Iran: Child Labour Situation to Worsen
By Shahriar Kia
The world’s child labour rate has dropped by a third Since 2000, but there are still many countries where child labour is a serious problem.
One of these countries is Iran and situation is getting worse and worse. The economy is struggling and the people are getting poorer and poorer. Unrest is widespread and people are resorting to desperate measures to be able to cope with their situation.
A growing problem in the country is child labour. It is something that human rights and child welfare organisations have flagged. Estimates by UNICEF indicate that in 2012 approximately 11 per cent of children in the country were working. And of course they were working illegally because children under the age of 15 are not allowed to work in Iran.
However, accurate figures are very difficult to obtain because of the nature of human trafficking. Organised crime groups select their victims very cleverly – they target people living in extreme poverty, they target refugee families that are living undocumented and they target homeless people.
The children are exploited in a number of different ways. Sometimes they are forced to work on the streets – begging or selling items. It is not uncommon to see young children selling flowers or other small items on the street in the country’s capital Tehran. Sometimes the children are forced to work with adult debt slaves in construction or agriculture.
The Iranian regime has even acknowledged that there is a big problem with child labour in the country. The director of the Iran Welfare Organization’s office - Reza Jafari – said earlier this year that the problem is so big that a single organisation could not deal with the extent of the issue. Jafari said: “Child workers are so numerous that no organization can single-handedly cope with the problem.”
The Iranian regime has said that there are more than 60,000 children living on the streets in Iran. However, this number must be taken with a pinch of salt because the regime is known for trying to downplay the issues in the country. Some have said that there are probably more than 200,000 homeless children on the street. Most of these are centred around large cities including Tehran. Homeless children are particularly susceptible to child labour because not only are they living in extreme poverty, but they are also unprotected by the regime.
Despite this, there are a growing number of charities and organisations being set up to help homeless families from falling into child labour. But, as the economy continues to deteriorate, these organisations are running out of funding and are experiencing cuts.
The situation is likely to deteriorate even further as the economy feels the consequences of the U.S. sanctions that have snapped back. This also means that organised crime will be on the rise leaving an increasing number of children vulnerable to exploitation.
The people of Iran are desperate for change. They have spent years watching the Iranian regime plunder the country’s wealth on terrorist activities abroad and they are now publicly denouncing the regime’s behaviour. They are also calling for regime change and have made it clear that they will not relent.