Child labor on the rise due to economic situation

The Daily Star

Mohammed Zaatari

Children rights

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Despite a number of international treaties forbidding child labor, more kids were entering workplaces across Lebanon due to the economic situation of many Lebanese and Syrian families, head of south Lebanon’s chamber of commerce said Thursday. The comments from Mohammad Saleh came during a workshop on combatting child labor in agriculture organized by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Sidon and the South. “Children are not allowed to work if they are under 15-years-old, according to the international treaties,” Saleh said. “But due to the difficult economic and living conditions of many Lebanese families and the crisis of Syrian refugees, the number of child laborers is increasing in workplaces that lack minimum conditions for a safe environment.” The workshop was held in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Education and Extension Service of the Agriculture Ministry. FAO Engineer Faten Adada said the worst affected areas were “the poorest areas in Lebanon in Akkar, the Western Bekaa and the south as well as in the areas affected most by the Syrian refugee crisis.” Saleh said that FAO’s workshop on combatting child labor in agriculture and its risks was an initiative to raise awareness about the seriousness of this phenomenon. He added that there was a need to “protect children from physical and moral exploitation.” Adada said that the organization has worked with other international NGOs to carry out training on use of fertilizers for Agriculture Ministry inspectors and carried out other measures to combat risks of working in agriculture. He said that there was a pervasive but false idea among parents in the country that if children work it increases their resilience and their ability to endure difficult conditions. Saleh said that if children work then they miss out on school, which “abducts their right to learn and eliminates their dream of a better future.” Despite the practice of child labor being widespread, “the thing that gives us hope is the serious work to reduce this phenomenon at all levels, official, private and international.” He noted that the FAO and the Agriculture Ministry have begun work to reduce child labor in agriculture.

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