In the Arab States, children and young adults make up half the population of 280 million. An estimated 13.4 million, or about 15 per cent, of all children in the region are child labourers. The real level of child labour may be much higher, however, because of the predominance of child labour in the informal sector, which is difficult to measure. Work in the urban informal sector, seasonal agriculture, street work, domestic labour as well as are of particular concern. Gender inequality affecting the enrolment of girls in school is also an important issue influencing child labour.
One of the most predominant worst forms of child labour in the Arab States is child trafficking, and efforts to address the issue are underway in several countries. The Government of Yemen has signed trafficking agreements with neighbouring countries, provided training to security and border officials on how to recognize and care for trafficked children, raised awareness among parents about the dangers of child trafficking, and established a reception and rehabilitation centre on the border with Saudi Arabia for returned child victims. The United Arab Emirates is trying to return children involved in camel racing, many of them victims of trafficking, back to their home countries. The draft Constitution of Iraq includes prohibitions on trafficking of children.
IPEC is supporting the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen to adopt and implement an explicit child labour policy and to directly withdraw children from child labour in line with the objective to reach an end to the worst forms of child labour by the year 2016.