As Lebanon faces its worst economic downturn, child labor surges, putting more girls at risk

BEIRUT: Lebanon is currently experiencing the worst economic crises of its history, with rampant inflation coupled with growing unemployment that has thrown almost half the population below the poverty line.

The accelerating economic downfall in Lebanon and the consequent collapsing currency has put essential food items beyond the reach of many and has also caused many affected families to use children as sources of income to help sustain their livelihoods.

Although child labor was prevalent in Lebanon for a long time, it has never reached the extent experienced following the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, more children are likely to work under more impoverished conditions, longer hours, and extra jobs to make ends meet.

‘’The dire economic crisis Lebanon is witnessing has aggravated child labor in agriculture fields, exposing young girls and boys to the worst forms of labor and threatening their growth, education, future aspirations, and overall wellbeing. We fear that this phenomenon will only worsen and urge the local and international community not to turn a blind eye.’’ Colin Lee, Director for the Middle East at Plan International, said, ahead of World Day Against Child Labor on June 12.

In recent assessments, Plan found that children make up 30% of the total labor force in a sample of surveyed farms.

Findings show that most girls are working in the farming sector, which men primarily dominate, where they face harassment. In the scenario of them refusing to work in the field, they would also risk early marriage.

In the Beqaa Valley, children work more than five hours per day, carrying out the following tasks (descending order of prevalence): harvesting, weeding, peeling/sorting, transplanting, and preparing the land.

Among children who are permanent workers in agriculture in Beqaa, girls make up 56% in small farms and 64% in medium and large farms.

Of the surveyed working children in medium and large farms, 82% were not enrolled in education. On the other hand, recruitment by camp owners of children from informal tented settlements (ITS) is standard, with 49% of recruited children working in small farms and 63% of children working in medium or large farms.

“We are quite concerned about the reports we receive from our partners and colleagues across Lebanon, that child labor is increasing all over Lebanon and in the different sectors, not just in agriculture” says Riwa Maktabi, Child Protection Program Manager at Plan International Lebanon.

It is essential to remember that child labor is a serious violation of human rights including the right to education the right to survival and development, and the right to be protected from child exploitation.

Sadly, children subject to child labor often miss the opportunity for primary education and skills acquisition and are likely to remain trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Plan international calls on the Lebanese government to adopt inclusive social protection measures that better protects children at risk.

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.

We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion, and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.

We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.

We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and are now active in more than 75 countries.

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