Their number is 1.6 million, according to the latest research. Will Egypt succeed in eliminating child labor? | Policy

Cairo- In the villages of Egypt and in the popular neighborhoods of Cairo, child labor is widespread, whether in agriculture or in crafts and service jobs, a phenomenon that increases in times of economic crisis, and successive governments have sought to eliminate it for decades.

The latest of these efforts was the Ministry of Manpower’s announcement last week that it would complete within two years of the implementation of a plan it announced some four years ago to eliminate child labour, and despite the government’s announced efforts in this regard, skepticism is emerging from those concerned about the effectiveness of these official efforts.

The leaders of the Ministry of Human Resources participated in a meeting – held a few days ago – where a national plan to combat the worst forms of child labor and support families was discussed, in cooperation with the International Labor Organization.

The head of the Central Department of External Relations at the Ministry of Manpower, Amal Abdel-Mawgoud, said that successive crises – such as the Corona pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine – put a lot of pressure on the family, explaining that children always bear the brunt of these crises.

In the speech she delivered during the meeting on behalf of the Minister of Labor, she assessed that the implementation activities of the national plan are a roadmap for combating the occurrence of child labor in the country and providing comprehensive protection to the child and his family.

National plan

In July 2018, the Ministry of Manpower and the Cairo office of the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the National Plan to Combat the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Egypt and Support Families (2018-2025).

In his speech during the celebration of the launch of the national plan, the former Minister of Manpower, Mohamed Saafan, said that child labor is a crime that must be stopped, highlighting the government’s effort to improve the Egyptian family and provide them with adequate income to free themselves from child labor.

The plan identified the worst forms of child exploitation, which it said were akin to slavery; such as the sale of children and forced or compulsory labor, the use, employment or display of a child for the purpose of prostitution or the production of pornography, and the use of children in the practice of illegal activities such as the production of drugs, as well as acts that cause harm to the health and psyche of children.

Agriculture, mines, quarries, brick making and other construction jobs, street work and domestic work are the worst forms of child labor and the most common in Egypt, according to the national plan.

The implementation strategy of the plan is based on several axes, and is reflected in the establishment of a documented and sustainable database on child labor and its worst forms, the establishment of national and regional coordinating bodies to combat child labor, and the updating of the list of hazardous occupations.

Poverty and deteriorating economic conditions push children into the labor market (Al-Jazeera)

Old documentation

The Egyptian government has no recent documentation on the reality of child labor. The last national survey in this regard was conducted by the Central Agency for Public Promotion and Statistics in 2010. Apart from official research, hundreds of thousands of children working in various industries do not go unnoticed on the streets of the country.

According to the latest survey, there are 1.6 million working children in Egypt, which is about 9.3% of children in Egypt, and 82.2% of them are exposed to work in poor and unsafe working conditions.

The percentage of children who work more than 6 hours a day is about 16.9% of the total number of working children.

The rate of child labor is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, since agriculture represents the sector that most attracts child labor with 63% of the total child labor force, followed by the mining, construction and manufacturing sectors with 18.9%, and the service sector with 17 .6%.

According to data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, the number of children up to the age of 18 – in the middle of this year – reached 41.5 million children, of which 21.4 million are men and 20 million are women, of which 25.3 million live in Croatia. villages.

Child labor is not a local problem but a global one. According to a report published by the United Nations Children’s Fund in cooperation with the International Labor Organization, in 2020, 160 million children in the world were classified as child labor.

The report – released in June 2021, titled “Child Labour: Global Estimates to 2020, Trends and Way Forward” – states that around 79 million children work in hazardous jobs that threaten their health, safety and moral development.

The areas of child labor vary between mining, fishing, domestic services and industry, but child labor in rural areas is still more common. 122.7 million children work in rural areas compared to 37.3 million children in urban areas.

Children have nothing but dreams to escape the harsh reality. Image specially for Al-Jazeera Net
Poverty leads to dropping out of education and the tendency of children to work to help their families (Al-Jazeera)


Far from the reality of streets full of working children, there are various laws and regulations that prevent and regulate child labor in Egypt.

Article 80 of the Egyptian constitution states that the state is committed to the care and protection of children from all forms of violence, abuse, mistreatment, and sexual and commercial exploitation.

