Last Updated: Monday, 23 May 2016, 07:53 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Yemen

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Yemen, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 1999:5,936,728
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 1999:11.1
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 1999:11.2
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 1999:11.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 1999:
     – Agriculture92.0
     – Manufacturing1.0
     – Services6.2
     – Other0.8
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:87.3
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:75.2
School attendance, children 6-14 years (%), 1999:55.1
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:66.3
ILO Convention 138:6/15/2000
ILO Convention 182:6/15/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

A 2003 study by UCW estimated that 87 percent of working children in Yemen work within the family environment. The majority of working children are found in agricultural sectors, including in the production of qat – a mild narcotic that is legal in Yemen. Children working in agriculture are confronted with hazardous conditions and activities, including the use of pesticides and heavy equipment, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, and carrying heavy loads. Children also work in hazardous conditions in rock quarries and mines, building, painting, auto shops, welding and glass shops, factories, construction, offshore fishing, garbage collection, and begging. Children are involved in drug and alcohol smuggling, serve as loan guarantees, and are engaged in prostitution. Children are employed in domestic service and restaurants where they are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Male street children sell clothes and small appliances, act as porters, collect fares on buses, or wash cars.

Children are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation, labor, and forced begging. The commercial sexual exploitation of girls as young as 15 years has been reported in the Governorates of Mahweet, Aden, and Ta'iz. Children are also trafficked internationally for commercial sexual exploitation and, primarily boys, are trafficked to Saudi Arabia for begging, forced labor, or street vending. Reports indicate that these children sell basic commodities, and smuggle qat, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia, and that a high percentage of these children are sexually abused. According to USDOS, there are reports that Somali girls are trafficked to Yemen for commercial sex work.

Children are allowed to carry weapons and reportedly participate in ongoing conflicts among tribal and family groups. According to USDOS, there are reports of child soldiering in Saada Governorate.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum working age in Yemen is 15 years. A 2004 Ministerial Decree allows children between 13 and 15 years to perform light work that does not interrupt their attendance at school. The Decree prohibits the exploitation of children, as well as hazardous or "socially damaging" working conditions. The Decree also limits the work hours of children 15 to 17 years to 6 hours per day between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a break period of 1 hour after 4 consecutive hours worked. Additionally, employers must grant 24 hours of compulsory paid rest and must also grant annual leave to every working child ages 15 to 17 years. A 2002 law contains similar conditions for working hours for children who are at least 14 years, limiting work to 6 hours a day on weekdays. According to USDOS, the law exempts children working for their parents. Penalties for noncompliance with child labor laws include fines and imprisonment up to 3 months.

Children under 18 years are prohibited from entering the Armed Forces.

The law does not specifically criminalize trafficking. Kidnapping is punishable by up to 7 years in prison, and kidnapping cases involving sexual assault or murder are punishable by the death penalty. The law stipulates a prison sentence of 5 to 8 years for anyone who pushes or incites a child to engage in drug trafficking; the prison term may be doubled for repeat offenders. Yemen law also stipulates a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for those who force a child into prostitution, and a term of 10 to 15 years for those who buy or sell a child. While the Government did not report any human trafficking cases in 2008, in February 2009, authorities from the Ministry of Interior arrested 4 people attempting to smuggle 12 children to Saudi Arabia. In 2008, a center for repatriated trafficked children in Hajja Governorate received 500 children, and another in Sana'a received 83. There are reports that child sex tourists come to Yemen from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

The Child Labor Unit of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOSAL) is responsible for implementing and enforcing child labor laws, and has 20 child labor monitors throughout the country. However, these inspectors can no longer perform site visits because their travel budget has been eliminated. According to USDOS, the Government's enforcement of these laws is limited due to a lack of resources in both urban and rural areas, and violations are rarely reported.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government addresses child labor concerns in its third 5-Year Plan for Socioeconomic Development (2006-2010), the National Poverty Reduction and Childhood and Youth Strategy, and the 2007 National Policy and Program Framework (NPPF). The NPPF aims to harmonize domestic legislation with international standards regarding child labor, strengthen national capacity, and increase awareness. In February 2009, as part of the Government's 2007 National Strategy for Secondary Education, the Ministry of Education launched the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project, which targets 9 provinces. The Project aims to provide equal educational opportunities for girls and boys and bridge the gap between rural and urban children.

In 2008, the Child Labor Unit of MOSAL distributed anti child labor posters, banners, stickers, and t-shirts and held 18 training workshops in Sana'a, Ta'iz, and Sayun for governorate officials. The Ministry of Information produced public service announcements on child labor that were broadcast on 60 different radio stations and 5 television stations.

In August 2008, the Government approved a 3-year National Action Plan (NAP) to combat child trafficking. According to USDOS, informal estimates suggest that fewer children were trafficked from Yemen to Saudi Arabia in 2008 perhaps due to "increased public awareness of the dangers related to child labor." The NAP includes engaging imams and community leaders in awareness campaigns. The Government has asked the Government of Saudi Arabia to sign a joint MOU to increase cooperation on anti-trafficking measures and is targeting resources to the border Governorates of Hajja and Saada. The Government provides training for border guards on how to recognize trafficking; the last training was held in June 2008. The government also provides some services for medical and psychological care for child trafficking victims and arranges for free medical care for trafficked children and child laborers at a hospital in Sana'a. However, according to USDOS, government funding remains inadequate, as the child trafficking budget was halved in FY 2009.

The Government of Yemen participated in a 3.5-year USDOL-funded USD 3 million project implemented by ILO-IPEC, that also operated in Lebanon and ended in May 2008. The project promoted the collection and analysis of child labor information, strengthened enforcement and monitoring mechanisms, built capacity, and raised awareness of the negative consequences of child labor. Through provision of educational services or training, the program withdrew 2,158 children, and prevented 3,480 children from engaging in the worst forms of child labor. The Government also participated in a 4-year USD 8.4 million subregional project, funded by USDOL and implemented by CHF International that ended in August 2008 and aimed to combat child labor through education in Lebanon and Yemen. The project withdrew 4,812 children and prevented 11,907 children from entering exploitive labor.

The Government of Yemen is participating in a new USDOL-funded USD 3.5 million project implemented by CHF International in association with the Charitable Society for Social Welfare to combat child labor through education in Yemen (2008-2011). The project began in September 2008 and aims to withdraw 4,100 and prevent 3,000 children from the worst forms of child labor.

Search Refworld