Millions of child workers in the Middle East, ILO reports

Millions of children working under age 18 in Middle East and North Africa, reveals new report
2 min read
10 June, 2021
A new report says millions of children are subjected to child labour in the Middle East and North Africa. It calls for immediate mitigation methods to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating child labour by 2025.
Almost 1 in 10 children were in jobs in the beginning of 2020 [Getty}

Millions of children in the Middle East and North Africa are in work, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF. 

Around 7,200,000 children aged under-18 in the region worked jobs, including 5.5 percent of all five to 11-year-olds, the ILO and UNICEF reported. a trend that could have a detrimental impact on their life opportunities and education.

The 88-page report noted these are among the 160 million under-18s working across the globe - a figure expected to increase by almost 9 million by 2022, in part due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

The bodies urged measures to be implemented by states and organisations to reduce the number of children in jobs rather than at school.

"These results constitute an important reality check in meeting the international commitment to end child labour by 2025," said the report. 

The Sustainable Development Globals, adopted in 2015 by UN member states, set the target of eliminating child labour by 2025. 

Up until 2016, there was a steady decline in child poverty, from 245.5 million in 2000 to 151.6 million in 2016.

The latest data shows that this progress has stagnated and "the Covid-19 crisis threatens to further erode global progress".

It suggested governments extend social protections for children and their families, providing universal access to free and good-quality schools, have every child registered at birth, and addressing gender norms and discrimination to help meet the 2025 targets. 

"If we do not muster the will and resources to act now on an unprecedented scale, the timeline for ending child labour will stretch many years into the future," the report added. 

The International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: "We have to answer to this. Parents don't want their kids to work. They are forced to do this in order to survive and because of the absence of quality education. No parent should have to make that choice."

The ILO's 2019 report painted a similarly stark picture of child labour in the Arab World.

It said war and displacement in Syria, Yemen and other countries had forced millions of children out of schools with some desperate parents sending their children to work in order to make ends meet.

"Over the past ten years, during which the region has witnessed high levels of armed conflict resulting in the mass displacement of populations - both within and between countries - the situation has certainly worsened," the report stated.

Sudan and Yemen showed the highest rates of under-18s employment, while war-torn countries in the region had also seen the use of child soldiers and detention of children.