Report to Help Prevent Child Labor

Report to Help Prevent Child LaborReport to Help Prevent Child Labor

The Secretariat of the High Council of Welfare and Social Security at the Ministry of Labor, Cooperatives and Social Welfare, has prepared a report on “Child Labor and Economic Vulnerability”.

“The report has been compiled after examining pertinent international case studies with the purpose of looking at factors responsible for the growth of child labor across the world, and establishing policies to tackle it,” in Iran, said Rouzbeh Kardouni, head of the Social Vulnerabilities Office at the ministry, ISNA reported.

It builds on similar reports published by the International Labor Organization.

The report, to be published soon, will be “instrumental for researchers, social scientists and policymakers and civil rights activists to make headway in addressing the issue of working children.”

Further cooperation among NGOs, the government, academia, and media can help boost the success of policies to alleviate and eliminate child labor, he said.

Kardouni said another report on the secretariat’s measures taken so far to support children in forced labor will be published by the ministry soon.

According to the World Bank, there are 1.7 million children in forced labor in Iran (reportedly mostly Afghans), and 168 million worldwide.

  Underlying Factors

The report assesses the implications of the continuous pervasive poverty and the growing economic volatility in the global fight against child labor. Based on empirical studies, economic vulnerability associated with poverty, and “negative shocks” in economic development play a key role in determining whether or not children should work, says the report cited by Mehr News Agency.

It is important to note that social protection constitutes just one pillar of a comprehensive policy response to child labor, alongside policies concerning education, labor markets, basic services, advocacy, communication, social mobilization and other issues, it stresses.

Child labor is a symptom of poverty as cross-country data shows that it is most pervasive in countries where income levels are among the lowest. The World Bank estimated that in 2008, prior to the global economic crisis, around 1.29 billion people, accounting for 22% of the total population in the developing world, lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 per day.

But poverty is by no means the only cause of child labor and a policy response focused only on poverty reduction is unlikely to be successful. Other factors, beyond low incomes alone, are also in play.

For instance, more accessibility and better-quality education is important. If there are no or few decent work opportunities for young people graduating from universities, there is little incentive for families to invest in their children’s higher education.

Inadequate basic services can mean that children must assume a greater burden of labor. If families are insufficiently aware of the benefits of schooling (or of the hazards and the health and developmental costs of child labor), or if prevailing societal attitudes are tolerant of child labor, children are less likely to be in the classroom and more in in the workplace.

  3m Out of Schools in Iran

According to official statistics by the Majlis (parliament) Research Center, as many as 3 million or 22% of Iranian children under the age of 18 are not attending school (not registered or dropped out for various reasons), while unofficial sources put this number at six million. At least half of these children (1.5 million) are estimated to be in the work force.  

Based on a 2015 study by the State Welfare Organization most of these children are engaged in routine work, in particular street vending (73.2%), porterage (6.8%) and playing music (6.4%) or semi-routine work of garbage rummaging and collecting waste (9.6%) and panhandling (5.7%). A very small number of children (2%) are also engaged in the drug trade and pick-pocketing.

In 2013, children’s rights activist Ali Akbar Esmailpour told ILNA that the issue of child labor in Iran is far worse than reported, stressing that the government has failed to accurately report on just how many children work in sweatshops in Iran.

The sixth parliament (2000-2004) passed a law that exempted workshops with fewer than 10 employees from stringent labor laws. This is why the Labor Ministry says it cannot be held accountable for child workers in such workshops.

Another critical factor is sound national legislation in line with international legal instruments. Legislation also helps create a common understanding of what child labor is, according to the report.

Iran has not ratified international conventions defining a minimum age for work, but has set its own rules to prevent child labor. Under Iranian law, child labor is prohibited until the age of 15, but the loopholes help the exploitation of children.

Domestic work is excluded from the law, which means many children could be employed at home or in local workshops without any legal ramifications. Additionally, classifications in all reports by the Statistical Center of Iran have a minimum age limit of 10 for economic participation.

Not only is there no definition for street children or a clear age limitation for childhood, but there are various definitions of the age of childhood for various issues: marriage, labor, etc. Non-governmental organizations say that Iranian law needs to change in order to protect the rights of working children, and that there needs to be a clear legal definition for street children and child labor.

  National Policy Response

The report further stresses that “a national policy response to child labor needs to be cross-sectoral and comprehensive, addressing in an integrated manner the full range of reasons why children work.

How households value the contribution, in monetary and non-monetary terms, of children’s schooling and work to their welfare depends largely on the cultural and social values of the community. Child labor is an activity aimed at increasing current income while education is an investment in generating future income.

Poverty constrains a household’s ability to invest in education. In other words, in order to meet their basic day-to-day needs, poor households are more likely to send their children to work, thereby forgoing the higher future benefits that will be gained from investing in their children’s education.

Such children enter adulthood lacking the skills needed for decent work, leaving them much more vulnerable to joblessness or to low-productivity, low-wage and insecure jobs in their working lives. Child labor thus has broader consequences for national development. It compromises productive capacity of workers during adulthood and thereby obstructs both economic growth and efforts to reduce poverty.