CAIRO – 12 June 2017: The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002 to be celebrated on June 12 of each year. There are 168 million children engaged in child labor. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work environments, according to the ILO.
“The term ‘child labor’ is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development,” according to ILO. It also refers to work that deprives children from schooling or leaving school prematurely or combining long and heavy work with education.
Minimum Age Convention No. 138 set the minimum age for admission to employment as the age of education completion. Child labor falls under three categories. The first category is the “unconditional worst forms of child labor, which are internationally defined as slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labor, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities.”
The second category is the work of children below the legal age determined by states’ laws that should be aligned with accepted international standards. The third category is “hazardous work,” which compromises the physical, mental, and moral well-being of the child because of its nature or because of the work environment.
The eighth goal of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be achieved by 2030 is promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all, which aligns with the efforts of combating child labor.
The education completion age in Egypt is 15 years old. The minimum age for hazardous work and military recruitment is 18 years old.
There were 1.6 million children working in Egypt, according to a survey conducted by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) and the ILO in 2010.
In 2014, the World Food Program and the European Union reported that the number of employed minors in Egypt jumped to at least 2.7 million, according to
Secretary General of the Egyptian Coalition of Children’s Rights Hani Helal explained that the increase is due to government neglect under political and security deterioration that followed the January 25 Revolution, as Cairo Post reported.
According to UNICEF Egypt, 5.6 percent of these children work under hazardous conditions.
The worst forms of child labor in Egypt are concentrated in domestic work, forced begging as a result of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation as a result of human trafficking. Child labor in Egypt is the outcome of poverty and overpopulation that surpasses development efforts.
Egypt has endorsed all key international conventions on child labor such as ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor and Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, according to the Unites States Department of Labor, as the Unites States Department of Labor reported in 2015.
There are several institutions entitled to enforce laws pertinent to child labor, including the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Interior, the Prosecutor General’s office affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), and the Ministry of Local Administration and Development.
The Ministry of Labor receives and investigates child labor complaints, and conducts routine inspections. In the event of illegal child labor, cases are referred to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice for investigation and prosecution.
NCCM provides training for inspectors in the Ministry of Labor, receives child labor complaints on specific hotlines and grants different services to victims. The Ministry of Local Administration and Development administers child protection committees.
In 2015, Egypt put mechanisms into effect to coordinate government efforts on child labor, according to a Unites States Department of Labor report.
Those mechanisms include the National Coordinating Committee to Combat the Worst Forms of Child Labor, the National Coordination Committee on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Persons, child protection committees operating on a local level and educational working groups to improve access to education for Syrian refugee children.
Different Egyptian state institutions have been implementing programs in collaboration with international organizations to provide education, food security and different social services to victims, according to the Unites States Department of Labor. Those programs sometimes include grants by those organizations to finance those projects.
Minister of Labor Moahmed Saafan stated last week that roughly 23,316 children - 20,101 boys and 3,215 girls - were saved from child labor in 2016 through inspection campaigns of over 25,735 establishments. Of those establishments, only 19,321 are registered; the rest operate in the informal sector.
In collaboration with the U.N.’s World Food Program, Saafan said the Ministry executed a project to increase educational opportunities. The Ministry withdrew 110,000 children from the labor market and helped them join societal schools established and run by NGOs, as well as provided training for their mothers to generate income through medium small enterprises.
The Ministry also held 240 seminars in establishments around Egypt to raise the awareness of business owners as well as children of their labor rights.
Saafan said the Ministry plans to build a database for child labor on a national scale. There will also be an increase in inspection campaigns, especially in the sectors that most often hire children. The Ministry is working on developing child labor units in the governorates as well as finalizing the national plan for combating the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labor’ to start executing the plan.