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Children form the biggest group in the Yemeni society as children (0-18 year old) constitute more than 50% of the population, there is an increase in the population number in a rate of 3.5% and one in the fertility rate of 7.4%. As a result of that, all developmental plans and programs should take in consideration all requirements and necessary needs for children.
Because of the proportional relation between the increased population and the poverty and unemployment that lead to pushing many children to the labor shop with many risks and hardship.
The phenomenon of child labor in Yemen touches the life of more than 400 thousands who belong to the age group of 14-16 years with a male percentage of 48.6% and a female percentage 51.4% but most of them are from rural areas due to the increase in the population and decrease in the school enrollment rate. In the rural areas the percentage is 94.6% while it is 5.4% in urban areas. Some of these children stopped their studies and work, some still not leaving their school and work at the same time, some of them did not study at all and females form the biggest group of them.
Child labor is not only a Yemeni phenomenon but also seen in other developing countries due to the difficult economic situation and poverty and the increase of the population. Low income and many mouths to feed parents to pushing of the child to a labor shop. Many reasons can be behind this phenomenon, such as:
- Poverty: the relation between child labor and poverty is proportional in Yemen, considered one of the least developed countries (LDCs) and among the poorest in the world. We find that child labor is a chronical phenomenon, in particular between the poor, weak.
- Unemployment and inadequate salary
- Decrease the school enrollment rate and this has many cases, more than 50% did not join their schools or escaped because of absence of schools or the child is a girl who cannot study because of the tribal traditions and habits or parents illiteracy, some said because of their failure in completing their studies.
- Early marriage: the child will stop his studies and is going out to seek a different life for him and his family, leaving school and education.
- Parents illiteracy: studied proved that more than 97% of child workers are children of illiterate parents.
- Chewing Qat: the child who is used to chew qat will work in order to get money to buy qat.
- Others: such as the tribal wars breaking out which lead to hindering the educational process due to interruption of the roads that children use to go to school.
There are many risks that children face during their work, especially those who work in mines, plastics, fireworks , fishing, agriculture, and asbestos. Among other risks are the exposure to organic dust or poisons of agricultural source and then become exposed to organ phosphorus compounds. Those who work in mines and in continuous contact with the asbestos may have emphysema.
An important phenomenon other than child labor is street children which has also increased. According a UNICEF estimation from 2000, Sana'a( the capital city of Yemen) by itself has 28789. Often families can’t provide necessary needs such as money for education, money for life’s basic needs such as water and food even the bus fare is raising to 50 Yemeni Rials instead of 30 Rials, which was the previous price. Many families do not own their own house and instead they rent them out on an expensive price. The current situation has a negative impact on the life of the Yemeni children and there is a steady increase in the number of street children who stopped studying in their school. A positive feedback mechanism has been shown between the tense current situation in Yemen and the number of street children, we find that more and prolonged situations lead to more and more street children.
The children on the street become exposed to sexual harassment verbally or physically and then become depressed when they get older. Or they may join gangs and commit crimes and do drugs.
I would like to emphasize that we find such things as the increase in the number of street children, children labor, and children armament among others are due to the unstable current situation in Yemen, especially in the absence of security.