World Day Against Child Labour – responding to COVID-19 in the Arab States

On the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour, the ILO in the Arab States sheds light on key projects addressing child labour in the region, and measures taken in some countries to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Article | 12 June 2020
ILO News - This year’s World Day Against Child Labour focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on child labour, calling on countries and organizations across the globe ‘to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable during crisis management and recovery’.

The Arab States have witnessed a wave of armed conflicts and population displacement in recent years, which has coincided with an increase in child labour among refugees, the internally displaced and vulnerable host populations across the region. With ILO support, countries around the region have been working to address child labour through projects aimed to reduce the incidence of child labour, particularly in its worst forms. 

Yet, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has added yet more challenges on pre-existing levels of child labour, with growing concerns about the increasing risks faced by working children.

On the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, the ILO sheds light on key projects addressing child labour in the region, as well as measures taken more recently in some countries to respond to the new challenges arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The year’s World Day Against Child Labour takes place amid a global health pandemic that has massively disrupted the lives and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable people,” said Frank Hagemann, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Arab States. “As we continue to work with our partners to tackle child labour across the region, we must examine new measures that could be introduced to mitigate the added risks brought about by COVID-19 on vulnerable children.”


Since 2017, the ILO in Jordan has been working with partners to improve the living and working conditions of farm workers, as part of initiatives implemented under Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities (PROSPECTS), supported by the Government of the Netherlands.  Caravans have been installed on targeted farms and some have been converted into classrooms, providing informal education to children at risk of child labour. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, children have been receiving education remotely through the use of WhatsApp, exchanging learning material, videos and voice messages with their teachers. Simplified awareness raising on the importance of keeping safe during the pandemic, along with the distribution of facemasks, gloves and sanitisers to children have supported efforts to prevent the spread of the virus on farms and among families.

The MAP16 Project, implemented by the ILO with the support of the United States Department of Labor works to measure, raise awareness, and engage in policy change on the issue of child labour. The project has conducted a rapid e-assessment in East Amman to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on families of working children supported through the project. It found that most of the targeted families were paid daily or were with no income as a result of lockdown measures. Ruwwad Al-Tanmeya, a grass-root community-based organisation working with the ILO has carried out several campaigns to support families of working children in response to COVID-19 that included the delivery of food packages and financial support, in addition to remote sessions for families and their children covering a range of topics related to protection and mental health.

A Norway-funded project which seeks to reduce the incidence of the worst forms of child labour in the agriculture sector among Jordanians and Syrian refugees, supports children already engaged in child labour or those vulnerable to child labour through referral to further education and protection services; while protecting those above the minimum age from occupational hazards in agriculture. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,000 children whose education was disrupted by the closure of schools have been able to access remedial education to help them continue their education during the crisis. Identification and case management of over 700 children working in agriculture has continued during the lockdown, including support for on-going participation in remote education. In collaboration with UNICEF, the project distributed some 3,000 Personal Protective Equipment kits, including facemasks, protective goggles and gloves to agricultural workers, whose children are supported through the project, as well as minors aged 16 and over who work on targeted farms.


The Countering the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Yemen (CRUCSY) programme aims to prevent the recruitment of children and youth in armed conflict in Yemen and reintegrate children formally associated with the conflict. The US-supported programme supports children and youth by offering them better access to services that facilitate their social and economic integration. It also offers working-age children associated with armed forces or at risk of recruitment access to skills development programmes to improve their working conditions and income.

As a result of the on-going COVID-19 crisis, programme activities on the ground have been suspended and poor internet connectivity means implementing them remotely is also difficult. Yet, activities are expected to resume in the near future with appropriate safety restrictions in place such as operating within smaller groups.


Since 2018, the ILO, in collaboration with UNHCR has been working with national and international partners to reduce worst forms of child labour among vulnerable communities in Syria through the prevention, withdrawal and rehabilitation of working children and children at risk of child labour. This has led to the rehabilitation and integration of 488 children, as well as capacity building among 60 labour inspectors, 750 school officials and other actors to identify and address child labour. It has also supported 473 children through SCREAM, a programme which works to defend children’s rights through education, art, and media. 


As part of our partnership with the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq (RDPP II) – a joint European initiative running until 2021 and is supported by the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland and Switzerland -the ILO is working with the government and a number of other partners to tackle the worst forms of child labour amongst internally displaced persons, refugees and vulnerable host community members. This includes efforts to establish a Child Labour Monitoring System to identify children at risk of or already in child labour and provide them with needed support. Work also focuses on the development of a National Action Plan Against Child Labour, in close consultation with tripartite constituents, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

ILO activities in Iraq will also ensure that vulnerable children have access to tailored formal and non-formal education and their guardians and older siblings above the minimum age of employment have access to employment services and informal apprenticeships. It will also work with partners to advocate for a revised education law to raise the age of compulsory schooling to align with the minimum age of employment.

Virtual activities marking World Day Against Child Labour

  • To further raise awareness on the importance of education, a virtual art competition has been set up on farms in Jordan, encouraging children to illustrate through drawings, poetry and videos how they have continued to study despite the pandemic.
  • A new web and mobile app ( was launched, allowing citizens in Jordan to report cases of child labour. The new app is part of the Child Labour Data Base, which connects the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Education as well as service-providers. The integrated child labour model represents the first translation of the National Framework to Combat Child Labour, which was launched by Ministry of Labour through their main webpage. See also video
  • The ILO in Syria is collaborating with partners, including UNCHR and UNICEF, along with United Nations Country Team, to shed light on the plight of working children through a variety of virtual activities, including social media.  The ILO’s global World Day 2020 campaign material has been translated into Arabic and disseminated to NGOs, beneficiaries, as well as constituents across different governorates. ILO constituents - workers, employers and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MOSAL)- will mark the day on their own social media platforms.