Child Labour in Agriculture: The demand side
Worldwide, agriculture comprises the largest share of child labour; in Lebanon it is estimated that around 60 percent of child labourers work in the agriculture sector. Although reliable statistics are scant, it is evident that many children are working in agriculture, especially in the Akkar, Hermel, and Baalbeck districts. Agriculture has been identified by the ILO as one of the three most dangerous sectors, together with construction and mining, and demands special attention as it is characterized by a high level of fatalities, accidents and occupational diseases and involves a number of physical, biological, psychological, and ergonomic risks and hazards. Injuries are often the result of using dangerous equipment, exposure to pesticides, or harsh working conditions such as long working hours and strenuous, demanding, physical work (FAO and ILO, 2017).
Lebanon ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), in 2003. Later, the Government issued Decree 8987 (2012), which prohibits the employment of children under 18 years of age where such work could harm their health, safety or morals, or limit their education. According to the Lebanese Code of Labour, the minimum working age is set at 14 years of age for safe work, while children under 18 are prohibited from working in situations that may harm their physical or psychological well-being, but with some adaptations to working conditions that allow the age limit to be decreased to 16, provided such children are offered full protection.
It is forbidden to set children below 18 years of age to work more than six hours per day. For agriculture specifically, Decree No. 8987 stipulates that minors should not be employed in agricultural activities that require operating farming machines, handling pesticides or fertilizers, handling poisonous plants, climbing on high trees or ladders, using sharp tools, or working for more than four hours per day.
In 2013, a National Action Plan (NAP) was developed to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016, which was subsequently revised and extended by the Ministry of Labour (MOL) until 2019. To support the Government of Lebanon in its efforts to address the problem of child labour, FAO and UNICEF jointly commissioned the Consultation and Research Institute to undertake the present study, Child labour in agriculture:
The demand side. This study examines the characteristics and working conditions of children aged between 5 and 17 years who are working in the agriculture sector in Lebanon. The research was based on (1) a desk review;
(2) a survey of 422 farmers who employ children; and (3) in-depth interviews with 90 participants, including farmers who employ children, shawishs (coordinators of tented camps) who recruit such children, and children who work on farms. Recommendations of the report are intended to feed into the implementation strategy of the NAP.