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One of the worlds alarming dilemmas is child labour. From the article of Iskandar (2009), statistics of ILO shows that, over 256million worldwide children are engaged in child labour between ages, ranging from a minimum of 5to17. This high rate rings a bell that requires serious attention and shows the importance of solving such a severe issue. Child labour can be defined as the situation in which a child is forced into the workforce, whom has work under hazardous and dangerous situations. It paves the way to different conditions of child ill-treatments. The child is being is forced into labour, overworked and underpaid, vulnerable to abuse both physically and mentally, tortured by masters and are deprived of the basic right of education. According to an article by Pakhare (p.1, 2007) child labour began between the 17th and 18th century, England during the industrial revolution. This problem later spread cross many countries including Egypt affecting different sectors in the economy. Now, Egypt has over an estimated 1.3-3million child labourer, as mentions (p.1, 2009). They work tediously for about 10-11 (Itani, 2009, p.2) hours under the country's hot weather, including one or two hours break, just to be paid a pea amount wage, roughly around 5to7 LE(Itani, 2009, p.2). Many sectors of the economy hire child labourers these include; the brick factories, leather tanning, pottery making, households, vending on streets and farms. The agricultural sector carries the most child labourers among any other sector with 77.7% according Itani (p.12009), of the economy's child labourers. The practice is widely spread in the governorate of Fayoum, Giza, Damietta, Sharqiya and Qalioubiya (Nkrumah, 2007). This paper will focus mainly on the agricultural sector of the economy. It will explore the extent of the impact of child labour on Egyptian children and state the causes with the factors that that influences it, such as adult illiteracy, income inequality and agricultural dominance. And examine the effects of each on children such as deprivation of basic educational rights, intergenerational transmission of poverty, and health issue of child labourers respectively. It will study the earlier efforts made to abolish child labour by government and other organizations such as law passed, while stating why they did not achieve their goals of creating a better Egypt. Finally, it will look at the best solution for child labour in the countryside of Egypt which is educating adults and improving the quality of educational system in Egypt.
Child labour expose children to disturbing conditions that are hazardous, dangerous and life threatening. As cited by Nkrumah "according to the UNICEF some 2.8miilion children work in Egypt under inhumane circumstances."(p.4, 2008). Many child labourers are treated without giving them any regards as human. Most of them are below the age of 12 and are hired by the Egyptian ministry of agriculture for seasonal or fulltime jobs (Itani, 2009, p. 2). This violates the unified child labour law, as stated by Abdelaty (p.2, 2001). According to Nkrumah (p.3 2008) the minimum employment age is 14years. In fact, the United States Department of labour (p.2, 2009) declares that law prohibits the employment of any child under the age of 18 years in any of the 44 hazardous industries, such as agricultural sector where pesticides are used. This shows that employers break the child labour law.
The main core cause that accelerates the child labour is adult illiteracy. Lack of education in the lower citizens class of Egypt, has resulted to huge supply of child labour to the market. According to a test by Ahmed, adult illiteracy and female illiteracy are responsible for 51% and 50% child workers supplied to force respectively. This justifies why around 3million children are child labourers (Itani,2000, p.1).Another factor is the failure in the quality of free educational system in the country. The standard of the quality of education in the country is falling, in the sense that the government cannot provide the needed support for improvement. Such as inadequacy of teaching materials, lack contemporary teachers, and insufficient classes and other related necessities, will result in a child's academic failure. Therefore, parents tend to pull out their children from the schools into the labour (Assaad, Levison, Zibani, 2007, p.2). "The typical child labourers are sons and daughters of the poorest and invariably illiterate villagers who do not have much faith in the educational system."(Nkrumah, 2008, p.1). Child workers come from poor families whose parents have little or no care for education. Parents are ignorant about the importance education in a child's life. They believe that child labour that child labour can improve their state of well-being. But this is not true; in reality depriving a child from education will affect his life in the future. For the reason that having an education means a person will live in the state of well-being, rather than in poverty owing to lack of education in the later years. But social norms such as parental intuitions and backgrounds tend to choose the later, by making a child join the labour force in order live a better live.
