Launched in 2002, June 12 marks the World Day Against Child Labour. Under Article 32 of the Universal Declaration of Child Rights, it states that children must be protected from any work that threatens their growth and health, and that governments must specify the minimum working age and working conditions for children. The day of observation was created to raise awareness and activism to prevent children from across the world from being forced into child labor.
The question is how is the situation of child labor among the street children in Iran?
Many times, the Iranian regime’s officials in the welfare departments of the provinces, and the managers of the municipal departments of different cities have identified thousands of children working in the country.
However, due to the negligence of the responsible organizations and the existence of a state-controlled mafia abusing the children, accurate statistics on the number of working and street children are not provided by the relevant authorities. Often, in different comments by some regime officials, the number of working children is estimated to be in the millions.
The problem of child labor is like an iceberg, meaning that we can only see what is visible – the children working on the street – but a large majority of the children are working out of sight in workshops and other places.
In a previous comment, the Director-General of Welfare in Tehran Province said that in Tehran metros alone, more than 2000 children are working. Unofficial statistics have stated that more than 20,000 children are working on the streets of Tehran, and from that number more than 4,000 of them are working as waste collectors.
One of the factors that have been considered as the reason for the high number of child laborers in Iran is the high number of parents who are unemployed or struggling with social crises. As a result, they are forced to send their children to the streets to find work. The latest estimation by the regime suggests that more than seven million children are forced to work in this way.
75% of working children are in the age group of 10 to 14 years old, with the average age being 13 years old. Around 5% of children are under 7 years old, while the gender composition of working children shows that about 15% of these children are girls and 85% are boys.
According to the regime’s experts, around 30% of these children do not know if they had a birth certificate. Fifty percent of these children started working between the ages of 7 and 10, and 20 percent work started under the age of seven.
Of the children in Iran forced into child labor, 35% of these children are in good health, with the other 65% being in poor conditions. 40% of these children are completely illiterate, 75% of the rest have at least a sixth-grade education, and only 3% have had a high school education.
Eighty percent of boys and 60 percent of girls work in the public and semi-public sectors, with the rest of the boys working in shops, mechanics, repair shops, markets, warehouses, agriculture, and recycling factories. The rest of the girls work in houses, workshops, shops and agricultural land, and greenhouses. The number of girls working in the waste recycling workshop is also much higher than boys, which makes them more vulnerable.
With the regime’s medieval culture strongly encouraging girls’ workers into prostitution, we now see that the average age of these girls has reached below 15. These young girls are routinely sexually abused and exploited.
The results of the regime’s recent welfare surveys have shown that of those children working on the streets, 33.8% of these children work between one and four hours, 52.1% work between four and eight hours and 13% of them spend more than eight hours on the street.
Surveys have also shown that around 73% of street children have a history of violence, both physical and non-physical acts such as humiliation, bullying, etc.
These days, it is not just a matter of illiteracy, school dropouts, or malnutrition affecting these children. HIV, addiction, depression, self-harm, suicide, sexual harassment, uncontrolled violence, etc. are all emerging amongst the population of working children.
An important point, which is less related to the physical problems and physical abilities to work with children and more related to their psychological and social issues, is that these children do not have a childhood at all, and this can have very profound lifelong consequences.
These children cannot play and interact with their peers and are not exposed to the joys and excitements of childhood. Instead, they are exposed to stresses and pressures in the workplace that are not appropriate for their age, and their brain, soul, and psyche are not ready to deal with it. This unfortunately makes them more prone to many psychological and social disorders that will stay with them throughout their adult lives.
Children in Iran are victims of the regime’s destructive policies. Many families cannot send their children to school simply because they cannot afford the necessary supplies. These destructive policies are summed up in institutionalized corruption, wasting national wealth on nuclear and missile programs, terrorism, and oppression, which has led t the freefall of the country’s economy.