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Pandemic intensifies factors contributing to increased child labour in Jordan — JLW


The Jordan Times


AMMAN — Experts have warned that factors contributing to increased child labour have intensified in Jordan due to the coronavirus pandemic throughout the past six months, according to a Jordan Labour Watch (JLW) statement released on Thursday.  
In a panel discussion held online, organised by the Phenix Centre for Economic Studies, the participants said that the economic and social conditions have shadowed the regulations and policies to combat child labour, which have not stopped the increase of number of working children in Jordan.
The panel discussion, held to consider a paper titled “Child Labour and the novel coronavirus crisis”, is part of a series of discussions focused on the virus and the labour market, held by the Phenix centre, in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, according to the statement.
According to 2016 statistics, there are around 70,000 child labourers in the market, 45,000 of whom work in risky professions, Director of the Phenix Centre for Economic Studies Ahmad Awad said, noting that there are no updated figures. 
Awad attributed the increase of child labour in the Kingdom to the regression in social justice indicators, which resulted in implementing economic policies that have not taken social repercussions into consideration, rather than focusing on liberating national economy, as well as, austerity fiscal policies. 
The children in the paper, according to the definition in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child from 1989, are the ones who have not turned 18 years old yet, the statement said.
In this regard, children have been split into two categories: Those under 16 who should not be employed anywhere and the children between the ages of 16 and 18, who should only be allowed to work in jobs that pose no danger or health risks. 
The paper demanded building "a social protection structure" based on human rights, as well as, reconsidering “unfair tax policies”.
The paper also called for reconsidering economic policies that were implemented in the Kingdom in the past few decades, which have led to increasing unemployment and poverty rates, according to the statement. 
Moreover, the paper said that most of working children belong to underprivileged families, which pushes them to drop out of school and attempt to contribute to the family’s income to meet its basic needs.
“The coronavirus crisis increased poverty rates, which will lead more children to enter the labour market, especially with the remote learning systems that limit students’ commitment to attendance,” the statement said, quoting experts as saying that the education system needs to be improved during primary grades to decrease dropouts.
They also called for providing the means to distance learning equally to all students in the Kingdom, especially since the lockdowns, curfews, closures, salary cuts and lay-offs that were a result of Defence Orders and government announcements have made the financial conditions of many families more difficult than before, pushing their children to work in the labour market as well, and rendering the family unable to cope with the cost of keeping their children in school.
Child labourers are vulnerable to infection, and at many jobs they are being humiliated, as well as, abused verbally, mentally and physically during their work, in addition to many working in risky jobs that could injure them and cause disabilities, the statement quoted the participants as saying, highlighting the importance of updating data in detail on child labourers.
The attendees were representatives from the Ministry of Social Development, the Education Ministry, Save the Children, Queen Rania Foundation, UNICEF, CARE Jordan, Zamzam River Society for Training and Development, National Council for Family Affairs and the National Centre for Human Rights, the statement concluded.

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