Outside of tourists’ eyes, child labor still operates throughout Morocco in the form of forced labor and agricultural work. Little choice resides in the child, his or her guardians signing the contract instead. Some children, however, do make a choice to enlist themselves, previously working at younger ages and unable to find another way to make a living. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Morocco describing its harshness and prevalence.
10 Facts About Child Labor in Morocco
- Worst Forms of Child Labor: The Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (Convention No. 182) established a list of the worst activities a child could work. Some categories this list included were forced domestic work and begging. UNESCO data shows that 4.5 percent of children ages 10 to 14 work, which equates to 150,178 children. These kids participate in the listed worst activities including working in illegal sand extraction, restaurants or houses and begging for food and money.
- Female Child Labor and Sex Trafficking: The families of rural Moroccan girls between the ages of 6 and 15 often send them to work in homes in Morocco and other African countries. They are often vulnerable to abuse in these situations, and in some cases, commercial sexual exploitation.
- Lack of Education: Besides the unfortunate act of trafficking, children in Morocco face other blockages that prevent them from obtaining a fulfilling education. Living long distances from established schools, including a lack of security and fees for attending school limits the inclusiveness of rural or disabled children. The requirement of a present birth certificate for higher schooling adds to the blockade. This lack of education forces children into labor.
- Domestic Work Provides Loopholes for Employers: The Morocco Labor Code allows a maximum of 44 hours a week; however, this limit does not cover domestic workers. In interviews with the Human Rights Watch (a nonprofit organization that investigates human rights), girls reported that they sometimes work 100 hours a week with no breaks or days off. One even detailed a task from 6 a.m. until midnight. Parents and middlemen often lie to the girls, presenting the employers as kind people and working conditions as favorable.
- Salaries Almost Never go to the Kids: Interviews that the Human Rights Watch conducted with children showed that parents and employers negotiated almost all agreements to work. Most children received no wages at all, with all wages going to the parents or guardians. Furthermore, the monthly salary that the children in domestic work earned totaled only $61 on average. In Morocco’s industrial sector, salaries reach up to $261 per month.
- Self-Employed Children Do Not Follow the Labor Code: Similar to domestic work, Morocco cannot enforce the 44-hour limit for children who work as artisans or ones who even tend to private farms. These children risk exploitation and some may even feel obligated to work overtime in their self-employed job to cover expenses for their families.
- Work in Other Industries Can Also be Dangerous: Besides domestic work, some children operate in carpentry or repairing automobiles. Children use dangerous tools daily, exposing them to dust, chemicals and loud noise. Cutting trees, another option for work, involves the use of dangerous equipment and tools as well. Meanwhile, fishing presents a danger for children because they could drown. While some jobs are less binding than others, children still unwittingly expose themselves to constant risks.
- Morocco’s Trafficking Spreads to Other Countries: Reports detail that child prostitution not only occurs in local cities but in the capital and coastal ones as well, Rabat and Casablanca among the list. Both boys and girls fall victim to sex tourism in sites attracting customers from the Persian Gulf and Europe. Traffickers send children to these countries for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Children put themselves up for prostitution, usually previous victims of domestic service unable to find shelter.
- Labor Inspectors May Solve Some Dilemmas: One challenge is that there is a lack of people to monitor the working conditions of children. The Human Rights Watch suggested effective methods including identifying and removing underage children from households and studying the conditions of those with appropriate age. These recommendations have yet to gain traction, though. With these, however, investigators could enforce the law, and fine or arrest employers that do not follow limitations set in place.
- The Situation is Improving…Somewhat: In 2017, the government supported the Law on Setting Up Employment Conditions of Domestic Workers. This passed bill restricts the recruitment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 for domestic work. Morocco’s government also supports the Tayssir Conditional Cash Transfer Program, which directly sends financial aid to families with kids unable to meet school criteria. These improvements are restricting an increasing number of children from dangerous work and causing the issuing of fines for violations of child labor.
While the solutions that these 10 facts about child labor in Morocco present only slightly reduce the overarching problem, child labor should lessen as the issues that people associate with it reach the spotlight of the media. Human Rights Watch suggests that the government take direct action to protect children.
Domestic workers and government actions are currently helping end contracts in houses across Morocco. The steps to ending child labor have only begun, yet the future looks promising. Programs such as the Cash Transfer Program reached 2 million children, allowing kid’s shoes to pass through the school gate. Other social programs give assistance to children at-risk for entering child labor with vocational training.
– Daniel Bertetti