Last Updated: Monday, 01 September 2014, 14:30 GMT

Egypt: Focus on child labour

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 28 June 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Egypt: Focus on child labour, 28 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c2d9ce3e.html [accessed 2 September 2014]
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.

CAIRO, 28 June 2010 (IRIN) - Ahmed Ramadan, aged 13, works 11 hours a day in a bakery in Cairo's Kherbet Kheirala slum, where he says he works with hazardous machinery in unpleasantly hot surroundings, and is ill-treated by his employer.

"I wake up at 6am every morning and hurry to the bakery to get the chance to work that day. The bakery uses four different children but only takes on the first to arrive," he told IRIN.

If Ahmed manages to arrive first, he earns 15 Egyptian pounds (US$2.6) for the day, which mainly goes on helping his family pay rent and utility bills.

His friend Tareq Al Sayed, 14, has been working as a carpenter for the past three years manning an electric saw. "I work 12 hours a day and earn 30 Egyptian pounds ($5.2) a week," he told IRIN.

Egypt is party to International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 138 on the minimum age for work, and 182 on "the worst forms of child labour", but a large number of children work, say experts.

A 2001 national survey on child labour commissioned by the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics revealed that 2.7 million children aged 6-14 (21 percent of all children in that age group) work.

Nihad Gohar, child protection officer with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Egypt, blamed the phenomenon in part on "poverty, lack of awareness, and dropping out of school because of violence or parents' inability to pay fees", as well as a "culture that condones child labour".

Further efforts should be made to reintegrate those freed from child labour into schools, she said, while pointing out that where this is not possible there should be more rigorous implementation of the law on health and safety at work.

Most children who work do so in small workshops or elsewhere in the informal sector, "where occupational health and safety measures are not applied or do not exist," she said.

Hope

Ahmed and Tareq have been offered a new chance thanks to Plan Egypt (part of child development NGO Plan International) which is giving them three months of vocational training to raise awareness of health and safety issues.

"Our main goal is to return children to school - whether formal or informal - but if the child really has to work due to severe poverty, we have to work with shop owners and mothers to protect these children in their working environment", said Jacinthe Ibrahim, child rights adviser at Plan Egypt.

"The main challenge is to persuade shop owners to allow the children to attend school, and another is [changing the perceptions of] parents who sometimes push their children into work to support their families," said Ibrahim.


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