. These measures have strained the purchasing power of many families, and combined with low wages, they have played a pivotal role in driving child labor. Furthermore, the prices of essential goods and services periodically increase due to recent inflation.
According to Labor Watch, this situation has led to a decline in living standards for a significant portion of Jordanian families. Official indicators related to poverty in Jordan demonstrate an upward trend, with rates rising from 13.3% in 2008 to 14.4% in 2010, 15.5% in 2017, and reaching 24% last year, according to government estimates.
Despite the Jordanian labor law prohibiting the employment of individuals under the age of 16 in any form, and further prohibiting the employment of children aged 16-18 in hazardous work, the reality contradicts these regulations, as highlighted in the paper.
The latest available statistics from the National Child Labor Survey in Jordan, conducted in 2016, revealed that nearly 76,000 children are engaged in economic activities, with 60% of them involved in hazardous work. This includes working with dangerous machinery, tools, or heavy loads, enduring long hours or night shifts, as well as working in unhealthy environments such as landfills and recycling plants.
Labor Watch anticipates that these numbers have increased due to several factors, notably exacerbated social inequality and injustice resulting primarily from the implementation of economic policies that disregard their social consequences and impacts. Additionally, the effects of the COVID-19 crisis which also played a role in this increase.
Another contributing factor, according to the paper, is the inadequate educational environment in public schools, which contributes to a rising number of children dropping out.
The position paper recommends the need to reassess the social protection system to ensure fairness and provide a decent standard of living for all citizens, especially those in poverty. It further suggests reconsidering wage levels to align with the cost of living in Jordan.
Additionally, the paper calls for stricter oversight by relevant authorities in places where child labor, particularly hazardous work, is prevalent. It emphasizes the importance of enforcing laws, regulations, and penalties against violators, instead of settling for minor fines. Raising awareness campaigns regarding the detrimental effects of child labor should also be implemented.
In conjunction with the release of the position paper, the Labor Watch announced an online campaign titled “Children Not Laborers,” scheduled to run from June 10th to June 15th.