Saturday 6 September 2008 (06 Ramadan 1429) 

      Child labor becoming a problem in Saudi Arabia
      M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan I Arab News
      RIYADH: Child labor is becoming a problem in Saudi Arabia, where nearly 
1.54 percent of the child population works, a study said.

      The study, first of its kind in the Kingdom, commissioned by King Abdul 
Aziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) and conducted by Dr. Mohammad 
Abdullah Al-Naji, put the Eastern Province on top of the list at 2.3 percent 
followed by Makkah, Madinah, Asir and Riyadh.

      Economic issues are the primary driving factors behind child labor, 
followed by other factors that include dropping out of school and domestic 
compulsions, the study said.

      Some 2,000 Saudi children included in the study were either interviewed 
by Naji himself or asked to fill out questionnaires prepared as part of the 
national survey. 

      According to the International Labor Organization, education is crucial 
for breaking the child labor cycle and eradicating it by 2016. 

      The study attributed lack of education to be the prime factor behind 
child labor among certain segments of Saudi population. In case of foreigners, 
especially African expatriates, poverty has been identified as the major cause 
of child labor. 

      Children, according to the study, "are mostly employed in the business 
sector followed by agriculture."

      Naji wrote in his concluding remarks that Saudi Arabia has enacted a 
number of laws on child labor, including setting the minimum employment age at 
13 in all fields, with the exception of family businesses and domestic labor, 
as well as animal herding and some agricultural jobs.

      According to another study conducted by Saud-Al Shahri, a Saudi social 
worker, there are more than 83,000 homeless children in the Kingdom. 

      "Nearly 69 percent of child beggars in Riyadh are Saudis," said the 
study, adding that about 88 percent of mothers of child beggars are illiterate 
and only nine percent of them hold an elementary school certificate. Naji, in 
his study, has also drawn attention to Article 32 of the Children's Rights Act 
that stipulates a six-hour working day, with time off for rest. It also says 
that children are not to work for five hours straight or at night. Furthermore, 
the employment of children in strenuous or hazardous jobs is prohibited, and 
child labor in general should be voluntary, not compulsory. 

      The law also says a child's work should not interfere with his or her 
schooling or be harmful to the child's health, either physically, mentally, 
spiritually, morally or socially.

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