Child Labour in the Arab States

© Sam Tarling/ILO
Both the causes of child labour and means to address it are complex and multi-faceted. In the Arab States, conflict, displacement, economic fragility, weakened service provision and lack of alternatives for family income and livelihoods, have contributed to the rise in child labour in the region. ILO studies show that the poorest countries in the region show the highest rates of child labour.

Though child labour is of different forms and magnitude across the region, the Arab States face some common technical and contextual challenges in relation to combating child labour. These include weak labour inspection capacity, inadequate referral mechanisms, scant research and data collection on child labour, and the difficulty in tackling hidden forms of child labour such as unpaid household services and domestic work, mainly affecting young girls.

ILO response in the Arab States

Arab states in the region are working with the ILO to address the causes and consequences of child labour. With ILO support, several countries in the region have adopted reforms to align national, legal and institutional frameworks with international labour standards, including those on child labour. To address the deficit in data on child labour, the ILO also supports countries through conducting research and establishing databases on child labour databases.

Child protection has now become a priority in several countries who are working to improve labour inspection and detection, while at the same time, ensuring referral mechanisms and alternatives such as non-formal and formal education, skills development and access to decent work, and working with older family members and parents on alternative livelihoods strategies.

With ILO support, several countries in the region now have National Action Plans on preventing and addressing child labour – plans which focus on eliminating the worst forms of child labour, including trafficking, slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, use of children in armed conflict and hazardous work, as well as identifying and tackling hidden forms of child labour such as unpaid household services and domestic work, mainly affecting young girls.

The ILO’s work in the region is guided by the principles enshrined in ILO Conventions on child labour, C138 - Minimum Age Convention, 1973 and C182 - Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, which all countries in the region have ratified.  These principles are implemented through the ILO's International Programme on Child Labour (IPEC) which works to achieve the abolition of child labour through strengthening the capacity of governments to address child labour in their countries, and promoting a worldwide movement to combat child labour.