The consequence of social norm chosen by parents not only affects an individual but the society as a whole. Parents encourage children to join the force and work for a better live. They sometimes arrange child migration to urban areas, where the children lives their countryside for in search for a better live. Girls are sent to serve as maid in rich families. They end up being sexually abused or, commercially sexually exploited by rich gulf men, a form of short time marriage with a minor, as mention by United States Department of Labour (2008). Children flee themselves from these vulnerable conditions at end on street, wandering about the street without parents or guidance. United States Department Labour (2008) statistic shows that Egypt has an estimated number of between 600000 to a million street children. This drastic illogical parental of decision of leaving has become a national catastrophe. Their decision also affects the human capital of a country. The increased number of educated pupils in the country, the higher rate of human capital contributed the country GDP by that pupil as an adult. "Egypt's working children today will be Egypt's working youths and adults in the next decade."(Iskandar, 2009). The present children of the country are the future leaders of the country in the future. Thus, parents should take in cognisance of its long term effects on both the child and the economy.
Secondly, the issue of child labour is also affected by income distribution among household. Since the Egypt's labour force is made up of skilled and unskilled workers, there is a significant deviation among the income distributed to each labour type. The nation is facing inflation as a result of the economic and financial crisis it's experiencing, resulting to a decrease in the country total income and resources. Therefore, this has a negative effect on wage rates, whereby minimum wage drastically falls. Hence, the country can afford to provide its lower class citizens with the enough resources to sustain their families. In fact, according to associate press (2008) more than 20% of Egypt's population live below the poverty line. Lower class citizens happened to be the unskilled workers with large families. Because, of the low resources in the economy, there are little or no loans. "Population explosion and the indebtedness of landless peasant accentuates the quandary of child labourers in rural backwaters."(Nkrumah, 2008). The villagers has large families to carter for and have no resources (land or money) to meets need of their families and so they no choice but put their children in to the workforce. This choice or decision is referred to as parental altruism (Wahba, 2006). Is the decision made out of a parent's wish to put their children into in the workforce, because their incomes are too low to sustain their families. They are force engage their children into workforce in order to survive. Furthermore, incomes households earn affect the supply of child labourers to the market.
Parental altruism that induces the parental decision has great effect on the value of and adult wage. Itani (p.3, 2009) points out that child labourers supplied into the market are seen as cheap labour by employers. They are exploited by unscrupulous employers who find them inexpensive with an average pay of 3LE according to Abdelaty. "...From the employers' point of view, adults and children are substitutes." (Wahba, 2006). Adult worker are seen replaceable with child labourer by the employer. For this reason adult face unemployment as stated by Abdelaty (p.4 2001). This because, child labour is much more cheaper than adult labour. Egypt's economic crisis has led employers to choice children rather than adult in the agricultural sector. Decision has by parent as a result low income has worsened the situation of adult employment hence affected their income.
The concern is Egypt's dominance on agricultural produce, especially cotton. From the article of Nkrumah (p.4, 008), it's the 10th largest producer of cotton with export worth about $300 million. The agricultural sector requires a large number of man-power on the field. Although, farmers put their children on the farms to learn skill and work experience, Abdelaty states that (p.1, 2001) the Egyptian ministry of agriculture majority of child labourers. From thesis, of Itani,(2008), over one million children partake in the seasonal harvest of cotton during the month of July to August. The seasonal cotton harvest is during summer season; as a result the children have to work in hardship, for long hours under the burning sun. Removing the cotton's bollworm is difficult task that require both physical and mental strength, in addition to sustainability and hard work. "To break the monotony of tedious work, children often sing and chatter as they plunk the bollworms or pick jasmine flowers dusk...". Child labourers chant along side their difficult work to by pass the time. They are given task that adults are supposed to do, even though there is a minimum age requirement for hiring children to participate in the seasonal cultivation. Egyptian ministry of agriculture hires most the children but does not recognize the "Egyptian child law of 1996" (Nkrumah, 2008)
They are unprotected by law. They have no insurance against any misfortune and are not recognize as part of the Egyptian workforce, thus they have no pension. This gives ministry of agriculture the opportunity to hire and mistreat underage children. "They face routine beatings by their foremen" (Abdelaty, 2001, p.1). They are tortured by their masters for misbehaviour or inefficiency in work. As a result of the pesticide sprays, the child may face long term terminal illness. The illnesses that are likely to occur includes respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, part or complete body paralysis, mental or psychiatric problems skin diseases and other work related illnesses.