Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Iraq

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 - Iraq, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
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, 2006:7,074,168
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2006:12.4
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2006:15.1
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2006:9.6
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:11
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:99.5
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:88.6
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2006:69.6
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:80.6
ILO Convention 138:2/13/1985
ILO Convention 182:7/9/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

According to a 2006 UNICEF survey, the last date for which such data is available, most working children in Iraq are employed in a family business. Boys work at a higher rate than girls and rural children at a higher rate than children living in urban areas. In addition, children are engaged in begging, selling items on the streets, and working in hazardous conditions in automobile shops and on construction sites. In rural areas, children work on farms.

There are reports of children participating in both the sex industry and the drug trade. Boys and girls are trafficked within the country and abroad for commercial sexual exploitation. According to USDOS, there is anecdotal evidence of children trafficked from orphanages by employees of those organizations. On January 29, 2008, the Iraqi press reported that journalists had discovered a market for selling children in Baghdad, and a local NGO reported in February 2008 that they were following the cases of 16 missing children. Press reports note that as of April 2009, the selling of children continued to be a problem in Iraq.

There are reports of Iraqi insurgent groups recruiting children for a number of combat-related roles, including spying, scouting, and planting improvised explosive devices, as well as using children as suicide bombers.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The 1987 Labor Law remains in effect with Amendments made by Coalition Provisional Authority Order 89. The law sets the minimum for employment at 15 years. The law prohibits the employment of anyone under 18 years in work detrimental to the worker's health, safety, or morals. Types of work specifically prohibited to young persons include activities such as work underground, underwater, or with dangerous equipment or hazardous substances. Additional legal requirements regarding the employment of young persons include a pre-employment medical examination, maximum 7-hour workday, maximum 4-hour work period without breaks, and a daily rest period of 1 hour. Youth 15 years or older who are employed in family enterprises are excluded from the provisions regarding medical examinations and daily work hours.

The Constitution prohibits forced labor, slavery, trafficking of women and children, and the sex trade. The amended Penal Code does not directly address trafficking, but aspects of trafficking may be covered under other articles; for example, crimes involving unlawful seizure, kidnapping, and detention all carry prison terms of 10 to 15 years. The Penal Code also prohibits child prostitution and provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years for violations.

The Labor Code prohibits the worst forms of child labor, defined as slavery and similar practices, including forced labor, child trafficking, and compulsory recruitment of minors for use in armed conflict; child prostitution; illicit activities such as drug trafficking; and work likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children. Violations of Labor Code provisions pertaining to work performed by children, including the worst forms of child labor, may be penalized by imprisonment for 10 days to 3 months or fines.

The minimum age of voluntary military service is 18 years.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) is responsible for enforcing child labor regulations. According to USDOS, MOLSA's Child Labor Unit is unable to enforce child labor laws and remove children from exploitive labor situations because of a lack of inspectors and resources. The Ministries of Interior of both the Iraqi and Kurdish Regional Governments are responsible for trafficking issues; however, according to USDOS, trafficking is relegated to a lower priority given the security situation and is not investigated. The Government did not prosecute any trafficking cases in 2008.

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

The Government of Iraq funds programs to assist former and current street children. In October 2008, after the Ministry of Human Rights raised concerns, the Government established a committee to examine trafficking in persons in Iraq.

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