Towards a child labour-free Jordan

Leaving a life of child labour behind

How a Jordanian teenager quit working as a car mechanic and returned to full-time education.

Feature | 14 August 2013
AMMAN (ILO News) – While other teenagers were in school studying, playing and making friends, Nabeel was carrying out grimy, backbreaking work in a sweltering hot auto-repair shop in the sprawling, underprivileged industrial city of Rusaifah, Jordan.

Although only 14, Nabeel had sought work early in life after facing problems at school. The legal age for work in Jordan is 16.

“One day I decided to go out and look for a job and I found one at the garage,” he explains. “At first, my parents didn’t know. But when they found out, my father went to my employer and told him to take good care of me. I was paid JD 3 a day (US$4.2), which I gave to my father.’’

An ILO-supported national survey, carried out in Jordan in 2007, found that more than 33,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were child labourers. This figure is thought to have increased since the onset of the global economic crisis and with the rise in Syrian refugees fleeing to Jordan.

“Many of these children are missing out on school in order to help their families financially,” says government labour inspector Shawkat Al-Eswid. “Poverty and hardship are key factors affecting child labour trends in the country.”

Towards a child labour-free Jordan
In 2011, Jordan adopted the National Framework to Combat Child Labour which through coordinated efforts is tackling the problem of child labour in the Kingdom.


Back to school

Children who drop out of school to work rarely get the chance to return to the classroom. But Nabeel is now back in full-time education, thanks to the National Framework to Combat Child Labour, a government initiative supported by the ILO.

“I am so happy to be back in school,’’ he says. “At the garage, I used to work 12 long hours in the hot sun without much to eat. Now I go to school for about five hours a day and I am free to spend the rest of my time as I would like to.’’

Getting Nabeel back into school was a team effort, from the social worker who closely assessed his needs, to the labour ministry inspector who made clear Jordan’s child labour laws to Nabeel’s employer.

“ We want to help children under the age of 18 to have a normal life away from illegal employment,” stresses Asma Robo, Behavioral Observer from the Rusaifah Directorate of the Ministry of Social Development.

For its part, the ILO is offering its expertise to help improve the overall coordination of the National Framework to Combat Child Labour, which includes enhancing child labour case referral systems and the creation of a database that will allow children who have been employed illegally to be tracked by government ministries and public bodies.

The database collects information from three ministries – Education, Labour and Social Development – on the child and her or his family and can be accessed by them and other national partners.

“Strengthening case management systems is critical to setting up an effective child labour monitoring system,” says Nick Grisewood, Chief Technical Adviser of the ILO project Moving Towards a Child Labour Free Jordan. “Nabeel’s case shows the positive impact of such systems once they are in place and functioning.”

Family support

After assessing Nabeel’s family situation and convincing him to return to school, the Ministry of Social Development and his school principle are working with the teenager and his family to ensure that he remains in full time education.

“We are integrating our efforts to try and help these children, by either putting them back in school and with their friends, or providing their families with financial support through relevant institutions and programmes,’’ explains Ahmad Armoush, Head of the General Education Department Directorate of Rusaifah.

So far, around 50 cases of child labour have been identified in Rusaifah since March 2013 and are now being assisted. An additional 10 have been identified in central Mafraq.

These pilot implementation activities of the National Framework to Combat Child Labour will serve as models that can be replicated across Jordan, and possibly the region.

The programme aims to give hope to thousands of children who, like Nabeel, want to enjoy their childhood before turning their minds to finding productive and rewarding employment as adults.

‘’When I grow up I want to work in fitting air-conditioning units,” Nabeel says. “And I want people to know that I can now write and read and that I have an education.”

*The ILO project ”Moving Towards a Child Labour Free Jordan”, funded by the US Department of Labor, is the first of its kind to be undertaken by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), with its focus on supporting the government and national partners in the practical implementation of policy frameworks relevant to child labour.