And last January, the Egyptian parliament approved a new labor law, which included child-related provisions, and was considered “legislation” for child labor under the age of 18 at the time.

The articles of the new law included a ban on employment of children before the age of 15, with the permissibility of their training until the age of 14 in a way that does not interfere with the continuation of their education, with the obligation to attend school. to the employer who employs persons under the age of 16, issue them with a work card for him.

It is also prohibited to employ children for more than 6 hours a day, with one or more periods for eating and rest, so that the child does not work for more than 4 hours consecutively, with the prohibition of additional work or work on holidays. , and in all cases work is prohibited between seven in the evening and seven in the morning.

Although the law provides for labor inspection mechanisms, it excludes the purely agricultural sector, which includes the majority of working children.

formal efforts

The government confirms its efforts to eliminate the phenomenon of child labor through the steps and decisions it takes, including:

  • Issuance of Ministerial Resolution no. 215 from 2021 on the list of dangerous jobs and occupations in which it is prohibited to employ and train children under the age of 18, such as the oil, asphalt, tobacco and plastic industries, construction works, domestic services and shipping.
  • Establishment of a unit for combating child labor at the Ministry of Human Resources in order to monitor all problems and obstacles and work on solving them, along with the formation of sub-units in governorates at the level of the Republic.
  • Issuance of a guide to public services for child protection and family support in the targeted provinces, which aims to familiarize citizens with the services that ministries and various agencies provide to families, including health, education and social services.
  • Organization of awareness raising seminars by the inspection team in the manpower administrations.

development for the abolition of child labor


There are challenges that pose an obstacle in reducing the phenomenon of child labor, according to a report published by the Egyptian Center for Think Tank and Strategic Studies. The first is the economic dimension, especially with the constant growth of the population, which results in a decrease in GDP per capita, and thus in a decrease in the standard of living. This leads to dropping out of education and lack of social protection, which pushes children into the labor market.

The social dimension presents another challenge – according to the research report entitled “Development for the abolition of child labor” – where the problems of family breakdown force children to work in order to escape from their homes, along with the children’s modest cultural level. family, and low educational level of parents Family work as a priority in relation to education.

The third challenge refers to the employer who employs children because of low wages, with the waiver of conditions and obligations related to health and social insurance and taxes, and provides them with appropriate working terms and conditions.

The report mentions several obstacles that worsen the phenomenon of child labor and that must be overcome through:

  • Updating data on child labor in Egypt for a more realistic study of this phenomenon.
  • Provide data on the number of children involved in household work, and provide a system of control and supervision of this type of work.
  • Expanding the social protection umbrella to ensure that low-income families do not resort to child labor and ensure that they are not diverted from the educational process.
  • Paying attention to the training of specialized human resources in the field of child protection in general, and child labor in particular.
  • Amendments to laws that allow child labor in the field of agriculture.
  • To involve civil society organizations more in the process of solving the phenomenon of child labor.
  • Provision of alternative vocational education centers for working children who have left the educational process.
Egyptian government aims to eliminate child labor by 2025 (Al-Jazeera)

Conditional work

In this context, the head of the Center for Family and Social Counseling Osrati, Manal Khader, praised the government’s efforts to protect children from the dangers of work, emphasizing at the same time that the government’s economic policies are what worsens the phenomenon of child labor.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Khader said that providing an economically secure life for a child is a priority before making plans and laws to prevent the phenomenon of child labor, noting that the economic conditions of many Egyptian families do not allow their children to attend school.

The poverty rate in Egypt is 29.7%, according to the latest census of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

She added that school has become a burden on the family; The cost of education has increased despite free education, so it has become necessary for the student to attend private lessons, which leads to dropping out of school and then entering the labor market.

She explained that Egypt is among the highest in the country with regard to the dropout rate of students, and the number of students who left education in the primary and preparatory stages in 2021 reached about 68 thousand students.

Despite the risks of child labor, the family counselor noticed a positive aspect that can be dealt with in certain conditions, explaining that work refines the child’s personality, teaches him to take responsibility, gives him life experience and a future career.

And it stipulates that “work must be in accordance with the child’s age and without coercion, and not cause stress or fatigue, but the child finds satisfaction in it”.

Khader pointed out that the Egyptian government had, in previous periods, granted exceptional leave to students in rural areas known for cotton cultivation to help their families with the cotton harvest.

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