The twin challenges of child labour and youth employment in the Arab states

ILO Regional Office for Arab States and Understanding Children's Work Programme


The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there were still some 144 million children aged 5-14 years at work worldwide in 2012, accounting for around 12 percent of total children in this age group. At the same time, also according to ILO estimates, of the 1.1 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years worldwide in 2005, one out of three was either seeking but unable to find work, had given up the job search entirely or was working but living on less than US$2 a day. The effects of child labour and youth unemployment are well-documented: both can lead to social vulnerability and societal marginalisation, and both can permanently impair productive potential and therefore influence lifetime patterns of employment and pay.

The issues of child labour and youth maginalisation are closely linked, pointing to the need for common policy approaches to addressing them. Youth employment outcomes are typically worst for former child labourers and other early-school leavers, groups with least opportunity to accumulate the human capital needed for gainful employment. Indeed, today's jobless or inadequately employed youth are often yesterday's child labourers. The link between child labour and labour market outcomes can also operate in the other direction: the poor labour market prospects of youth can reduce the incentive of households to invest in education earlier in the lifecycle. The child and youth populations also overlap - young persons above the minimum age of employment but below the age of majority are still legally children and therefore need to be protected from child labour.

This Report examines the related issues of child labour and youth marginalisation in the Arab States. It focuses in particular on the non-rich countries and territories covered by the ILO Regional Office for Arab States (i.e. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and the Occupied Palestinian Territory). All are conflict or conflict-affected societies where concerns relating to the well-being of child and youth are acute and where better information to inform policy is needed. All are also societies that have been affected directly and indirectly by the population movements known collectively as the Arab uprisings, and by the calls for social justice and decent work that are at the roots of these movements. The situation of children and youth in Syria since the outbreak of the war is beyond the scope of the current report. Clearly, however the massive disruptions and dislocations associated with the on-going political violence in the country have had a devastating impact on the country's children and youth, and measures to mitigate the impact are urgently needed.


A young girl is drawing water from a spring, and pouring water in a vase
ILO Regional Office for Arab States and Understanding Children's Work Programme
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