Joint Statement by the ILO and UNICEF on World Day Against Child Labour in Iraq

11 June 2020
Karrar, 14, works at a car repair shop in Baghdad
UNICEF/ IRAQ/Khuzaie/2016
Karrar, 14, works at a car repair shop in Baghdad


 12 June 2020 -This year, more than ever, it is important for us to reflect on what World Day Against Child Labour means for Iraq and what it seeks to achieve. Children belong in classrooms and not in employment. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we at the International Labour Organization (ILO) and at UNICEF are very concerned that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will increase the number of impoverished children at risk of being forced into child labour. 


For the most vulnerable children, the risk of having to work to support their families is all too real. As the pandemic continues to deprive families of work and therefore the ability to earn their livelihoods, we are seeing growing poverty in Iraq, which means greater risks for vulnerable children and adolescents to be sent out to work. 


Even before Covid-19 hit, 7.3 % of children between the ages of 5 to 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour, including dangerous and exploitive work, as per the findings of the UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS – 6 ), which was carried out in 2018 and gives us the most comprehensive data about children and adolescents in Iraq to date.


The impact of having to work at a young age for a child can be devastating and long-lasting: the childrisks losing out on her/his education, being deprived of basic health care and exposed to dangers and hazardous practices. This is why the ILO and UNICEF have been working to support the Government of Iraq in ending child labour. Iraq is signatory to the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child, it has therefore committed itself to implementing all the rights enshrined in the Convention, including protecting children from all forms of exploitation of children, and child labour in particular. 


It has also ratified the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), which are central to the fight against child labour.


Together with our partners in the Government, we are working to develop and implement a monitoring system for child labour; especially among the most vulnerable children such as refugees and the internally displaced, the differently abled, poor children and orphans. This system will identify children at risk of or already engaged in child labour and provide them with the support they need. We will focus on the governorates of Ninewa and Dohuk in particular, where the number of refugee and displaced children is notably high.


Moreover, ILO is working to ensure that vulnerable children have access to formal and non-formal education and their guardians and siblings of working age have access to employment services and informal apprenticeships. UNICEF for its part, has been advocating for the Ministry of Education to ensure that every child has access to quality education. UNICEF is also working with the Government to ensure that the laws protecting children from all forms of violence and exploitation, including child labour, are strengthened and properly implemented. 


All of this, however, will not be enough if we don’t tackle the root causes of child labour: poverty and deprivation. As such, our agencies are also working with our partners in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to develop an Iraqi National Action Plan Against Child Labour and ask that Iraqi authorities make investing in basic social protection for families a priority. Only then will impoverishedparents be spared having to make the decision whether to send their children into labour instead of a classroom.

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