The International Labour Organisation (ILO) established the World Day against Child Labour, to be commemorated each year on 12th June, more than 15 years ago. This year, the theme of the day is: ‘In conflicts and disasters, protect children from child labour’.
This day serves to highlight the issue of child labour and put forward viable solutions to the matter whilst providing incentives for children to return to school and complete their education.
Since Palestinians were uprooted from their homes in 1948 they have continued to suffer poverty and injustice which has led to a fractured Palestinian population, each group with its own set of challenges and social ills which stem from them.
Besiegement in the Gaza Strip has thwarted any chance of economic growth and has led to one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 43%, while those living in the West Bank and modern day Israel face discrimination and disenfranchisement. Refugees in neighbouring countries are subject to life in overcrowded and squalid conditions whilst often being restricted from work opportunities or deprived of the chance to reach their full potential.
These conditions-each resulting from the conflict and subsequent occupation of Palestine-have led to an issue of child labour among Palestinians, many of whom feel it is their only option to provide enough for their families and ease their suffering. In the last five years, child labour has doubled in Gaza, while 15% of workers in Israeli settlements are Palestinian children who are forced to work long hours with short breaks in dangerous conditions for less than half the Israeli minimum wage. Palestinian refugees also have a high dropout rate from schools and often join the labour market which leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.
The circumstances which lead to child labour among Palestinians can be addressed, for instance by putting pressure on the international community and Israel to life the siege on Gaza and abide by laws which protect Palestinians and entitle them to resources which alleviate their poverty.
Education has been proven to promote development and to provide a long-term solution to poverty, and therefore education should be incentivised and encouraged. In keeping with this, Interpal invests heavily in education, providing Palestinian children from disadvantaged families with educational equipment and covering educational fees. Interpal has also funded various projects to rehabilitate and resource schools, and funds various education centres for special needs students. Furthermore, Interpal facilitates one-to-one child sponsorship which eases the financial burden on parents to provide for their children. In refugee camps, Interpal runs vocational courses for late teens in order to both keep them in education and allow them to receive an income. After the course they are skilled and better able to find work.
More can be done to prevent child labour among Palestinians. Today, on the World Day against Child Labour, we urge you to support Interpal and its vital work toward alleviating poverty, eradicating child labour and replacing work with education as a long-term solution.