Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Child Labor: Between Individual Needs and Operating Networks

Child labor
A Yemeni boy holds his notebooks as school children attend an open-air class on September 16, 2019 in the Yemeni village of al-Kashar in Taez governorate. Photo: Ahmad AL-BASHA/ AFP

Nour Abbas

Wars and conflicts in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa have has tremendous negative impact on children. As a result of these conflicts, some children are forced to laborious work. Others are pushed to mendicity! What comes in mind is the following question: Did the networks operating these children succeed in deceiving local communities?

In the beginning, we must note that children in conflict areas are exposed to various types of psychological and social pressures. They are also the most exposed to physical and mental abuse. In general, children are considered the most vulnerable victims of wars wherever they occur. It is not an exaggeration if I say that children that are only exposed to pressures are the most fortunate ones in these regions!

Statistics about laborious children in countries like Syria and Yemen are clearly absent. Meanwhile, the International Labour Organization (ILO) seeks to limit such a phenomenon in these two countries, even to a minimum. Among the practices which ILO resorts to deal with this issue is employing children in less difficult jobs. According to the organization, “many of these children are involved in types of labor that are classified by the ILO Convention no. 182 as the worst forms of child labor. The list includes recruiting and using children by armed groups and militias, forced or early marriage, mendicity, and labor in poor health and social environments.”

Ironically, ILO has previously classified mendicity as a “not a widespread phenomenon” in these countries.

However, that is not strange. Whoever thinks that children begging is an individual work that children practice on their own is at fault. Between 2011 and 2019, more than 2 million Syrian children dropped out of education. Moreover, more than 5 million children are in need! At this point, massive suspicious networks try their best to attract most of these children. The recruiting process may begin via one of the child’s relatives, or via networks that work on a family level as the members of some families work entirely in mendicity!

In this manner, many children are deprived of their right to education and are exposed to all kinds of psychological pressures. It must be indicated here that this category of children is the most exposed to physical abuse and harassment due to being continuously on the streets. Local communities may be deceived by presenting instant aids permanently for these children; aids that lead children to eternal mendicity, as the aid provided to children is the main reason for their operators to throw them on the side of the road. For example, if you talk to a begging child in Damascus, you will find out that he/she will be beaten if not able to collect more than 10 thousand Syrian pounds (about 5 dollars). The operator assumes that the amount will be collected within only 5 hours because children are intensely prepared to gain social sympathy. At first, the child is taught to say that he/she is not a beggar, but a worker. Work ranges from selling gum and tissue boxes to selling expired pens and roses on the sidewalks. Children are dressed in a manner that is completely unsuitable with the weather, such as wearing summer clothes in rain. It is tragic to know that operators deprive children – during work hours – of the warm clothes provided to them by people during. In fact, they use this as a means to deceive local communities even more!

Mendicity is also a profession for children in Egypt. In 2016, the Crime Research Center at the Egyptian National Center for Social & Criminological Research issued a report about this issue. According to that report, more than 21.000 children are involved in mendicity.

It should be noted here that providing aids is a social responsibility that has to be supported by institutions capable of ridding children from inhumane labors that don’t provide them anything!

However, without enforcing laws in these countries, and as communities are deceived by these networks, the question will remain about the fate of children who are operated in mendicity and what their future will be.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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