INVESTIGATION: Distressed Economy Drives Jordanian Children To Work
Location: Amman, Jordan
Source: A24 Jordan
Restriction: A24 subscribers
Jordan’s children are joining the kingdom’s workforce in record numbers even as the kingdom records an official adultunemployment rate of 24 percent.
A24 News Agency puts a human face on these statistics by interviewing victims, including fourteen-year-old Mahmoud Ibrahim.
He works in a car parts store.
“I am the breadwinner in my home,” said Ibrahim. “I work to support my family and provide for basic needs such as food and drink.
In 2016, the country’s Labor Ministry counted 76,000 working youth between the ages of 5 and 17. By last year, that number grew to 100,000 kids, according to official sources.
Ironically, government officials last week proposed closing the Labor Ministry as a part of a series of measures to reverse the decline in foreingn investment which fell sharply from a $3.6 billion peak in 2006 to $726 million in 2021 according to UN data.
The interviewees say they face dangerous risks, and it is clear they pay a psychological cost for their early assumption of the responsibility of providing for their families and the loss of their basic right to education.
Labor leader, Hamada Abu Nijmeh, attributes the surge of nearly 200,000 adults due to the pandemic-induced closures.
Those layoffs exacerbated a preexisting high poverty rate which now stands at slightly over twenty four per cent.
- Soundbite (Mahmoud Ibrahim / 14 years old / – a child working in a car parts store):
“I am the breadwinner in my home. I work to support my family and be able to provide for basic needs such as food and drink. I just don’t want to sit at home thinking about the lack of money.”
- Soundbite (Abdul Rahman Sedky / 17 years old / – a worker in a car-painting workshop):
“Although I work myself in order to avoid asking people for help and money, they never leave us alone. Should we steal to please them? If you steal, you will be imprisoned. We can hardly support our families. We only earn five JDs at the end of the day. We are confused as to what such a sum of money can afford. Is it sufficient to meet the needs of my mother, father, or my sisters? Is it sufficient to buy medicine for my brother? Bitterly, I may eventually tear it apart.”
- Soundbite (Ratib Ezzat / 14 years old / a child worker collecting and selling scrap metal):
I am fourteen years old, roaming neighborhoods and streets amid dangerous cars, walking between trucks and vans collecting empty metal, iron, and aluminum cans. After that, I start sorting it out in order to sell it to provide for my family.”
- Soundbite (Hassan Al-Hunaiti – owner of a car wash, whose child is working with him):
“I have four daughters, and one son who works with me, because I cannot pay workers’ wages. I asked my son to work with me to help his mother because I alone cannot provide for all their needs.”
- Soundbite (Muhammad Al-Hunaiti / 14 years old / a child working in a car wash):
“I am exposed to many dangers in my workplace. One day, a worker pointed a hose into my eyes while I was working, so I lost my sight for more than four days. One time I was run over by a car I was cleaning.”
- Soundbite (Izzat al-Khatib – father of children who collect and sell scrap metal):
“I do not force my children to work with me but they know that our financial situation is bad and that I cannot provide for all their needs. Therefore, each of them brings a big bag in which they collect empty aluminum cans and plastic cans, to sell for two and a half or three JDs.”
- Soundbite (Ali Al-Tubasi – owner of a car parts store):
“Young people between 16 and 17 years old come to us asking for a job accompanied by their parents, but we refuse because our work is hard and hazardous. Heavy car parts may fall on the child and harm him and us. We also refuse to hire those under the legal working age. Many children ask to work for trivial wages estimated between four and five dinars per day.”
- Soundbite (Sultan Abu Hatab – owner of a car parts store):
“Because of the increase in poverty and unemployment in Jordan, people are forcing their children to work for small amounts of money. Young children come to us to work at very low wages.
- Soundbite (Hamada Abu Nijmeh, head of Workers’ House Center and former Secretary-General of the Ministry of Labor):
“The number of child laborers in Jordan currently exceeds 100,000. In 2016, the last official study showed that there are about 70,000 child laborers in Jordan. That number has definitely changed from that year to now, due to the pandemic and the shutdowns that have accompanied it. Also, large numbers of citizens lost their jobs, which contributed to the increase.”
NOTE: WORKERS’ HOUSE is a non-profit, non-governmental organization in Jordan that seeks to improve working conditions in direct cooperation with workers, employers, the government, civil society organizations and international organizations. Its vision is to ensure fair labor relations that preserve workers’ rights and provide a healthy work environment and balanced labor legislation in line with international labor standards.