Egypt: Ending child labour, providing education
WORLD / Egypt – It’s no secret that child labour is a problem in Egypt. A 2010 International Labour Organisation and the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics report found that about 1.6 million children, or about 9.3 percent of children in the country, were child labourers, as defined by the international community. 10.5% – or 1.8 million children – were employed.
The IPO and CAPMAS report (download the report here) defines child labour as:
- children engaging in hazardous work,
- children working under the age of 12, or
- children between 12 and 14 who work more than 14 hours per week.
Eighty-nine percent of children in Egypt engaged in child labour work in hazardous conditions. Just over 6.5 percent of children engaged in child labour are under 12, and 4.1 percent were children between 12 and 14 years old working more than 14 hours per week.
Ending child labour
On the bright side, the European Union and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) implemented a project to end child labour and provide better access to education for children in danger of becoming workers on 22 September. The cost of the program is €60 million, and it is slated to last four years and service up to 100,000 children each year.
Ambassador James Moran, Head of the European Union Delegation in Egypt, said that there will be “particular emphasis on girls’ access to education.”
Much of the program will be situated in 16 governorates, which are mostly located in Upper Egypt. Children will get a snack at school of date bars every day to stave off hunger in the long term and give one quarter of their daily nutritional needs.
Attend school, get food ration
Children who attend school regularly in community schools will get a food ration to take home that makes up for the wages they would earn if they went to work in lieu of school. The program will also help about 50,000 households, mostly mothers, to begin income-generating work that will reduce the need for their children to work. According to Ahram Online in November 2013, “Egypt’s poverty rate has increased, reaching 26.3 per cent for the year 2012/13 compared with 25.2 percent in 2010/11, the state-run statistics agency CAPMAS.”
According to UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, 2.7 million children out of 11 million in the country work in the labour market. The IPO and CAPMAS study found that 13 percent of the school-age population has left school to work. Girls in rural areas were the most affected by lack of access to education.
More efforts needed
UNICEF’s press release about the program quotes WFP Representative and Country Director in Egypt Lubna Alaman as saying, “‘By providing food assistance and livelihoods incentives, we aim to encourage enrolment and, more importantly, retention in school of the most vulnerable children, especially girls. . .WFP is already supporting Egypt’s National School Feeding Programme, as a crucial safety net for the poorest households, and will additionally support government efforts to improve the legal framework on child labour.’”
Egypt moved forward in eliminating the worst kind of child labour in 2012. The government prosecuted its first child trafficking cases in 2010, and it implemented a referral mechanism for trafficking victims. Egypt also trained officials in child labour and trafficking. Work remains to be done in closing the gaps in legal and enforcement. This is particularly true in hazardous agriculture and domestic work, according to the U.S. Department of Labour website.