2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Egypt

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2005:15,247,673
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005:6.7
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005:9.5
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005:3.7
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:13
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:104.7
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:95.8
School attendance, children 6-14 years (%), 2005:88.1
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:96.8
ILO Convention 138:8/4/1982
ILO Convention 182:5/6/2002
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

A large portion of working children in Egypt is found in the agricultural sector, where children are hired each year for the cotton harvest. Children also work in a number of sectors deemed hazardous by the Government of Egypt including leather tanning, fishing, glassworks, blacksmithing, working metal and copper, construction, carpentry, mining, auto repair, textile manufacturing, and brick making. In addition, children participate in the hazardous work of limestone quarrying where they face serious health risks from rock cutting machines, limestone dust, and intense heat. UNICEF estimates that there are some 1 million street children in Egypt. Street children, primarily boys, work collecting garbage, begging, and vending. Street children are particularly vulnerable to becoming involved in illicit activities, including pornography and prostitution.

Reports indicate a widespread practice of poor, rural families arranging to send their daughters to cities to work as domestic servants in the homes of wealthy residents. Child domestic workers are excluded from t he protections of the labor code and are highly susceptible to harsh working conditions as well as physical and sexual abuse.

Children, especially street children and young girls from poor families, are trafficked internally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, and domestic labor. Recent reports indicate that trafficking for the purposes of child sex tourism is becoming increasingly prevalent in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. It has been reported that wealthy men from the Gulf region travel to Egypt for the purpose of temporary marriages, a form of commercial sexual exploitation, with minor girls. Girls are sometimes sold to men for short-term marriages which are akin to prostitution.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

In June 2008, the minimum age for employment was changed from 14 to 15 years. The Labor Law, however, still does not apply to children working in agriculture, small family enterprises, or domestic service.

The law prohibits children 14 to 17 years from working more than 6 hours per day; requires at least a 1 hour break per day; and prohibits them from working overtime, on holidays, more than 4 consecutive hours, and between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. The law also allows the employment of children 12 to 14 years in seasonal jobs that do not harm their health or affect their schooling. Children 12 to 18 years may participate in certain types of apprenticeship training. Employers are bound by law to provide working minors an annual medical check-up, and must honor a child's lawful period of annual leave, which is 7 days longer than that of adult workers. Children under 18 years are prohibited from working in 44 hazardous industries, including cotton compressing, leather tanning, working with explosives, and agricultural activities involving the use of pesticides. The law penalizes those who break the child labor laws with fines that double if violations are repeated.

The law prohibits forced labor. It is also illegal for a person to entice or assist a male under 21 years or a female of any age to depart the country to work in prostitution or other "immoral" activities. The law also prohibits the incitement of any person under the age of 21 from committing any act of prostitution or immorality, including the use of children in the production, promotion, or distribution of pornography. Violations of these laws are punishable with imprisonment for 1 to 7 years. In June 2008, amendments to the Child Protection Law were approved that criminalized trafficking in children. The new legislation also criminalizes commercial or economic abuse of children. Those convicted of involvement with child trafficking face a minimum of 5 years imprisonment and a fine. Perpetrators can be prosecuted if the act is committed abroad, and the punishment is increased if children are trafficked by a criminal transnational organization. Child traffickers may also be prosecuted under laws related to the abduction of children and rape.

The minimum age for compulsory recruitment into the Egyptian Armed Forces is 18 years. Children may voluntarily enter the Armed Forces at 16 years.

The Child Labor Unit within the Ministry of Manpower and Migration (MOMM) coordinates investigations based on reports of child labor violations and enforces the laws pertaining to child labor. USDOS reports that enforcement in state-owned businesses is adequate, while enforcement in the informal sectors is lacking, especially in villages and poorer urban areas.

Children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and USDOS reports indicate that street children are treated as criminals rather than victims by law enforcement officers. In January 2009, Egypt's Tanta Criminal Court affirmed the verdicts against those convicted of trafficking and murdering 24 street children, while in February the Alexandria Prosecutor's Office began investigating an organization that allegedly forced street children into prostitution. However, according to USDOS, while some progress has been made, the lack of adequate financial resources to enforce trafficking laws as well as a lack of formal training for police and first responders significantly inhibits the successful implementation of the laws.

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

The Government's National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) continues to implement the First National Strategy for the Progressive Elimination of Child Labor. In June 2008, First Lady Suzanne Mubarak chaired a NCCM-organized conference entitled "A Future without Child Labor." The NCCM continues to collaborate with MOMM, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), ILO, UNICEF, WFP, and the Ministries of Social Affairs, Agriculture, Education, Health, and Interior to implement action programs to reduce child labor. The NCCM worked during 2008 to provide working minors with social security safeguards and provided families with alternative sources of income to reduce school dropout rates.

The NCCM and the Ministry of Social Security also provide services for street children. The NCCM also operates a 24-hour child labor hotline. In January 2009, the NCCM opened a rehabilitation center for child victims of human trafficking. Additionally, Egypt's National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Persons, which is composed of 16 governmental agencies, is conducting a broad study into the scope and the nature of human trafficking in the republic.

The First Lady of Egypt sponsors an awareness-raising campaign to combat human trafficking. It calls for ethical business practices and improving law enforcement cooperation. Additionally, there is an anti-trafficking unit within the NCCM, which serves a wide variety of functions including advancing the reform of trafficking-related legislation, victim rehabilitation, capacity building, increasing awareness of human trafficking and issuing publications concerning the different forms of trafficking. The unit has also started training government officials on human trafficking, with a special focus on judges and prosecutors. The Public Prosecutor's Office has administered training for 125 prosecutors working on cases of child trafficking. The training focused on raising awareness of vulnerable child populations, and using the Child Labor Law amendments effectively for prosecution.

The Government of Egypt continues to participate in the USDOL-funded USD 5.09 million UN WFP project to combat exploitive child labor through education. The project aims to withdraw 4,300 children and prevent 6,000 children from exploitive labor. The Government of Egypt is also participating in a USD 168,280 Italian-funded ILOIPEC child labor project.


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