This week, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers adopted a national policy focused on preventing child labor, improving social work and social protection mechanisms, raising awareness and promoting quality education opportunities for all children in the Kingdom.
Although the policy strictly bans employing children under the age of 15, it conditionally approves for those between the ages of 13 to 15 to do some light jobs for a limited period of time.
“The Council’s decision to issue a national policy for preventing child labor provides a conducive environment for protecting children and building a society in which they enjoy their rights,” said Haila Al-Mukairish, a senior executive at the Saudi Family Affairs Council.
Al-Mukairish added that the policy safeguards the education of minors in the Kingdom and helps in securing the development of each child’s capabilities and potentials.
“The national policy undertakes the task of setting guidelines for the country's efforts in preventing child labor, and setting priorities for government action and stakeholders based on the recognition that all individuals, old and young, have rights, but children need additional attention to ensure their protection,” explained Al-Mukairish.
She affirmed that the policy effectively works to ward off harm from the path of children in the Kingdom.
Setting the minimum age for labor at 15 years is consistent with the international obligations of the Kingdom and in line with the 2001 International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182, also known as the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention.”
Saudi Arabia’s national policy for the prevention of child labor includes creating a database to track its prevalence, with the support of the ILO, while also adopting a list of the types of work prohibited for those under the age of 18.
Hadi al-Yami, a member of the Saudi Shura Council, reaffirmed that the new policy matches the global trend for fighting and ending child labor.
“The policy will lead to increased child education rates,” al-Yami told Asharq Al-Awsat, explaining that more minors will enroll in schools as the new ban will limit harmful effects of child labor that traditionally prevented them from continuing their education.
As for the new policy, al-Yami described it as “flexible” since it allows for children between 13-15 years of age to do some types of light work for certain amounts of time.