2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Lebanon

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years:
Working children, 5-14 years (%):
Working boys, 5-14 years (%):
Working girls, 5-14 years (%):
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:12
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:95.4
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:82.9
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:98.6
ILO Convention 138:6/10/2003
ILO Convention 182:9/11/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Lebanon, children work in the tobacco industry and in the informal sectors of the economy, including construction, agriculture, mechanics, and fisheries. It is reported that some of these activities are hazardous and may present a danger to children's health, safety, and development, particularly in metal works, construction, automobile repair, and seasonal agriculture.

Non-Lebanese children, particularly boys from Syria and Palestinian boys living in Lebanese refugee camps, constitute approximately 85 percent of children working on the street. The most common types of street work are selling goods, shoe polishing, and washing car windshields. Forty-seven percent of working street children who participated in a 2004 study conducted by the Ministry of Labor (MOL) were forced by adults to work long hours on the streets.

Children who were most vulnerable to child labor were reported to be Lebanese children from poor families in rural areas of the country and children who were foreign nationals in urban centers. A 2007 study by a Lebanese NGO, in partnership with ILO, reported high rates of children's work on tobacco plantations in South Lebanon.

Lebanese children are trafficked internally for forced labor in metal works, construction, agriculture, and commercial sexual exploitation. Child prostitution, including situations in which girls have been forced into prostitution by their own families, as well as children who have been sexually exploited by organized criminal gangs, have been reported to the UN Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

While children are not known to participate in the Lebanese Armed Forces, Palestinian children living in refugee camps in Lebanon have been reported to be involved with various Palestinian armed groups operating in the country.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years and prohibits work that could be potentially hazardous for individuals under 17 years. Children 14 to 18 years of age may not work more than 6 hours per day, require 1 hour of rest for work that is more than 4 continuous hours, must have a 13-hour period of rest between workdays, and may not work between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. In addition, children ages 14 to 17 years must pass a medical examination to ensure that they can undertake the work in which they are to be engaged, and the prospective employer must request the child's identity card to verify his or her date of birth.

Vocational training establishments may be permitted to employ children who are 13 years of age pending approval from both MOL and the Public Health Services.

Youth under 16 years are prohibited from working in dangerous environments that threaten their life, health, or morals. Industrial work and work such as mining and quarrying, manufacturing or selling alcohol, work with chemicals or explosives, and work in tanneries or with machinery are not permitted for children under 16 years.

There are no laws specifically prohibiting trafficking or forced labor; however, various laws are used to address such offenses. Sexual exploitation is prohibited per the Lebanese Penal Code, and the law punishes any person who instigates the prostitution of a person under 21 years and any person who gains financial benefit from the prostitution of others with imprisonment from 6 months to 2 years. According to the Lebanese Penal Code, any person who deprives another person of his or her personal liberty by abduction or any other means will be sentenced to hard labor. This penalty increases to life in prison with hard labor if the period of deprivation exceeds 1 month or if the victim suffers any physical or moral harm.

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the Armed Forces is 18 years for soldiers, noncommissioned personnel, and officers.

MOL is responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws. According to USDOS, enforcement of the laws has improved slightly in recent years. There is a Labor Inspection Team, composed of 48 full-time labor inspectors and 46 assistants nationwide. However, according to USDOS, MOL's Child Labor Unit continued to lack adequate personnel and resources, which limited its ability to enforce the law.

In a 2008 assessment by the Ministry of Justice of Lebanon, 38 children were reported to have been known or suspected victims of trafficking. However, no official cases have been identified or prosecuted under Lebanese law as such.

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

In 2008, the Higher Council for Childhood, part of the Ministry of Social Affairs, held a number of awareness campaigns and training sessions targeting child labor related issues. Additionally, in March and April 2008, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and the Surete General investigators participated in four training seminars with Caritas and the International Catholic Migration Commission on human rights, trafficking issues, and international conventions on trafficking. ISF cadets were also trained in identifying and assisting trafficking victims through part of the U.S. Embassy's USD 68 million program of assistance.

From 2004 through 2008, the Government of Lebanon participated in a USDOL-funded USD 3 million regional project implemented by ILO-IPEC that sought to harmonize legislative framework with international standards on child labor, build capacity of national institutions, raise awareness on the negative consequences of child labor, and implement effective interventions to withdraw and prevent children from exploitative labor practices. Through these activities, the project withdrew or prevented 4,149 children from engaging in the worst forms of child labor.

During that same time period, the Government also participated in a USD 8.4 million sub-regional project funded by USDOL and implemented by CHF International to combat child labor through education in Lebanon and Yemen. This project withdrew 1,994 children and prevented 6,958 children from entering exploitive child labor through formal and informal education programs in Lebanon.

Currently, funding from the Italian Development Cooperation Office has enabled ILO to implement a 2-year program entitled "Strengthening National Action to Combat the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Lebanon." The project, working with MOL and other stakeholders, targets north Lebanon and the Biq'a with the primary objective of withdrawal and prevention from exploitive and hazardous work.


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